Day 21: Not Optional // 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness
Hi there! This is day 21 of a series I’m writing this October called 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness. You can find the entire series here: 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness.
I bought a bath bomb today after a particularly stressful couple of days. I went to my favorite bath shop where they have about 3875782639856 products (of which I want approximately all of them) made from organic and environmentally friendly ingredients, and they let you try everything on your body so that by the time you leave the store, you are oiled, balmed, and sprinkled head to toe in glitter, fair trade cocoa butter and the fruity essence of ethically sourced mermaid tears. I smell SO GOOD RIGHT NOW, y’all. You don’t even know.
But anyway, I somehow escaped without spending hundreds of dollars and got my bath bomb. This is not news; people use bath bombs. What struck me was that when I told a friend about it, I noticed myself almost apologizing for it. It was affordable. I know I’ll use it. It’s been a rough couple of days. I probably shouldn’t spend money on myself, but I wanted a little treat. I just wanted one fun relaxing thing for myself, you know? As if I should feel bad about this nice thing I did for myself and feel the need to account for it to everyone else. You could almost translate my explanations as: I’m just doing one thing for myself, I promise. I’ll go back to serving others; I won’t stay here very long. Please don’t think I’m selfish.
As women, we often feel the weight of everyone else’s expectation to take care of them first. We put ourselves last a lot and sometimes even think that taking care of ourselves is optional. But self-care is not selfish; we can care for the people we love and also for our own needs. Often, the obstacle is carving out time to do this without feeling like we are neglecting someone else. The reality is, if we wait until everyone else’s needs are taken care of before we care for ourselves, we will never do it, because the work of caring for others is never finished. But – and this is crazy important, sisters – we cannot serve from an empty vessel. If we have not allowed ourselves time to breathe, rest, and get filled back up, we won’t be of much use to anyone else. In other words, self-care is others-care, too.
I always think of the oxygen masks on an airplane during the safety demonstration. They tell you to put your own mask on first, before helping your child or someone else with theirs. This sounds counterintuitive, right? In most circumstances, a mama would make sure her child is okay first, before securing her own safety. But the reason they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first is that you could potentially pass out trying to put on your child’s mask if you don’t have yours on during a sudden pressure change. As it turns out, just like in life, we have to take care of ourselves in order to be able to take care of others. In this way, self-care is a selfless act, not a selfish one.
It’s also necessary for a life lived in balance. Jesus affirmed this when He told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He did not instruct us to love our neighbors instead of ourselves, or better than ourselves. He encouraged us to love others as ourselves. How can we think loving and caring for ourselves is optional? Without this crucial step, we struggle to love others well. Loving well comes from being loved well. Self-care is agreeing with God that we are worthy of love and attention. This is essential to a healthy and balanced life in Christ.
And my bubble bath was awesome and soul-nourishing, by the way. When is the last time you had one, friend? If bath time’s not your thing, have a cup of tea, read the book you’ve been neglecting, sing in the shower, paint or draw something, or go for a walk in the prettiest park you know. Think of something that makes your heart sing or helps you relax and do that thing today. I hereby give you permission. Let yourself rest and be filled up. Care for yourself, and watch God do even greater things with you than He could do with the weary and tired version. There is no bonus in life for being miserable and exhausted all the time. Make a little space for you. It’s okay.
(Let me know if you need to borrow a bath bomb.)