Jesus needed self-care (and so do I)!
The past few years, I have really been exploring the concept of self-care in both spiritual direction and in therapy. Self-care does not come naturally to me; I’d much rather take care of others. I imagine that this is something that many of us struggle with. Women are asked to be the nurturer, the caregiver. When we are busy taking care of loved ones, working, being active Christians, in all of it, we’ve forgotten to take care of ourselves.
As a Christian, taking care of others is what is asked of me, right? Jesus was definitely a caregiver, always making time for others and giving of himself. That’s what we are called to do, too, right? To be Christlike in everything that we do.
Here’s the thing I discovered (with the help of my spiritual director), even Jesus took time for himself. There are many times in scripture when Jesus goes off on his own to pray, perhaps most significantly at Gethsemane. But let’s take a walk through Matthew 14. First, Jesus feeds over five thousand people after breaking the five loaves and two fish. Then Jesus settles the disciples into a boat, while he dismisses the crowds. Then “he went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23). After he prays, Jesus walks on water and has that dialogue with Peter and saves Peter from drowning because he wasn’t able to fully walk on water.
So yes, even in just this quick look at scripture, Jesus does a lot for others, but right in the middle there, Jesus does something for himself; Jesus took time away to pray.
It is a short verse. You could breeze right past it and not even give it a second glance. But for me, it has a lot of impact.
I wonder why Jesus took time now, at this moment. Perhaps he started to feel himself drain and get tired and knew he needed the moment of rejuvenation. I can always feel when I’ve neglected myself; I can be less lighthearted, more easily bothered.
I notice that Jesus took time alone. Certainly our time with people can be self-care; there are moments when we need the boost that our nearest and dearest can give us. But I think most of the time, self-care is something we must do alone. As an introvert, I certainly need the time alone to process, reflect, and recharge. But more than that, as someone who loves to take care of others, when I'm taking time with someone else, I'm much more likely to focus on their needs rather than my own, which is of course the point of self-care.
I wonder, was it difficult for Jesus to take self-care time? Sitting in the quiet can be loud and uncomfortable. Allowing yourself to feel the feelings can be painful. But ignoring them can make them compound which can only make things harder.
I notice that Jesus’ time alone was prayer time. Prayer time is probably the best self-care there is because you are not just connecting with yourself, but you are connecting with the One who loves you more than you can imagine.
I wonder how else might self-care time look for Jesus? Perhaps sometimes it was five minutes, while other times five hours. Perhaps it was time to breathe, time to create, time to heal. That’s how it is for me. Sometimes I just need a quick breath to reset. Other times I need a longer moment to do something creative or to sit and write. Self care can be so many things. It is about what gives us rest and relaxation, not stress or extra work.
I notice that, potentially, Jesus’ self-care moment enabled him to be ready and able to do his next activities. When I take the time for self-care, it does in fact prepare me for whatever is next too. In fact, it makes me better.
From Jesus, we can learn to listen to our bodies when they tell us we need a minute (or longer) of time to slow down. I imagine that Jesus would acknowledge that it isn’t easy but that it is necessary. After much deliberation, I would agree with that. I would never claim to be on par with Jesus. But, if Jesus even took time for himself, for prayer, maybe it is just as important as doing the acts of service. If only so that I can be at my best when taking care of others. Jesus took time away and so must I.