For some of these blogs, I have decided to take one of the questions from the self-care inventory and reflect on it. I hope to jump between categories so that I can create a dialogue about some of the critical questions around self-care that come up on the inventory. I try to look at it once a week, but there is a lot there and sometimes I know I won’t stop to really think about a question. The question, ‘Am I paying attention to my personal life?’ is a core question for this inventory. Self-care starts with our decision (and action) to pay attention. Notice the Biblical concept here. We must be INENTIONAL about our self-care. If we are not intentional, then it will not happen. The demands of life, of ministry and our schedules will slowly (or sometimes quickly) take away much of our self-care. In fact, I think there is something about this in C.S. Lewis’ work, The Screwtape Letters. We take the Christian notion (or cliché) that JOY happens when Jesus is first, others are second and we are last to an extreme. We take the priority of love of self as number three on our list (when number one is overwhelming enough) if at all. In this way, ministry leaders or Christians in general become martyrs to self where they take the call to ‘deny yourself,’ a highly critical aspect of discipleship to a whole new level when they choose not to care about themselves at all. There are a lot of reasons we do this. It may be that we feel we have to ignore ourselves completely to be a good leader or Christ-follower. We sometimes have an immense need to be needed that we do not care of ourselves. We act on personality, gifts, adrenaline or something else instead of remembering that we cannot give what we do not have. It must all come from Christ and if we do not engage in self-care, our relationship with Christ will dry up. Our busyness or sense of importance keeps us from good self-care. Sometimes when it comes to taking care of ourselves, we have nothing left (which is rather ironic) and so we just ignore our own need to connect with the source. Whatever the reason, we must choose to pay attention to our personal lives. If we don’t we will burnout, our relationship with Christ will falter, we will become bitter, possibly suffer a major moral failing or walk away from ministry or Christ altogether. It is a critical question that cannot wait: am I paying attention to my personal life?
I have found that sometimes I do this really well, other times I fail miserably and most of the time I am in the middle of the two. Interestingly enough, my passion for Christ, my love for myself, my family and others as well as my energy for ministry are directly connected to how much I am making self-care a priority. That does not mean that it is easy, but it is effective. We cannot be afraid of looking at ourselves and dealing with our own lives with the same love, patience, grace and passion with which we care for others. This is not just to avoid hypocrisy, but also to be reminded that it is not about us, but Jesus Christ who loved us first. May we all do better at paying attention to our personal life, and do it without feeling guilty for it.