There’s a kind of internal panic that comes across someone when they realize they might miss something. We are constantly searching for the way in which we might best and most efficiently experience the most events possible. Of course, this leads to a bit of a conundrum—we are, in fact, bodily beings which, one, cannot be in more than one place at a time, and, two, need a little thing called rest. People have struggled since the Fall to find a million different lines—work and rest, social time and alone time, others and self. This post is about a particularly difficult line to find, but a drastically easy one to cross—the line between self-care and service.
Burnout is a topic of increasing prevalence. It seems that the consequences of the go-go-go attitude of the modern world are finally coming into the spotlight. But what does this have to do with a group of sixteen Americans working at a camp in Brazil? Short answer—everything. Lately, it seems every answer to “how are you?” has included some degree of weariness and over exhaustion. “I can’t find any time to rest.” “I feel like if I rest, I’m wasting my time.” “There’s so much to do, and I don’t want to miss any of it!” These sentiments cross the boundaries between assigned jobs and physical ability.
One underlying issue that contributes to these confusing feelings is the modern over-emphasis on constant production–time as a commodity. From a young age we are fed the old adages of “time is money” and “don’t waste your time.” While these sensibilities come from a good and true place, i.e. the truth that we are mortals and have limited time and resources, they have been inexorably stretched and twisted beyond recognition into a monster that feeds on burnout and stringent health.
My generation has thankfully been putting much focus on the reversal of this tendency. This practice is most commonly known as self-care. It’s a rather marketable term nowadays and can be seen everywhere from mindfulness meditation to bath bombs. Most people my age tend to embrace this new addition to lifestyle and have no issue taking a short break from work or school in order to get back to one hundred percent. However, in situations such as this, there is another layer stuck between us, the Impact students, and the truly Godly practice of self-care. We are serving.
Service is beautiful. We are called by the Lord Jesus himself to serve those around us, to put others first. Jesus humbled himself so much that He, the Creator of the Universe, knelt down into human form and washed the gross, dirty feet of twelve first century Jewish men. What a legacy! We are called to follow this example, and we do to the best of our ability. We clean tables, we stand in the hot sun, we struggle through cross language communication, we hand out snacks, and, well, we wear ourselves out!
Make no mistake, I am in no way downplaying the importance and holiness of service. In fact, I am uplifting it. When the Lord created the universe, He rested, setting in place a divine example for all those created in His Image. We are embodied creatures—mortals with physical limitations. Because of this, we must take into account the bodies which we inhabit. Truly, one can pray for and receive divine energy from the Spirit, but we must understand that the Lord God invites us into rest, into solitude, into Sabbath.
Impact has taught us the importance of taking time, of taking care. Yet here we are in Brazil finding the struggle once again. If I do not serve at every possible opportunity, am I wasting time? Or perhaps is Godly self-care a kind of service in and of itself? After all, even Jesus during his earthly ministry took time to step away from the crowd. He told his disciples in Mark 6:31, “’Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’” Should we not heed the same advice?
Lord Creator, you are the one who made us, the one who knows us more intimately than any human ever could—including ourselves. So, in the midst of our confusion, guide us in the way you see best fit. You know the hearts of all people. You know the invisible spiritual battlefield. You know that there is a season for everything. Teach us to know ourselves, our souls and our bodies. Lead us so that we might serve in your holy name. Amen.