Arrive empty.

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Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look these days, I am running into the “Self-Care” craze. It seems to be the backlash to the busy-ness of today’s culture, in the same way that slow food is the backlash to fast food, or the KonMarie method is the backlash to our rampant consumerism. This craze has leached into the Christian community as well, the idea of “putting on your own oxygen mask first” running rampant through the blogs of Christian culture.

In the midst of the saturation of this message, I came across an idea the other day: “Arrive empty.” I wish I could remember the source. I believe they meant giving it all in their endeavors, exploring the world, finding themselves, and so forth, but my brain latched onto the saying in another way.

I have been given the Spirit of the Living God, and I am not meant to be a hoarder of love or light. I am meant to give, in His power and grace. No where in scripture (that I can find) did Christ instruct, “Make sure that your own cup is full first. Then share the water with everyone else.” He commands us, in words and in example, to love, give, live sacrificially.

I am so conflicted in this area. It sounds wonderful! “Taking care of yourself so you can take care of others.” Many Christian writers cite Christ’s example of withdrawing from the crowds to rest. But Christ’s time of rest was always still centered around His Father’s work. He withdrew to pray (Luke 5:16).

I think this is what we as Christians miss when we buy into the “putting your own oxygen mask on first” mentality. It smacks of the American gospel (which is being shouted from the hilltops right now), not of the gospel of Christ. Christ withdrew to rest in the presence of the only One who fills us up, who gives us true rest: His Father. We are not meant to seek out rest, or self-care, as our source of peace. As Christians, we already have this source, with us and within us.

I think it is so important to listen to the callings and joys God has given you, and to not be so busy doing that you don’t have time to listen to His still, small voice or notice the green shoots of growth the Spirit is cultivating in you. But I think it could be so easy to slip into the mindset of, “I am owed Me Time. I am owed The Little Shiny Pretty Things of Life,” while forgetting that Christ says, “Come to Me, and I will give you rest.” 

True rest isn’t found in clinging with iron-tight grip to my time, my needs, my my my. It is in trusting God to give you the rest you need.

I have to concede that I speak from a place of extreme privilege. Other than my job, my home, my husband and our almost two-year-old marriage, my responsibilities are few. I have lots of kids running around at school, but I get to come home to quiet. I’m not exactly lacking in the “me time” area.

But hearing this message in so many places, I started asking questions. Where is the line between needed rest and indulgence? How much of this is biblical, and how much is our culture, trying to sell one more cup of “restful” coffee, one more candle needed for “relaxation”, one more self-help book trying to help you find your “best life”?

So here is my prayer for today:

Lord,

Let me see what is truth and what is a bill of sale. Help me to find true spiritual rest. Help me to have time to rejoice in listening to your voice, to use my talents, and to be filled by You.

Help me to distinguish what is indulgence, oxygen mask, you-are-owed-this culture. Let me not be one of those surrounded by a nest of shiny things and plentiful time while others are left in the cold. Let me be one pouring out so the Spirit can pour in.

Let me arrive at heaven’s gates, emptied but filled.

Amen.

P.S. As I continue to puzzle and pray through my thoughts on self care culture, I’d love to hear yours!

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2 thoughts on “Arrive empty.

  1. Vanessa A says:

    Wow! I am just finding this. It’s an odd hour and I can’t seem to rest and something told me to check out this blog. As I read the prayer aloud I shed a tear. God has blessed me with so many talents, including the gift to help and heal others. I am a PT. It’s so easy to become wrapped up in the physical and mental burdens of my personal life and profession. The feeling of constantly being “needed” by those around us is sometimes overwhelming. But your words have reminded me why God has blessed me with these skills. I am to arrive empty. Giving all that I can and shining his light through me. I must trust that by doing his will, God will give me rest when I need it. Thank you for your much needed words of encouragement and enlightenment.

    1. I’m thankful that these words were an encouragement to you, Vanessa! I certainly don’t mean that we shouldn’t rest when necessary, especially when you’re in a job like PT and need time to tend to your own body and soul. I do know that we can trust God to give us true rest for our souls. Praying that you find your rest in Him.

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