August 14, 2015
Consider this: occasionally, when you help yourself, you open the door to helping others and contributing more deeply to your church, your family, your community, and the world. Does that sound like a selfish statement, a bold assumption, or permission to indulge yourself? Honestly, it might be all of the above, but it is also advice to heed. When you make yourself the best that you can be, taking time for prayer or making time to relax with your family, you can also offer advice and support to others in the same way.
When we take care of ourselves, we are better at a lot of things. Well-rested parents are more patient, children who are allowed to pursue their interests do better in life in the long run, and professionals who eat right, take walks during the day, and have some fun now and then are more effective in their jobs. We know these are facts, but we often have a hard time believing them. Why? Because we want to believe that the executive who only goes to church and never has fun is the one who is going to do well. After all, haven’t we always heard that hard work, and only hard work, pays off? We want to believe that the parents who stay up all night with new babies and keep going all day long with no rest and no help are the ones who are doing everything right. Why? We want to believe that denying ourselves is going to help us achieve our life goals. In my book, Dressed For Victory: Putting On the Full Armor of God, I directly address what we need to do to prepare and enforce our armor against the enemy and against anyone or anything that challenges our fortitude. We need to do some self-exploration and find out where our strengths and weaknesses lie.
Depriving ourselves of detrimental activities is obviously beneficial and remaining disciplined in the way that God wants us to be disciplined is key. We need to pray or have some sort of introspection and conversation with God in our day, and we need to be the best that we can be in every situation. What does that entail? As Christians, it means that we need to honor and obey God and live a life that will be pleasing to Him. This includes the use of the strengths that God has given us and enjoying the unique interests He has gifted us with. It should also include fellowship with others, keeping in mind that we continue to provide an example to those who may need to know what it is like to be closer to God. This is a tall order sometimes, but I think we are all up to the task of giving of ourselves, even when we might need to be gracious to those who are not as gracious to us.
By enjoying ourselves, I simply mean that at the end of a long day or week, if we allow ourselves to read a book that we want to read, take a trip that we want to take, or even watch a favorite show while eating some ice cream, we might be more focused in our jobs, happier in our relationships, and generally more rested and well-rounded in life.
Resting and rejuvenating ourselves leads to better productivity. Allowing others to enjoy themselves without judging is also a more open and productive way to live. We can still go to church, but we might want to stop at the local barbeque place on the way home. We can still work hard, but it’s okay to meet friends for dinner and conversation at the end of the day. And when we see others eating lunch at a nice place on a day that we’re working or watch people take off for the beach while we stay in the city, we should wish them well and understand that taking care of ourselves and understanding our own needs and interests is one way we can become more focused, well-rounded, and better at what we do everyday, from worship to work and from family time to personal development. Take that time for yourself and learn to relish the introspection and preparation for the challenges that life will, inevitably, send your way. It’s like polishing the “Armor of God.”