I've come across it in several places lately. Usually from women. Women who are tired, stressed-out, spread thin, and either at or "recovered from" their breaking points. Women who give and give and give. And who have reached the point where they're now saying, "Tend yourself first. Give yourself time. Then you'll be happier and better able to deal with your family. Take time for you."
Women who say their outlooks were ruined by that old JOY teaching--Jesus, Others, You. That it messed them up. Made them miserable. That it's too cliche, and that it instilled in them this thought that it's wrong to take care of themselves.
I've seen retreats for women all about taking that time for yourself and then emerging better able to tend those around you.
And it all sounds awesome--because yeah, I need "me" time. I need refreshing. I need renewing. I need time now and then away from the constant harangue of "MOMMY!" to focus on the Lord. Still, something about all this bothered me, even as I recognized the value. And I wasn't sure what it was. Then, as I edited WhiteFire's next title to come out next week, No Plan B: Discovering God's Blueprint for Your Life by Nelson Hannah, I started to put my finger on it. It combined in my mind with a sermon my dad recently preached at our church, and with the way my thoughts carried it out.
Everyone needs time of refreshing--I'm not taking issue with that, so please don't think I am. What I'm taking issue with is the attitude that serving others first is self-destructive. That if we do it, we'll be drained. We'll need that time of refreshing, because it takes it out of us. Yes, it does...
...but it shouldn't. Here's why.
We are not our own. We are God's. BUT--we're not slaves. We're not forced to do what he tells us. We're not forced to serve others. And if we think we are...well, that's a problem with our outlook, not with the practice.
In Biblical days, there were two kinds of "slaves." (1) Slaves--captured or bought and not free to leave, ever. Their children are born slaves. Their children after them. Forever and ever amen. They must do what they're told or else. (2) Bondservants--willingly indentured to someone as a means of paying a debt, but offered their freedom after seven years. Bondservants, when released, were given gifts to assure them the chance to thrive in the world. They took out all they brought in (wives, children). And if they chose to stay out of love for their master, then they were bound by their own will forever to their master's house, giving up that will for their master's.
We are not slaves to God. We are bondservants, through Christ. Do you see the difference in what that means? God doesn't force us to come to him and do his will. But we, if we are Christians, choose it. We choose to forfeit--as in, give up, completely abandon, not just sign over for a certain day or decision--our will to his. We choose to give our whole lives to him. We choose his honor above our own.
We don't do what he instructs us because he said so and that's that--we do it because we love him. Not because we must, but because we desire to please him above all things. He is our Master...but because he loves us, he doesn't keep us in that position of servitude forever. He names us heirs. We still serve, yes, just as the disciples did, as Jesus himself did--but we don't serve as slaves. As bonservants, we have been given an inheritance (this happened frequently in Old Testament days especially--when no heir by blood was found, the most trusted servant would inherit).
We are not slaves. We are not slaves. We are not slaves. We do not have to serve others. But if we think we do...if we think it's compulsory...if we think God's standing there with a taskmaster's whip pointed at us, saying, "Go feed the hungry--now. Go make dinner for your kids--now. Go serve on all those committees at church--now." Well then, obviously we're going to get worn down. Worn out. Frayed. More, we're going to get resentful, because who likes to be treated like that? There's a reason slaves have revolted throughout history.
And there's a reason bondservants haven't. Because they chose their path. And they kept to it out of love.
I love my Master, my Abba God. I want to please him. I want to listen to his voice above the whining of my own mind, above the limitations of my body. I want to put aside my fickle, foolish will and rely on his instead. I want to let go of the idea that I can do whatever I want and instead do what he tells me--he's so much wiser than I am! And I want the assurance that it doesn't matter if I'm weak...if I'm tired...if I'm burned out...if I don't have enough time...if I just can't.
I don't have to. That's the other brilliant epiphany of No Plan B. Even Jesus didn't do what he did under his own power. Not his human power, and not his power as God. If he had, it would mean nothing to us. Because our human bodies are limited, and we can never be God. If Jesus had acted from that, we couldn't be like him. But his every miracle was done through the Holy Spirit--whom he has imparted to us.
When I'm too tired to soothe one more tear, all I have to do is let the Spirit minister through me...and let me tell you from experience, when you do that, he ministers to you as well. When I'm at my wit's end, I don't need to rely anymore on my own mind--all I have to do is rely on his wisdom.
I chose to give my life, my heart, my will, my path, my every day, to the Lord. I chose to sign over my body, soul, and spirit to him. That means it's not just me inside me anymore. It's the Holy Spirit. He fills me. And if I just let him, he'll act through me. Speak through me. Fill me.
How can I say I'm worn out, if I'm operating under his strength? How can I say I feel drained, if I have the Lord of Hosts inside me? How can I say I can't, that I'm not, when I'm the daughter of I AM?
Yes, we need those times of renewal to focus on Him. He wants that for us, he gives that to us...as a gift. But no, we shouldn't ever "put ourselves first." Because we willingly gave that up when we accepted the Lord as our Lord. And frankly, it's thinking we should or can that makes us so unhappy. So when I'm feeling tired, weak, worn out, and discouraged, I'm not going to think I need... Instead, I'm going to crawl up into the lap of my Abba and let him take care of it. I don't need to go away. I don't need to focus on me.
I need to focus on him.