Why Taking Care of Yourself Helps You Care for Others

Are you a stream or a puddle?

“…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – Jesus (John 4:14)

Several years ago I served as a volunteer worship leader for our church. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the band from time to time, giving me the opportunity to play with some very talented cats. Playing with them always teaches me some valuable lessons, and I value the friendships that come from working together.

Float on, float, lifesaver, life ring, nautical

Taking care of yourself can be a lifesaver.
(Photo by Ian Prince)

This past weekend, I ran into one of the guitarists I’ve played with in this context. As we were catching up, I asked him where he was playing these days. He said he wasn’t playing anywhere regularly, just filling in here and there. But what he said next is why I’m telling you this: He said he was actually enjoying the opportunity just to come to church and worship as a member of the congregation, as playing for worship was in danger of becoming a chore.

This was great insight — here’s why: Even when you love something, and you’re good at it, you will develop greater skill, greater longevity and greater impact if you build in time for rest.

Recreation is a funny word

We tend to overlook the word recreation — it calls to mind TV sitcoms or shooting pool — but look at the word more closely and you’ll see that a proper allowance of downtime for recreation is quite literally re-creation. As in, to be made new.

The goal is not to gaze ever deeper into your own navel, but to find restoration so you can return to your work with renewed effectiveness.

Another lesson from the gym

Most beginners to strength training have to learn not to over-train. Exercise tears down muscle fibers and the body compensates by repairing and increasing them. Athletes who over train never give their bodies enough time to rebuild.

In an earlier post I mentioned that rest — specifically sleep — is an essential part of health and fitness. If you love calisthenics or lifting weights, you should know that you don’t build muscle while you’re training. You build muscle while you sleep. So if you’re stalled in your fitness regimen, try turning in an hour earlier.

Even when death is on the line?

I’ll be doing some business travel this week, so I know I’ll hear the flight attendants’ recite the safety spiel. If you’ve flown in the last 30 years, you know that when they get to the part about “a sudden loss of cabin pressure” and the oxygen masks dropping from the overhead panels, you may recall the instruction to people traveling with small children.  They are to apply their own masks first, then help the kiddos.

What all lifeguards know

As a scout, I earned the lifesaving merit badge. I was surprised to learn that jumping in to save someone is actually the last resort. Throw anything that will float, throw a rope, use a pole or a hook, but only go in when its clear there’s no other way to save the drowning swimmer. And even then, there are specific techniques to avoid being dragged to the bottom by the one you’re trying to help. The goal is to save the one in trouble and live to save others.

So it isn’t… selfish?

No, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself. You’re supposed to do that as part of your stewardship. But you’re not supposed to take care of yourself just so you can look fabulous (not that there’s anything wrong with looking good). You need to take appropriate care of yourself so you’re in the best shape to fulfill your mission.

You may have noticed that life is not always easy or fair, but optimizing your health helps you to be more resilient.

About that mission

A pastor friend of mine said that ministry should always be from the overflow of what God is doing in your life. If you aren’t allowing God to fill you to overflowing, you aren’t bubbling with what Jesus calls “living water,” instead you’re like a stagnant puddle or a drainage ditch.  You collect water, but it flows away or evaporates.

The theological term for this is “working in the flesh,” which means you’re trying to accomplish heavenly tasks with human strength alone. This is a bad practice, and the way to overcome it is to balance service (output) with rest (input). Refreshment is the fuel for effective work.

Along with nutrition, hydration and exercise, I want to encourage you to make stillness and rest — in proper amounts — a part of how you take care of yourself. If you build those habits, you’ll be ready to handle whatever is in front of you.

So how about you? How do you make sure you’re taking proper care of yourself and serving others? Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *