Jan 16, 2018

Self-righteousness vs. Self-care

By Alison Andreasen

Hello. My name is Alison Andreasen and I am recovering from self righteousness and idolatry.  

There, I said it.  

I was forced into this revelation. I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I hit rock bottom and had to face the facts. Some people call it burn-out, and that is a pretty accurate statement. I had been burning dully for a while, red embers barely hanging on. If I were a candle, I would have been the sad little part of the candle where the wick meets the base. It looks so pathetic that the owner just throws it away to put it out of its misery. That was me.

If only I had been a super human with no needs, I could have continued in my previous lifestyle. I could have kept living life the way I thought I should, embracing my ideals to the fullest extreme and truly living a life worthy of a Christian--or so I thought. I always said that I wanted to be faithful. That was my goal. What I meant by this was that I wanted to do all the things a “faithful” person does and none of the things a faithful person wouldn’t do. I had an ideal, but it wasn’t one from God. I strove to meet that made-up image in my head. I bowed to it, sacrificed my health and well being for it, and became enslaved to it. What was my ideal, you ask? It was that mom should do all the things a mom does, including cooking, cleaning, caring for the children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs, homeschooling, and more. Not a bad ideal, you might say. But after a while, this ideal became too heavy a burden for me to bear.

It didn’t start out that way, you see.  At first, my goals and actions were a way I lived out my faith in response to God’s gracious and lavish love in Christ. Taking care of my little family was a joy! Cooking, cleaning, playing, teaching--I loved it all! A little evangelism work here, a little home education there, a little church volunteering to top it all off, and I was living the dream. Over time, the number of responsibilities those things brought would wax and wane,  but they were all a delight for me.

Gradually, however, the pace of my life and responsibilities started piling up. More children were given to us from the Lord, more food needed to be cooked, more time was spent teaching, more of this and more of that. It was clear that something on my plate of tasks had to go. But what would it be?

I kept hearing the phrase, “Die to yourself.”  Don’t be selfish. I’ve read all the blog posts about millennial parents being self-serving and not sacrificing for their children, and I determined that those things would not be said of me. I would occasionally partake of something I enjoyed, such as watching Pride and Prejudice while the kids were in bed, or having quiet time in another room, but the little voice in my head would start causing doubt. “You should be fully present with your kids, and if you are in different rooms that can’t happen,” it would say. “You should enjoy them while you can--they grow up fast, you know.” “What kind of mom lies in bed even if she’s stayed up all night with the baby?” “A good mom would do this. . . . A good mom would do that.”

Day in and day out, my failures heaped upon my chest, making it hard to breathe at times. I used to be able to do it all AND have time for myself. Not anymore. Clearly the work on my plate was too much for one person to do in a day. Something had to go. So what did I give up? Well, self-care of course. I didn’t want to be selfish, after all.

I could have sat down in complete Christian freedom to consider the tasks on my heaping plate, realizing that caring for myself should also be considered, but I didn’t. My man-made idol insisted that I sacrifice myself in order to serve others. If I failed, my head told me I would be committing a grievous sin. But what I thought was a faithful determination to serve my family was actually an arrogant belief that unless I was the one who did everything, God--the creator of the universe--couldn't accomplish His work. On top of that, I was already living in direct and serious sin, for I was finding my comfort in being a “good” Christian wife and mother instead of resting in Christ.

By God’s grace, I am not a superhuman. Finally, after months of this lifestyle, I crashed. I have been forced to give up parts of the lifestyle that were so important to me. It has been the best thing that could have happened. I can honestly say that I acknowledge my dependence on Christ’s promise of redemption much more now than I did before. I pray to God, asking His will to be done for the good of His children (i.e., myself and my family) more readily. I give thanks for His grace and mercy, which are sustaining our family. I have decided to entrust some of my responsibilities to others around me and am enjoying rest and peace that I have not felt in years. I am trying not to feel guilty about doing the work of only one person instead of 3 or 4.

The battle in accepting God’s forgiveness and not falling back into the yoke of the slavery of my sin still rages on. Freedom is hard to get used to when you are accustomed to being weighed down by compulsions and expectations. I often think my former way of life was more “godly” or “god-pleasing,” but then I realize that I am wishing for old roles not out of joyful service, but because once again I am forgetting my dependence on Christ and thinking of them as something a good Christian must do.

Our family recently memorized the hymn "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus," and this verse stood out to me.
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art,
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.  
By God’s grace, my sin was brought to light, and I live free from the fear and the bondage of my former ways. I am free to rest and trust Christ to work for the good of those I care about. They need to be cared for, but no one says that I have to be the source of EVERYTHING they need. God has placed others in my midst to help me in my daily tasks. I am weak. He, however, is strong to save. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 


***

Alison lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife and mother of four. She loves locally grown food, foraging with her family, reading classic literature she's never read before, and day dreaming. Her passions for theology and children have led her to create resources for families that can be seen at goodnewsforoliveshoots.wordpress.com.

6 comments:

  1. Amen, Sister. Praise the Lord!
    (And thank you for sharing)

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  2. Excellent and I'm thankful that you realized what was happening. Yes, compulsions and guilt will raise their ugly heads occasionally, but this is a mature realization. You're a great mom, wife and friend, I KNOW. Call me any time you need reassurance on that count.

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  3. Love this! Care to share how you narrowed down what to "give up"? I find myself in need of pruning some tasks since the birth of our 5th child, but it is hard to flush out the details. I find even arranging for mom to get a haircut to be a logistical nightmare 😉

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    1. Blessings on your newest gift from God! The biggest suggestion I have is to consider what you enjoy doing. In what ways do you serve your family happily? What things are hardest? Are there aspects other than tasks that impact you? For example: are you an introvert who isn't getting alone time? Are you an extrovert who enjoys seeing others? Make time for those things. Every mom is going to answer those questions differently. It will make everyone's "mom tasks" a little different, which is a good thing since we are all unique! With that said, here are a few things I have done: Once a week, a Jr. High girl comes over and plays with the kids so I can do whatever (usually laundry). We invested in a refurbished (read: previously owned and WAY cheaper) robot vacuum. We put the family on a meal plan (Crockpot Mondays, Taco Tuesday, Church Wednesday, Fast Meat Thursday, Pasta Friday, Oven Meat Saturdays, and Soup Sundays). We organized all kids clothes into outfits and limited clothing so I am not washing a ton of laundry. The biggest change we made was sending two of four children to the nearby school instead of homeschooling. I was so overwhelmed that I didn't even know what to do to make things better. This arrangement has given me time to think, rest and reassess things. It was the last resort and I hesitated giving it up since I really did love it. I also struggled with thinking that if I didn't homeschool that I was somehow sinning. I was not living under grace. I don't know if it will be a temporary or permanent change yet, but I do know that it has given this mom some much needed rest and has led me to depend on my heavenly Father to work in the best interest of my children and myself to the glory of His name. For that, I am eternally grateful.

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    2. Oh- and haircuts! I found a cute little do it yourself bob haircut that I give myself at home! I do miss the hairdresser a lot though! :)

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  4. Thank you for your insight & for sharing your experience (including specific suggestions in your comment). Your words have been a great blessing to me, as was your interview (podcast) with Anna last year! God's blessings to you & your family.

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