Feb 29, 2020

I Don't "Deserve" Self Care. I Rejoice in God's Good Gifts Instead.




By Molly Barnett

Social media and elsewhere have been saturated recently with messages of “self-care” by well-intentioned people who boldly declare, “you deserve it.” Insert any number of things for “it,” and do it in the name of “self-care” because you work so hard, don’t you? So maybe my cynicism has already surfaced, but I cannot help but question this modern mantra for the hard-working woman, particularly for the mother. Now that God has given me the vocation of wife and mother to fulfill, I wonder what it means to take care of myself as a Christian woman living in service to others while messages on the importance of self-care bombard me. So I ask myself, do I deserve that quiet walk alone while my husband watches our infant son at home on a Saturday morning? Do I deserve a ladies’ brunch? Do I deserve it? 

The world says, “of course!” The world through Instagram and Facebook tells me that I sacrifice so much of my time and preferences for my husband and son that I deserve something for myself. However, thinking I deserve a reward for the work given to me can be dangerous to my faith and to how I live out my vocation. I might be tempted to look contemptuously at my spouse who, I perceive, is not giving me enough of a break from motherhood, or I could even view my son as a curse rather than the blessing that Scripture tells me he is. Psalm 127:3-5 informs me that children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” In the midst of wiping the blow-out off of my son’s back, I admit, this verse is far from my mind, but it is true! God’s blessings to us are not always the kind we think we want, and we certainly do not deserve His abundant gifts! What do I deserve, then? St. Paul tells me that I deserve something drastically different than “me time.” Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” Frankly, I deserve eternal punishment for the many times I have turned in on myself and sinned by grumbling, complaining, blaming, and giving in to self-pity while fulfilling my vocation. So, no, I do not deserve a single good thing; but rather I ought to give thanks for every one of them.

A posture of gratitude toward God for His gifts and living in His richness of grace actually frees us to embrace our vocation, knowing that dutifully carrying it out will not earn any favor with God or bring about sanctification, but rather, it is an act of loving obedience. He has carried out our salvation on the cross in the death and resurrection of Christ for all of our sins. There is nothing left for us to do but to pray, praise, and give thanks! So how is this related to the world’s interpretation of “self-care?” Well, I stumbled upon this saying recently, “Self-respect, self-worth, and self-love, all start with self. Stop looking outside of yourself for value.” There it was in plain writing, the world’s lie. As Christians redeemed by Christ’s blood, we absolutely look outside of ourselves to find value in Him! Placing ourselves at the center of our world will not bring eternal rest or fulfillment for our souls, and looking inwardly for existential answers to life’s troubles will bring either despair or selfishness. Our identity rests in Christ alone. I am incapable of granting peace and rest to my own soul, for God is the only one who can--and does!

Nevertheless, pursuing our interests is not bad nor sinful. Indeed we are free to read, cook a delicious meal, eat a decadent slice of cheesecake, go for a run, or enjoy a trip to the salon. However, the minute we consider ourselves deserving of these things or consider self-care rituals necessary for the preservation our soul’s health, we have succumbed to the world’s ways. God has filled our world with great and tiny wonders to behold, discover, and enjoy, and all we need to do is receive them gladly as gifts from a loving Father who knows our every need. 

The Author of life, Savior of mankind, Alpha and Omega, cares for each and every one of His children. Is that not more comforting to hear than “do these things and look into your own heart for complete happiness?” Therefore, we may go forth in our vocations as daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives and joyfully look outside of ourselves for value, for our identity rests in Christ alone and His work done on the cross for us.



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Molly Barnett lives with her husband and son in Alexandria, Virginia where they are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Before becoming a mother, she taught fourth grade for six years at the classical Immanuel Lutheran School. She holds a B.A. in English from The Ohio State University and an M.A. in liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. Her favorite activities these days include walking outside with her family, playing the piano, and competing against her husband in various board games. 

4 comments:

  1. Great answer to our culture's obsession with taking care of yourself first!

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  2. Molly, thank you for sharing your wisdom about the dangers of the "I deserve it," mentality. I have been guilty at times of falling into this mindset, but I know that I am deserving of punishment instead. Thankfully we serve a merciful God!

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  3. Thank you for addressing this. I've had these same thoughts running through my mind a lot, and appreciate very much having them sorted out for me and in writing!

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