“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” (Luke 4:1).
Everyone from parents to priests can fall into a dangerous rut: give give give give give until there’s nothing left. At that point you either become burnt out, joyless, haggard, or a scandal.
The early Christians referred to themselves very simply as “the living ones.” They weren’t just a witness by things they said, but by who they were.
When we encounter people who are alive on the inside, we want to be around them. We want to find out what makes them tick. We want to be like them. People who are alive inside are witnesses … even when they don’t speak. They make a desert-world thirsty for what they have! That’s why serving God starts with taking care of your own spiritual needs. So, do you take the time to nourish and fill your own soul? I’m not just talking about prayer. I’m talking about caring for yourself.
Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). He was presuming that we love ourselves! And love is expressed in actions, not just feelings. Do you love yourself? In action?
I came home from a trip recently and my wife was absolutely tired. Burnt out. I didn’t say, “drop and give me 10 rosaries.” I was moved with compassion and said, “let me run out and get you some sushi.” And it struck me: if our Lord had walked in the room he’d probably have said the same exact thing.
Advancing in the spiritual life is impossible if we don’t step away from our busy lives a little and take care of our basic needs. Don’t complicate things: If you can’t pray well, have you been sleeping enough? If you’re feeling too down to serve someone else, have you worked out or taken a walk lately?
I know, the demands of life make you feel selfish when you take a break from studying, working, or taking care of the kids to get “me time.” But ironically, when you don’t care for yourself, it’s the worst thing you can do to those who love you! They’re left with nothing but the most burnt out version of yourself. And if you’re a parent, you communicate to your children that you lack the dignity and self-worth to “waste time” on yourself. And that teaches them about their own self-worth.
So if not for your own sake, do it for those who love you. You don’t have to be rich to read a good book. Eat a little sushi. Watch a movie. Work out. Take time to soak in an extra long shower (which doesn’t seem like such a big deal until you have kids!). Take a nap.
Jesus’ ministry began by walking away from his work and the world for a 40-day “retreat.” He was giving us an example that before we can serve the world, or even begin to encounter God, we have to turn our backs on our busy lives. Then you can unwind enough to pray well, and serve well.
Commit to doing a few things every day that inspire you and fuel your soul. You’re worth it.
Chris Stefanik contributes to RealLifeCatholic.com.