The last few months I’ve been taking the time to really focus on my personal health. No, thankfully I don’t have serious medical concerns right now. However, I have struggled with seasonal depression almost every winter for the last several years. So to combat this and up my game, I joined a local gym, started eating more nutritious food, started sleeping more, and really brushing those teeth, flossing too! I’ve even treated myself to the occasional massage!
While I know that these things are important to my long term and personal health, I inexplicably struggle with guilt whenever I start looking after myself. Why should I buy costly health foods, when friends of mine in other countries are struggling to eat? What gives me the privilege of having a massage when friends of mine are homeless? Couldn’t I better spend my money on others, rather than on myself?
Ok, conventional wisdom would say, “Take care of yourself so that you can better take care of others; Know and love yourself so you can better love others; Enjoy your life to the fullest!”
Yes, truth is hiding in these common expressions, but often they are used as excuses to spend exorbitant amounts of money on oneself while ignoring the intense realities of poverty and corporate oppression in the world.
So, there must be a more rounded and maybe less obvious solution. Another common response: Balance. We’ve got to balance self-sacrifice and self-care, right?
Well, when we look at the teachings of Jesus, and when I look at my surroundings, the imbalance of culture, valuing food, fashion, and fun over the value of neighbors, and when I read the radical lifestyles of John the Baptist, Elijah, Paul, and Our Lord…I must reconsider this word, ‘balance.’ Balancing implies equal weight for each part or a comfortable, level playing field for both. I’m not sure Jesus taught, “Now just give a balanced approach to giving your wealth away and you will inherit the Kingdom,” or, “pick up your cross and balance it with taking up boxing and yoga.” Balance also implies that there are two very different things that need to be measured evenly.
As I’ve pondered these thoughts, I’ve felt my heart convicted. I need to receive spiritual and physical blessings gratefully, that is, I must enjoy and love my self, my body, and the wealth the Lord has given me. But being grateful is not only enjoying the blessings we receive, but also generously, lavishly sharing them with those around us. Have you ever seen a child share their food with their friends? Have you ever seen starving street kids share a meal that they didn’t have to? Child like faith meets a thankful heart and that heart knows the best thing for its health is radical love.
So in conclusion, I would NOT recommend a balance of self-sacrifice and self-care for your life; they are one in the same. The best way to take care of oneself is to sacrifice one’s entire being for the love of God…loving neighbors as loving oneself. This may not be balanced, but it is peaceful, and it is healthy.
While I will continue to eat healthful foods, work out at the gym, and enjoy the occasional massage, I have decided to intentionally look for ways to cut costs and redistribute those funds to good causes, friends, and church family. I will also invite people to walk alongside me, and share my enjoyment of all the blessings of Love.
This is a healthy reminder that the healthiest activity is sharing and loving. Let’s prioritize our personal health goals around that, and see how fit our hearts and bodies become!