permission to breathe

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I started going to church when I was 10. There were Christian influences in my life before that time, but the influences were more a result of the cultural landscape of the mid-west america that I was living in than anything.

After attending church regularly for almost 14 years, there are topics that seem to repeat over and over again. Two tenants of Christianity continue to consistently ring in my head in the past year:

self-care & self-forgetfulness

I have burned myself out trying to understand the dynamic of the two within my own life.

How do we live selfless and also take care of ourselves?

How do we balance these seemingly contrasting values in our life?

I have heard growing up that to be a "good Christian," I must sacrifice, suffer, and never think of myself. "Take up your cross and follow me" Luke 9:23 says -- following Christ means dropping everything I enjoy and suffer for the Lord! Right?

I completely leave myself alone and end up feeling like a bucket with a hole in the bottom. 

I focus on myself and feel unhealthy levels of guilt and shame. 

Is there a balance?

This past semester I haven't been out of bed before 9 a.m that often.  I have had all afternoon classes and taken my mornings very slowly. It's been a foreign season of rest, but I'm learning to be okay with taking things slowly, even when it is uncomfortable. Not having a morning routine and a daily schedule has knocked my life off of it's axis. 

I have never been good at slow. I like knowing things right now. I like getting things done and making decisions and the satisfaction of crossing things off of the list. Having the free time to do something that I would like makes me nervous. I haven't ever allowed myself to simply enjoy. I was believing the lie that if I enjoyed something that wasn't evangelism, it was a sin. If I am doing something I enjoy, I am hit with the face with guilt that I could be doing something better or more holy or just even more productive.  

The list of things I could be doing otherwise circles in my head, even if it's one thing, or even if I'm making things up of what else I could be doing to be more acceptable.

For me, real relaxation had often been a myth. I have never felt like I had done enough to deserve it.

Because I am my own toughest critic. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to the guilt and lack of grace that I give myself. The stint in my spiritual growth has not been the result of the rejection of the grace from God, but the rejection of the grace from myself. 

If you're anything like me, this is your permission to live slowly. This is your permission to breathe. 

Instead of analyzing our selfishness by tearing ourselves apart, ask:

Where am I driven by my selfishness?

Does selflessness inherently mean suffering?

Is there no place that sacrifice could be joyful?

We associate joy with what we want for ourselves -- when joy is so much bigger.

We too often see joy as something that comes from tangible things that we can do and like.

To only associate joy with what we may have fun doing in our lives, is a narrow view of joy. 

God does something with our desires that makes us have joy in sacrifice.

He motivates sacrifice with a joy that is beyond comprehension.