Self-care is a buzzword that tends to make its way across my screen more than a couple of times a week. It is a popular concept that encourages one to self-reflection, self-appreciation, and self-satisfaction. It focuses on physical and mental wellness with the end game to become the best, truest version of yourself. This equilibrium comes from recognizing your needs and taking the necessary steps to make sure they are fulfilled.
The problem with self-care is that it is a band-aid created by our culture that leaves us empty when mantras, extra sleep, and self-awareness do nothing to slay the darkness that haunts the caverns of our souls. It offers distractions but not solutions. No amount of chasing our dreams, being true to oneself, days focused on relaxation, or sleep is going to fix us.
As the phrase would dictate, self-care draws our focus back to self. What do I want? What do I need? It puts the crown firmly on our own heads declaring our needs vitally more important than anyone elses. It is the antithesis to the biblical call for selflessness and humility. That we might become less so that CHRIST might become more (John 3:30). That He might become more in us, because Christ in us is marked by mercy, love, grace, humility and a servant to all. Not "how can I be served?", but rather "how might I serve others?". Christ calls for the death of self and the embracing of humility before all people. Self-care calls for our satisfaction and enjoyment above all else - it asks us to love ourselves enough to do what's best for our hearts and minds. And a big part of this 'love' comes from self-acceptance and recognizing our worth. But the truth is, we are not enough and we will never be enough. Christ is enough and it is at the end of ourselves that we find Him to be enough. When we preach to ourselves the value of our own worth we will always be left empty and wanting. Satisfaction found within ourselves is unattainable. We were not made for it. God intended for self-reliance to die the moment our eyes blinked open to what was done for us on the cross, thus creating a beautiful dependence on Him.
We don’t need to convince ourselves of our goodness or worth by following "10 Steps to Your Best Self" because we have been lavished with love by the God of the universe who looked at us in all of our filth and sin and self-destructive ways and while we were still sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8). There is no expectation that we come to him sinless or shameless or perfect or pretty or happy or put together - we simply must rest in the grace of what has already been done for us.
We will never find the acceptance we crave buried somewhere deep within just waiting to be found by the futile efforts of loving ourselves enough. What we need is the life-breathing hope found in the God who knit us together in our mother's womb, who knows the number of hairs on our head, and who loves us unconditionally despite our sin-prone selves. It is through the prodigal love of the Father that we are truly empowered. Not by habits, self-love, or mantras. Self-care ushers us to muster up from within ourselves inner strength, worth, and satisfaction. It makes us responsible for our own happiness. It sets the focus on "me" and it sets us up for failure in that we are forced to rely on ourselves. But true joy comes not from self-acceptance but from the intense sense of the mercy we receive when we enter into fellowship with God. We have an answer for fear, anxiety, loneliness, and lack of self-worth - it is found at the foot of the cross. It is found in the Gospel.
One of my favorite verses that has been resonating with me as a source of encouragement this past 6 months is Acts 3:19, and it says "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord...". When we recognize our depravity and need of a Savior the response is the blotting out of our sins through the death of Christ and the beginning of the renewing, reviving, and restoring of our spirit.
The weight of our sin wiped clean that we might be made whole through the Gospel, waiting expectantly for the day of full restoration when we will be in the presence of God forever. The hope of the glory to come sustaining us in the meantime. What I am saying is that while sleep, a good cup of coffee, dream chasing, and other forms of self-care are not always negative in and of themselves, they become negative when they make themselves false gods in which we look to for revival. But they will not revive and renew us into eternity. Nothing apart from Christ will make us whole. Nothing apart from Christ is worth looking to for renewal or hope or self-discovery.
What we must do is treasure Christ and treasure the Gospel, because He is worthy of our full affection. And He is the only one capable of filling all of the empty and dry places that leave us needing and wanting more. Don't look for worth in places it cannot be found. Don't look to be refreshed by temporal, fickle things. Recognize the things we get to enjoy here on earth as secondary gifts to the first and truest gift: Jesus.
"Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:5-9