When I first began to hear about the importance of self-care for ministers, I thought, “that sounds nice.” But in the words of YouTube sensation Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
I interpreted self-care to be optional or “as needed.” My philosophy was to take care of myself every now and then so that I didn’t burn out. If I’m being honest, the idea of self-care just seemed selfish. I felt guilty stopping to care for myself when it seemed like there were so many other more important things that needed to be done.
Now, seven years into ministry, I still don’t have time for self-care. There are always more e-mails that need to be sent. More people who need pastoral care and encouragement. More plans need to be made for church events or community endeavors.
But despite the relentless busyness of ministry, I choose to make time for self-care, because it is absolutely necessary for my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and the well-being of those whom I serve.
Because I’ve watched seasoned ministers who prioritize self-care continue to thrive in beautiful ways for years into their ministry.
Because I’ve watched even more seasoned ministers burn out at both ends and become cynical, jaded, unhealthy, and exhausted.
Because I’ve learned the hard way what happens when I don’t take care of myself.
Because our church is in an interim period, and all of the sudden, I’m the only full-time ministerial staff person. I certainly don’t have time these days, but I know that if I don’t make time to care for myself, I can’t be present to my congregation in the ways that are most needed right now.
I love what Parker Palmer has to say about self-care in his book, Let Your Life Speak. He says, “Self-care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to the true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
And so these days, I am trying to follow Parker Palmer’s advice. I am relentlessly carving out time in my schedule for the things that feed my soul. For the activities that nurture and strengthen my body. For the people with whom I can simply be me. For the friends in ministry who understand this life and journey with me through it. For the simple pleasures that give me great joy. And for the God who continues to faithfully abide with me, even when I think I’ve got more important things to do than to faithfully abide with God.
Friends, if you and I are to follow in the way of Jesus, who taught us to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, then that includes truly loving ourselves and allowing ourselves to be loved. May we be people who daily choose to make time for that.