Updated: Jan 28
“Silent Night… Holy Night” ring through villages and cities and drifting to us from far away shores and different regions or counties. These words are also ringing from a stable and a manger. It was a silent night but embedded in this night was God’s broken heart for having to let go of Jesus to take on human form. The humiliation of no place to stay for the parents and an uncomfortable journey and birthplace for Mary and Jesus. Far away from family and friends to surround them, Joseph, the husband of Mary and adopted father of Jesus, assisted her with the birth of a baby that was not his son. On the hills, angel choirs singing to shepherds tending the lambs that eventually would be sacrificed in the temple and on the horizon in the far east, a caravan left the dunes to journey to Bethlehem, following the light path of a bright star.
It was a season of joy and loss for Mary and Joseph. For Mary, the joy of giving birth to a son. The loss of a close-knit family around her and the stability of her own place to give birth. For Joseph, it was the loss of his reputation as a man and to take his young pregnant wife on a long journey.
Like Joseph and Mary, we can't do much to change our circumstances when we struggle through Christmas with broken hearts but we can try to tend to our immediate needs through proper self-care.
In her book “Miracles and Other Reasonable Things”, Sarah Bessy makes a distinction between self-care and self-comfort in times of sadness, stress and boredom.
Bessey says that she “numbs out in times of stress; I can use anything from food to wine to books to television to shopping.” This is self-comfort and it feels good but it is not necessarily self-care
Proper self-care, creates good in our lives, the lives of our family and friends, and in the world.
Part of learning and growing is not to comfort myself with things that will cause future sadness when I am tired, bored, angry, sad, or stressed, but instead to love the things that will love me back.
So chocolate, or comfort eating, or zoning out on social media or online magazines and newspapers will not love me back, but cause future sadness at the weight gain, or wasted time.
In Matt. 22:39 We are admonished to love others as we love ourselves. As translated from the Aramaic word kareb, which means “one who is close to you” (emotionally or by proximity). I will love my friend in the same way I love myself.
How do we love ourselves or care for ourselves?
We will do things to ourselves and for ourselves that will be good and beneficial for us.
We immediately ask the question: "But is it not selfish to take care of ourselves?"
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans again connects the body, the mind (soul) and the spirit.
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2 NASB).
Self-care is not selfish but commanded by God in the Bible. We are to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God because it is part of our spiritual service of worship unto God. We are also admonished not to be conformed to this world - we should live and act and make our decisions differently than the world. We should also renew our minds and create healthy thought patterns. Therefore I preserve my spirit and soul and body in different ways.
We should have a self-care plan and see it as one of the ways we honour God through our bodies. What does God refer to if He says we should honor Him through our bodies?
My Body (Greek, "soma")
This is the entire material or physical structure of a human being -- it is the physical part of a person.
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20).
From this verse, we learn that we should present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God and that it is spiritual worship to do so. So it is an act of worship to look after our bodies and to care for our bodies which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
How can we look after our bodies: A long walk, stretches, gardening, go for a massage. Sleep enough. Drink Vitamin B-Complex to built your nervous system. Daily physical exercise, ideally with fresh air and sunshine; when we feel we are moving into that triggered space, doing something that brings back body awareness, taking a drink of water, tracing the fingers of one hand with a finger on the opposite, press heels into the floor, slowing & deepening our breathing; singing. Live a slower pace in life and practice mindfulness. Have healthy sex within the boundaries of our marriages.
The Soul (Greek, "psyche")
Genesis 2:7 states that Man was created as a "living soul." The soul consists of the mind, the will and the emotions. The soul and the spirit are mysteriously tied together and makeup what the Scriptures call the "heart."
The writer of Proverbs declares, " Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." (Prov. 4:23 NASB). We see here that the "heart" is central to our emotions and will.
But a natural (psuchikos -- soulish) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:14 NASB).
Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day" (Acts 23:1 NASB).
In Prov. 4:23 The Hebrew word levav is the most common word for “heart.” It includes our thoughts, our will, our discernment, and our affections. We have to watch over our hearts.
Self care is to take action or to make a decision on behalf of yourself to behave in a better way or to take care of yourself. You have to make effort to develop healthy thought patterns.
In your soul, you have your will: Activate your will to make choices that healthy for yourself.
In your soul, you have your emotions: What are your emotions telling you. Notice it and act on it. If you are sad, ask why are you sad and if you are angry, ask yourself what is the pain underneath the anger.
In your soul, you have your intellect: Read about recovery but also read other material to build you up and to give you hope. Learn a new language or any other skill to take your mind off your situation.
The Spirit (Greek "Pneuma")
In Numbers 16:22, Moses and Aaron, "…fell upon their faces and said, 'O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will you be angry with the entire congregation?'" This verse names God as the God of the spirits that are possessed by all humanity. Notice also that it mentions the flesh (body) of all mankind, connecting it with the spirit.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well (Ps. 139:13-14 NASB).
How does it looks practically?
Daily quiet time; practice thankfulness, attend a carol or other Christmas service; read an advent or Christmas devotional; meditate on scripture. Seeking connection with God on a daily basis. Reading my Bible. Silence and contemplative prayer. Listening to music that feeds my spirit. Praise. Worship.
The slow steady ways of self-care take a bit longer to change one’s mood, but they leave no regret.
We forget that the love we are called to includes loving ourselves just as much as we love anybody else. That love includes looking after ourselves as a wise parent would look after a recalcitrant toddler.