By guest author Maggie Combs
It’s 10 a.m., and you haven’t showered or gotten dressed. Your teeth are unbrushed, and your coffee is cold. You have just reminded your toddler for the fifty-seventh time not to put his hands down the back of his pants. You expertly juggle your newborn in one arm while dishing out a moderately healthy snack for your toddler with the other. You are a mother, and you feel bone-weary. Our culture has offered up a solution for the frazzled and frantic mom who never manages a moment alone: self-care.
It’s almost impossible to visit a motherhood website, blog, or play group without running into it. The concept of self-care is simple: If the plane is going down, you should put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. But if your motherhood plane is about to crash and burn, God is the only source for the oxygen you need to survive the fall.
Self-care encourages coffee runs, nap times spent reading novels, pedicures, happy hour with girlfriends, new clothes, massages, exercising, decorating homes, and lavender bubble baths. There is nothing inherently bad in this list, but the problem lies in the elevation of these good things as necessities for surviving (or even thriving in) motherhood.
Why self-care isn’t enough.
Self-care will never fill the void in your heart meant for God alone. It is the diet soda of motherhood: Instead of offering satisfaction, it leaves you endlessly thirsting for more. Self-care buys into the world’s wisdom of putting your needs front and center, but the Bible tells us that true satisfaction and joy only come through Jesus. When motherhood feels overwhelming, instead of adding self-care to your already too long to-do list, meet with your Provider-God for soul-care sustenance.
Soul-care and self-care may look the same from the outside. They both may involve getting physical rest, reading good literature, eating well, creating art, and exercising. But self-care comes from the attitude of self, of building your kingdom, of idolizing your own needs. Soul-care seeks to know God better through both His Word and His world and humbly accepting your human limitations.
Self-care can’t give the kind of life that your weary body truly needs. Jesus calls you to come to Him to learn and rest: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29).
4 Methods to Transform Your Rest from Self-Care to Soul-Care
1. Remember who you are.
First, soul-care admits that God made you from dust. Your body and your abilities are finite. The lists you create for your days are often beyond the abilities of your human body. Here’s the issue with self-care: You are not God.
Self-care inherently focuses on what you can do for yourself, but soul-care turns your eyes upward for God’s provision. By establishing that you can’t be God, it frees you to accept your weaknesses then receive His unending strength. Soul-care flows from the humble recognition that our physical bodies are finite and ineffectual, but God gives us supernatural grace that is everything we need for life and godliness.
2. Remember whose you are.
God the Father created you; Jesus redeemed you; the Holy Spirit sanctifies you. Self-care is about taking ownership and control of your physical needs. Soul-care entrusts your needs to the God who created you, sustains you, and saves you.
3. Give your mind true oxygen.
To be good soul-care, your method for rest must allow you to learn more about God and draw nearer to Him. Self-care aims to give physical and psychological renewal, but soul-care accesses the true spiritual oxygen your soul craves.
Last summer I spent a week in Colorado’s Summit County for the first time. The first three days of the trip, my body refused to transition to the scarcity of oxygen. My mind was foggy and confused. I knew I needed to be a watchful and wise mother in this physically-dangerous environment, but my brain couldn’t compute, wouldn’t focus.
This was actually a familiar feeling. As a mom, I often feel muddled from lack of rest, unable to understand how to practically apply wisdom to the intricate challenges of motherhood. I feel overwhelmed and unsure. These are sure signs that I am depriving myself of spiritual oxygen.
Moms, when you feel the need for self-care, the first thing you should do is put your nose in your Bible and breathe God’s Truth deeply into your soul. The Word of God and the Truth of the gospel will reorient your thinking. They are the oxygen your brain needs to correctly understand your circumstances.
4. Humble yourself to receive spiritual transformation.
Soul-care is about rest, but it’s also about sanctification. Your regular self-care activities transform into soul-care when they are a means of opening your heart to the Holy Spirit. Pray for God to reveal Himself to you. Recognize what a gift of amazing grace it is for the stony places of your heart to be made into flesh. Confess your sins and your utter inability to do life without God. Remind yourself that in your weaknesses are opportunities to receive God’s unending strength (2 Cor. 12:9). Let whatever activity you choose lead your heart to the life-giving, life-changing awesomeness of God.
Dear Mom, if you’re exhausted, your soul will find rest in God alone. If you feel weak, God will be your strength. If your soul is desert-dry, God is the stream of living water. When you feel attacked, God is your refuge. When you lack wisdom, God provides it. When motherhood is more than you can manage, don’t run to self-care for the break the world says you deserve. Instead, care for your soul by giving it more oxygen from the pure, life-giving breath of God.