In the mega church I grew up in we had a guest speaker. At the beginning of the sermon they passed around dozens of buckets full of ball bearings. It was strange. We each held a ball bearing in our hands. The sermon was on helping and witnessing to others. Then half way through the sermon he said. Put this ball bearing in your pocket. And if a need arises in your life. Reach in your pocket and “feel led.”
We’re supposed to “feel led” to give. It’s the works based bias we all swim around in. When in doubt- give. It’s a Christian habit. It’s a part of our kingdom work. But after 30 years of conditioning, my body has learned to respond to the stimuli of giving. I’ve given till it hurts. It lessens my guilt for my filth and helps someone in the process. Double whammy.
Now that I’ve rewired my brain to avoid that shame by helping, I can’t seem to kick the habit. It’s an easy fix. And no one would ever fault me for it either. It’s like helping-narcotics. Except this one betters the world around me. The only one suffering is the myself! And I keep that well hidden!
Like an addict, if I go cold turkey I withdraw to the deepest shame. Who am I to take care of myself? Who am I to expect anything less of life than self-sacrificial raggedness? Our model was crucified. Shouldn’t I be too?
So how does self-care fit into all this? I find myself split into two personalities. I understand the psychological affects of mood altering by helping. I want to shut it down faster than you can say “give till it hurts.” But then I constantly “feel led”. It’s an intrusive thought with no space between impulse and action. Ive already sent the text, offered the meal, opened my life to another person. All of these are benign. Unless that night I don’t have energy to respond to my kids, my anxiety takes over as I make another pot pie we don’t have ingredients for. Or glassy eyed I try to act like I’m not ignoring my husband while I’m distracting myself with my phone. Exhausted from another person in need.
Self-care or even just a descent attempt at keeping up with my sleep, healthy, and emotional needs is an act of grace. And with my religious background all this grace makes me uncomfortable. I’m anglican now and they are all about it. But where’s the line? I don’t know where I stand. Seven years in to this new way of walking with God and I’m still not sure I fit in. Or it fits in with me. Anglicans call themselves the “middle way.” Well I can’t handle that in my polarized view of righteousness! I’m either goat or sheep. There isn’t an animal in the middle?? A ram? I don’t know???
Maybe I’m meant to feel that discomfort. And sit with intention in the grace where no one is asking anything of me. Like letting your mother hold you. Letting your mistake be forgiven. No groveling or “making it right” (as I say to my kids). Just washed over and clean. It’s not a collaborative effort. I want to become less and less uncomfortable. But I hope I never forget how unnatural this lack of shame feels.