I’m sitting in my kitchen with the sun streaming through the window and the birds chirping outside. That classic summer feeling is in the air. Things are in full swing. The green and blue has returned and the dark British winter is but a distant memory – for most of the time, anyway.
I’m thinking; I’m ruminating. The goal is to connect with how I’m really feeling. I mean, really and truly feeling. Recently, I’ve been trying to not let said feelings dominate my perspective on life to the point my thoughts take me down a confusing and endless rabbit hole. Anyone else an over-analyser?
I’m also realising all that I’m being burdened by, so that I can lift it up to God. I no longer want to just pretend I’m coping. It’s time to admit that it’s ok to be weak. I think it’s from this place we can dare to open up to our faithful God and we can invite the Holy Spirit to bring restoration.
Just over three months ago my grandmother passed away. I knew she wasn’t well, but I was quite shocked at how rapidly she went downhill. Death isn’t the easiest subject to write about and I’m not going to explore the massive topic of grief here. I can’t even begin to imagine – or attempt to pen the right words – the extent of grief some people have dealt with in their lives. Who can really fathom all of the devastating effects of the recent earthquakes in Nepal?
I got to sit and chat with Grandma just days prior to her last. I knew she had lived a long, fulfilled life and that she had received medicine to take away the pain. She left us while she slept, but her passing still completely knocked me.
I had to face up to one of the most prominent challenges that has reared its head quite a few times in my 30 years of life; the challenge of stopping. The challenge that us humans have limits and we need to look after ourselves. The challenge that what people might ask of me, I might not be able to give them: time, emotional support, being my sociable self, or going above and beyond at work. I’ve found that the challenge, when acknowledged, then actually becomes a massive relief. Maybe my usual way of doing life creates more pressure on myself than God intended. This paradigm shift begins to highlight were my theology has become jaded. Taken to the extreme, it seems that I have been pushing away from loving and taking care of myself, and Jesus’ teaching in verses such as Matthew 22:34-40, especially 39 where he speaks of “loving your neighbour as yourself”.
There will be many theological explorations and reflections on different scriptures around this topic, but I particularly want to highlight the context a number of contemporary Christians may read to interpret this specific verse. I don’t want to focus on any particular denominations or traditions, but in my experience of the Christian faith many of us can be overly cautious towards this notion of centring the ‘self’. Is it selfish and non-sacrificial to think of yourself, when Jesus lived a highly sacrificial life to the point of death? I’m a big believer in loving and serving people. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. But how authentic am I being in my walk of faith if I try and help people discover their value and worth and don’t do that for myself?
I think I’ve returned. Not to my faith or to God, as I believe I was always being held, no matter how close I felt during those times of deep sadness and grief, but returned to myself. I’m questioning what I do for me, particularly how I look after myself and what I need from others. I started seeing a counsellor and I went on an amazing – and free! – holiday in the sun. I’m slowly carving out time to be by myself. These are God-given things that I can only describe as having helped me return to myself. And it feels like just the beginning.
I can’t make a neat conclusion about how sorted I am and how I’ve got everything figured out, because frankly, I’m probably not and I’m quite certain I haven’t. But I hope this can be an invitation for you, especially if life has recently knocked you sideways and forced you to stop. It’s time to connect to yourself again.