Moving Away From Self-Preservation

A girl I know is going through a really rough time. She shared the other day how she felt as if all she was doing these days was taking care of her children, and she didn’t like the way she and her husband had no time for each other or anything else. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and this situation, and decided to email her with some of my thoughts on the matter.
It is customary to want to encourage and cheer someone who is tired and feeling really spent, by telling that person that this too shall pass and that they will find time for themselves and will soon get to take a break, because that person deserves a break. There is a sense of entitlement that we can have in life that I believe doesn’t really exist. The truth is that a life lived with God in control is quite difficult, and we are never guaranteed, nor should we ever expect, a break.
For many years of my married and mothering life, I lived and served my family in a way that my motive was, ‘okay, I will work only this hard, because I want to have something left at the end of it for me.’ For example, Nap Time was to be ‘me’ time, so I would get riled if someone didn’t sleep. At a certain point of exhaustion or emotional upheaval, I would shut down, thinking that God wouldn’t want me to entirely spend my energies on my family. I should be able to have a break, right?
Then, long about 2003, I read an article in Above Rubies that changed all that. The title of the article was, “How do you cope with exhaustion?” and when I sat down to read it, I looked forward to gleaning some good advice on how to get more breaks in my day. [smile] Boy, did the author, Melissa Anderson, go in a different direction than I envisioned! She spoke about how exhaustion in motherhood is to be expected, and that Jesus Himself became exhausted in His work. We have the choice of giving in to it, as is our human nature, or warring against it, as He did, by spending time with the Father. He didn’t let Himself be consumed by exhaustion. Melissa pointed out, “there is no doubt a person will be consumed. The question is by what (or whom) you will be consumed.” Later she wrote,”Unless we arrive at Job’s conviction of ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’ [Job 15:13], we will not enter into the fullness of the rest He wants to provide.” Woah there, lady. You’re saying that I have to totally surrender my hopes of rest in order to gain the rest I want? And, that God’s plan is that I be totally consumed by His will and work? [nervous chuckle] I didn’t see that going over real well around my heart and my home.
The last part of the article went like this:”Eventually, each of us will find ourselves facing the question, ‘What if there is nothing left of me for me?’ This is cause for soul-searching. I realize I have a higher calling than self-preservation.
That last phrase hit me between the eyes, it was so revolutionary to my way of thinking. I had to admit that I was pursuing self-preservation; I expected, thought I had a right, to something left for me after I served others. But, I also had to admit that nowhere in the Bible did I see Jesus serving others with that motive. No, watching Him we saw, quite graphically, the meaning of the words spent, poured out, set aside, sacrificed, broken, became nothing.
Lines from Jeremy Riddle‘s song, Sweetly Broken, say it beautifully:
To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing
For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
So, when I wrote to this girl, I wanted to remind her in these hard times the truth that I had been blessed to discover, that for her to be totally spent on her children right now is God’s purpose fulfilled in her life. She will, of course, see days to come where things aren’t so hard and she gets those much needed times of rest. But if she lives thinking she is entitled to anything, ungratefulness and discontent will swallow her up.
Let’s each let go of ‘me’, let’s live life to God’s glory, and we’ll never be disappointed.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

3 Replies to “Moving Away From Self-Preservation”

  1. This is wonderful! You should send it to Nancy. These are some of the exact things I’ve been learning, FINALLY, this year.

    I liked your book review too. It makes me want to read it.

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