Sunday, October 4, 2015

"You Have to Take Care of Yourself First."

Uuuggghhh! If I hear that decontextualized snippet of would-be wisdom just once more, I am going to explode!!! Let me make this clear once and for all: I am a wife and I am a mother. My family comes first, NOT ME! God says so: 1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 5:22-33 ...and my somewhat-smug declaration of selflessness loses some of its potency when spouted feebly from a hospital bed, doesn't it.

Some hospital stays cannot be avoided no matter what, but (you know as well as I do) some can. In this case, I overworked myself. Again. So, here I sit. Again. 100% powerless, completely at the mercy of my disease and of no help to anyone—a burden, in fact—for at least a week because I didn't listen to my body (or my doctor) when I should have. I begged, borrowed, & stole to stay out of the hospital when I first should have gone in. I promised I would rest and eat and take it easy (I lied). I made every deal I could think of to be able to stay home and put others first. What a hero I am.

No. What a sinner. And not a very bright one at that.
Time to be brutally honest with myself:
I DON'T WANT TO take care of myself first.
I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO take care of myself first.
But the nasty truth is I DO HAVE TO take care of myself first...
...for my family's sake—not for my sake—or I end up so sick that I'm forced to put myself first for even longer than I would have had to in the first place. My illness, caused not by myself but by the sinful, fallen nature that plagues us all, sometimes makes caring for myself first a necessity for the sake of those I love and ought to care for first, not a selfish luxury for myself. And as long as I'm being brutally honest with myself, viewing my hospital stays as "selfish" is also a good way to run away from the indescribable emotional and physical pain of enduring them. Being in the hospital couldn't be further from easy or luxurious or self-satisfyingWhat a hero? No. What a coward. 

It took all this mess, all this guilt and frustration and self-pity and feeling like I was oh-so-woefully misunderstood to finally understand that the whole, "Take care of yourself first," thing IS about putting my family first. It's about making myself strong enough to put others first because the cold, ugly reality is that without taking extra care of myself once in awhile, I'm not strong enough to do anything but sit alone in a hospital bed while others raise my child and clean my house and do my laundry and cover for me at work...

So the next time someone reminds you to take care of yourself first and your first inclination is to remind them of how God lays out our priorities for us, remind yourself to really put your family first and your expectations last. Stop turning an ought into an is and accept the unfair reality of your situation. Chuck that self-pity in the trash where it belongs and do what you have to do to stay as healthy as you can for their sake.

And for those who may not know it:

Sitting motionless and ineffectual in a hospital bed all by ourselves is some of 
the hardest work a mom will ever have to do, both mentally and physically.

If it wasn't so hard, we wouldn't do everything in our power—including sin—to get out of it. So have a little compassion if you're feeling like you're about to chuck us into the trash, a little more patience (Matthew 18:21-22). We don't want to be here, we don't want to inconvenience you and need your help, and we will try our best to do what we're told to do and stay as healthy as possible. 

We can't apologize for being sick: it doesn't make any sense that we should. It would be like apologizing for using up some of the planet's oxygen so that we might stay alive. But we can be sorry for how it affects our loved ones, and we are obligated to try to minimize those effects as much as it is in our power to do so. That's what I thought I was doing by staying out of the hospital for as long as I possibly could, no matter what the cost. But I was doing it wrong. I'll do better next time, and if you've been doing it wrong, too, perhaps you'll do better as well: "Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19)

Suggested verse to repeat if it's a hospital day is Psalm 34:18
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted 
and saves the crushed in spirit."