Spirit & Truth # 259
“An Open Letter About Self-Care and Small Groups”
By Greg Smith
These days, everybody’s schedule is busy, so I appreciate the moments you’re taking to read this right now. You’ve probably heard that self-care is an important thing, but maybe it doesn’t seem practical to you, with all the demands in your life. In our hectic world, we spend so much time taking care of other people and the projects they set before us that we often don’t give enough attention to sustaining ourselves. I’d like to challenge the idea that you need to place everybody else’s needs before your own, and suggest that you take care of yourself for a change.
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, then you’ve heard the flight attendant give instructions as to how to use the floatation devices, exits, and seat belts. You’ve also been told that if the oxygen masks drop down from the ceiling, you are to put one on yourself before you help someone next to you, even if that someone is a child. This seems selfish at first. But the reason for this is that without oxygen, you won’t be able to help anybody. Only when you have the oxygen mask on yourself will you be able to help others. Putting the oxygen mask on yourself first isn’t selfish. It’s one of the most selfless things you can do, to force yourself to take care of yourself.
When it comes to self-care, small groups are often the oxygen mask that people need. Even Jesus would often withdraw from the crowds of people, to pray and share in fellowship with his small group of twelve disciples. This close-knit support group offered the emotional support, comfort, and sustenance that Jesus needed during his ministry. They also provided the vehicle through which he could share his wisdom.
If Jesus needed this, then everybody needs a small support group of some kind. You need support, but you also need people with whom you can share the wisdom God has given to you, through your own struggles in life. Sunday school classes and evening Bible studies at your church may meet this need. Many believers find fellowship in home prayer groups with friends. Or your needs may be more specialized. Personally, I meet weekly with a small group of other pastors who support one another in ministry. As a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I also meet monthly with a group of parents who share the same challenges. You may need the help of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or some other 12-step recovery program. Or, you could have spiritual devotion time with like-minded co-workers before a hard day’s work. There are many types of small groups that offer the care and strength you need.
If you’re like me, then you probably have too many responsibilities and appointments to juggle. For myself, I can tell you that burning the candle at both ends never did me any good. Adding another meeting to the list seems counter-intuitive. But taking the time I need for myself has always paid off. I find my vitality increased, my spirituality growing, and my mental focus improved when I put the oxygen mask on myself fist. It’s worth the time it takes. I invite you to consider your own self-care, and the role that a small group may play in your life. Do it for yourself. Do it those who need you to be strong, so you can care for them.
In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Greg Smith