Self-Care for the Pastor’s WifeBy Marby Iglesias
April 18, 2020
The term ‘self-care’ has gained quite a following the last couple of years. A quick Instagram search for #selfcare just returned 23.4 million posts! It’s definitely trending and though it may be commonly driven by indulgence and pride, I believe there is a biblical call for every single one of us to rest, steward our body, and care for our soul.
I don’t want to dwell on the self-care that sends you to the salon in self-righteousness or the one that tells you that only YOU come first in priority. I want us to meditate on a self-care rooted in a sense of dependence and neediness, a growing awareness of our limitations and an intentional approach to be renewed in Christ. I am not a sovereign demanding my needs be satisfied, I am a fragile woman acknowledging that I am made of dust, prone to wander, and in desperate ongoing need to be rescued, encouraged and strengthened in the Sovereign one. Our self-care comes from a deep gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ that allows us to pause and trust that He, not us, is ruling the universe. Here are three principles I hope you will find useful as you meditate with how to enjoy a sustainable ministry life.
Have the right expectations: Relationships and ministry will deplete you.
One of the first roadblocks to self-care is not believing we need it or feeling ashamed to make time for it. Almost as soon as we planted our church, I became hyper-aware of my inability to love well for an extended period of time. Wrong expectations of my own ability (aka “savior complex”) made me shameful of the deep emotional exhaustion that I felt at times. I sought to either withdraw completely since I obviously “can’t handle the stress” or just deep dive into the work and started inching close to burnout. One of the best ways to care for our soul is to recognize that care will be needed. Jesus many times withdrew from the crowd (Matthew 14:13, Mark 3:7, Luke 5:15-16) to pray and be replenished. Depletion should be the expectation not the exception. If I am aware of my own limitations, I can steward my energy and be proactive in seeking replenishment.
Have a plan for replenishment: Intentionality is key to self-care.
Last summer I began leading a women’s small group at our church. Serving them has been exhilarating but also at times exhausting. Over the last few meetings I have learned that the hours after our small group meeting are key in how the rest of the week progresses. After pouring out for two hours, I need to make sure that I make space and room to be refreshed. Sometimes it’s not an event I lead but the exhaustion that accompanies having my husband away for ministry while I care for our kids on my own. Other days, it’s a phone call or meeting that leaves me completely depleted and weary. Self-care will rarely occur without intentionality, without sacrificing part of my to-do list and without a plan when the triggers of emotional and physical exhaustion are evident.
Elements of self-care: physical rest and spiritual renewal
We have all seen our husbands physically drained after either preaching on Sunday or handling a difficult situation at church. Isn’t a nap or a good night’s rest sometimes the fuel he needs to get going again? So often we carry different burdens and responsibilities but our bodies are also needy of rest, and self-care usually starts there.
We saw Jesus retreat to pray. There is something about solitude and quiet that renews us physically and settles our hearts. I find so much benefit from outdoor walks and fresh air, it brings rest to my overstimulated senses and allows my mind to withdraw from the tasks and focus on something greater. I don’t only have a soul; I also have a body and the relationship between both is intrinsically interwoven and complex. Physical rest is an essential element to self-care.The second and most important element of self-care is a greater something we aim to treasure: the gospel. The gospel reminds me that I am not the one saving sinners, that Christ started a good work and will complete it and that the hardest days do not compare to the glory to come. It is in the gospel that true rest comes. Prayer and Bible meditation make self-care very little about “self” and more about the perfect work of a Savior imputed on my behalf. I need to be reminded of the gospel. I need to drink deeply from the wells of grace on an ongoing basis. I can lean into self-care not because I care so much about myself but because I have been cared for by Christ, and this reality is what gives me perspective and strength to carry on.