God, Neighbor, Self
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This week, my wife took a suicide prevention and intervention course through the US Army. As an intelligence Officer, she interacts with many other soldiers in high-stress environments on a regular basis. In the course she learned about how to intervene in critical moments with suicidal soldiers. In light of the rise of PTSD in America’s military, her training is extremely important. Recognizing the weight of the topic, at the conclusion of the course my wife’s instructor asked all students “Now that you’ve completed this course, what will you do to practice self-care?” The wise instructor knew that without caring for themselves well, the soldiers willingness and skills to care for others would be diminished.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to fiercely love God and others. The missing component is that in order to do this work, we must show love to ourselves as well. The instructor’s question about self-care is as relevant to each of us as it was to the soldiers in the course. In order for each of us to carry out our Christian duty of radical love, we need to ask ourselves how we will be practicing self-care.
If you are anything like me, self-care is a challenge. While I’m unlikely to break appointments and commitments I make with other people, I am often unable to keep commitments to myself to engage in self-care. A ministry colleague suggested that I make weekly appointments with myself to do things that recharge me and leave me better able to love in the way Jesus commands in Mark’s Gospel. One of my primary forms of self-care is taking time to get out into nature. Lately, I have been walking around the lake at Wellesley College several times a week. A few weeks ago, I paused to listen to the magical, musical sounds of ice being struck by moving water. This past week I saw two beavers swimming just below the water, finding their way to their dam. In both of these instances, I was struck with an overwhelming appreciation for creation and the ways in which God is present in the natural world. I leave my lake walks more in touch with God, and more capable of being present to others.
I wonder what you do (or what you need to start doing) as self-care? How might self-care replenish your spirit so that you can better love your neighbor, as Mark’s Gospel asks of us? How might practicing self-care help you to build up your relationship with God?
Holy God, Help me to show love to myself, so that I may then be a conduit of your love and grace to those around me. Help us to care for myself, so that I may grow in my relationship with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.