The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”Mark 6:30-31
How are you doing? Really, truthfully, how are you doing? None of us have ever been through what our world is going through with this pandemic, so if you are not doing great, remember that you are certainly not alone.
I have been thinking of some very basic ways to take care of ourselves in these challenging times, and it occurred to me that Jesus offers us some very concrete ways to do this, through his life and example. There are the obvious “spiritual” things that Jesus does, such as his life of prayer, and his being deeply rooted in worship and scripture. But there are also many practical things that Jesus does to take care of himself. And who better to learn from than Jesus himself? So here are eight concrete things that Jesus does in his life that we can imitate.
- Jesus spent a lot of time outdoors, walking, observing, being in God’s creation. Not just because he had to, but also because he chose to. He hiked up mountains, he spent time on the lake, he “considered the lilies” in his teaching and in his life. There is something very healing about spending time outdoors, isn’t there? I have written about this previously (The Healing Gift of God’s Creation) but it is worth mentioning here.
- Jesus recognized the importance of both community and solitude, and found a healthy way to balance these. He spent time building community, of course, but he also took time to get away and be by himself. Before Jesus began his public ministry, after he was baptized by John, he spent forty days in solitude. Right after that, he called his first disciples and began building a community. And we see this same pattern continuing throughout his ministry. He spent time with his disciples, he taught in the synagogues, he had large crowds around him. But he still took time to dwell in solitude with his heavenly Father. In Mark 1, for example, we read that “In the morning while it was still dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” And then he returned to the disciples and to his ministry. Over and over again, Jesus spent time in community, and time alone with God. Henri Nouwen writes beautifully about the importance of solitude, which I shared a reflection on here: Where Is Your Night? And here is a reflection that I shared on Caring for Our Relationships in Stressful Times.
- Jesus developed a core group of trusted friends. He had many who followed him, twelve whom he named as his apostles, and three that he seemed particularly close to: Peter, James and John. These are the three that he brought with him up the mountain when he was transfigured. These are also the three that he brought with him to the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested. Jesus knew that solitude was important, and community, but also that there are times when we need a small circle of trusted friends (which can very well include family). Which of these three do you need more of at this time in your life? Solitude with God, community, or a core group of trusted friends?
- Jesus also shows us that self-care can be fun. Jesus clearly knew how to have a good time! His first miracle, after all, was at a wedding, when he turned water into wine! At one point, Jesus was approached by disciples of John the Baptist who had a question: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” The days will come, Jesus answered, when they will fast, but not yet. Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for forty days. But Jesus knew that these days need to be balanced by days of celebration. Both are important.
- Jesus was not afraid to acknowledge and express his emotions. He didn’t bottle them up – he got frustrated with his disciples, angry with the Pharisees, sad in the face of suffering, happy at weddings and parties, and on and on. Often we as Christians feel the need to bottle up our negative emotions, but Jesus shows us through this life and example that expressing these emotions (always out of a place of love) can be important to our self-care.
- Jesus was also quick to forgive those around him when they disappointed him. He didn’t expect anyone to be perfect, and was always willing to give them another chance. He taught the importance of forgiving others, and demonstrated it.
- Jesus found joy in serving others. He didn’t serve others simply because he was the Son of God and was supposed to – he genuinely seemed to enjoy helping and serving others, and making their lives a little better. Albert Schweitzer once wrote that “Every person I know who has been truly happy has learned how to serve others.” Yes!
- And, finally, when Jesus was tired, even if it was on a boat in the middle of a great storm, he took a nap! So, there’s your excuse to take a nap when you feel the need!
There are many other ways to care for ourselves that Jesus teaches us, but these are just a few to offer you here. Let’s be kind to ourselves in these stressful times, and learn from Jesus, so that we can better care for the world he has entrusted to us.