I read an article last week that has stayed with me. It’s a simple article, one of those “10 Ways to…” -type articles that are always familiar.
I was struck by the range of options they recommended: everything from lighting a candle and reading a poem, to stretching or treating yourself to a piece of candy you normally wouldn’t indulge in. At first I was glad to see a source specifically using the phrase ‘self-care’ other than the expected places. This phrase seems to be most common in healthcare, be it physical, psychological, or a more holistic view. I also hear this phrase more and more in spiritual formation conversations. Journey to the Table spends time with participants emphasizing the importance of self-care, and inviting them to practice self-care in new or familiar ways. Of course the hope of self-care for any person in the context of spiritual formation is that it would be a time to better prepare for, or better understand how faith could be guiding your life. Often, it is part of a constant process of renewal that keeps the journey going, regardless of what direction you travel.
My favorite explanation of self-care came from the first person to give this talk at a Journey to the Table test location. Devon Bartholomew helped lead the test with Syracuse University in September. He gave a personal story about a vacation that he realized was a great act of self-care. In October, he even presented to a group of ministry leaders about his experience as a leader on this first test location. After that presentation, I sat down with him to record some of his thoughts and heard the real-life story of how the month since he gave the talk had played out.
Devon starts by re-telling the story he told in his talk:
Self-care isn’t a list of things to do for yourself alone. It certainly isn’t something you learn to do, make a habit of, and live happily ever after. I think the process of renewal which is self-care is about doing things to help yourself and how you balance your life and faith – sometimes you call it self-care at the time, and sometimes you just call it a hobby, or a trip, or a poem. You don’t always have to remember the lesson from your self-care time, or measure a finite benefit. There’s no guarantee you won’t forget the benefit later on. Maybe you can laugh about it the next time you forget about self-care too. I hope that Journey to the Table, and the conversations that happen around self-care as part of it are a step in that process of renewal, not an answer on faith, life, or stress. To that end, I think I’ll take a trip for and spend some time with a small group of close companions.