Lesson Seven: Sabbath and Self-Care
Primary Scripture: Luke 13:10–21
“Here Lies a Woman Who Always Was Tired”
Could this be your epitaph?
Here lies a woman who always was tired;
She lived in a world where too much was required.
Clemmie Churchill loved to quote this couplet to describe what it was like to be married to WWII era British prime minister Winston Churchill. While few of us could match the level of stress that was part of her life, I suspect many of us can identify with her appreciation of this quote! We may not want these words chiseled on our tombstones, but we know exactly what they mean.
In what follows, I’d like for us to consider three good reasons for self-care. These reasons aren’t necessarily in the order of their importance, but they are all part of the big picture. And all of them are closely connected with Sabbath since Sabbath is part of God’s intended rhythm for our lives.
Reason #1: Saving Yourself
Did you smile when you read Clemmie Churchill’s favorite quote? I did. Humor often helps to make a serious point and, while funny, this point is deadly serious. Ignoring self-care can have lethal consequences for our lives. When we burn the candle from both ends we eventually shorten our lifespan. And it’s not just quantity of life, it’s quality, too. What kind of a life is it that is spent lurching from deadline to deadline? The person who said, “Stop and smell the roses,” knew a lot about this.
Reason #2: Serving Others
If you’ve ever been on a commercial airliner, you’ll be familiar with the safety speech about what to do if the emergency oxygen masks are deployed. “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others,” the flight attendant says. The logic behind this is the same as that of making self-care a priority. After all, you won’t be in any shape to serve others if you’re too weak to help.
Reason #3: Honoring God
All of us are created in the image of God (see Gen. 1:26–27). As image-bearers, we owe it to God to take care of the precious gifts that are our lives. In this way, self-care is not selfish, but a way of honoring our Creator. Just as we wouldn’t trash a beautiful gift, we owe it to our Creator to treat ourselves with tender, loving care.
So, now that we’ve been reminded of three good reasons for self-care, what’s stopping us? Maybe nothing! Maybe these reasons are all you need to make self-care a regular part of your Sabbath celebration. Or maybe you’re like me and just “knowing” isn’t the same as really “doing.”
If you still need a nudge to help you get past a sense that Sabbath in general, and self-care, are not things you can “indulge” in, let me offer a suggestion that has been well received when I’ve taught this lesson in retreat contexts. It’s a guided meditation that begins by acknowledging a certain level of resistance and skepticism to self-care. It leads us gently into a place where we can be open to the healing and peace that Sabbath has to offer. (Follow the link below for A Guided Sabbath “Tapping” Meditation.)
I hope these reflections and resources are enough to help you feel that self-care is something you can incorporate into the regular rhythm of your Sabbath celebration. Hear this good news: Sabbath not only makes room for self-care—it blesses it!
Carol M. Bechtel
author of the 2022-2023 PW/Horizons Bible Study
Additional resources to use with this lesson:
Music: “In God Alone” (Glory to God 814) is a meditative piece from the Taizé Community. The link gives an example of how this short, repeated refrain can invite us into deep reflection and peace.
Presbyterian Women in the PC(USA), Inc. publishes an annual Bible study. Celebrating Sabbath: Accepting God’s Gift of Rest and Delight is the study for this year. Purchase a Celebrating Sabbath bible study book and study along with us. Call 800/533-4371 and order product #HZN22100 or order online
This blog is the seventh in a series of nine blogs written by the study’s author Carol M. Bechtel. PW will post a blog each month through April 2023.