Last week I looked at a dangerous inner breeding ground of stress. It is one that’s a toxic swamp and sends out life-sucking tentacles that envelop us and hold us captive. It is a place we go very deliberately. It is the place we go to hide and mask what is true about us. The result is always stress. Damaging stress.
This week I want to take you to another inner breeding ground of stress, but it is one I don’t go to quite so defiantly and deliberately…it is one that gradually over time sneaks up on me. What is it? The big category would be not living out of my values. Sometimes that can be a very intentional and deliberate violation. But today’s breeding ground is a more subtle – and that is ignoring what I have discovered and value as restorative to me. When I have ignored this long enough, I find myself depleted and empty. Stressed by the smallest of circumstances. Burned out.
Do you know what is restorative to you that you need to value and regularly practice so you don’t stress out? Here are some of mine.
- I value alone time.
I am an introvert that loves being in ministry and ministry means people. But in the midst of all the people, I need time alone to recharge.
Last fall in Singapore I was co-teaching all day and every breakfast and lunch for the retreat was scheduled with people. So part of the agreement was no appointments for dinner. My co-presenter and I would find a nice quiet restaurant where we could be “alone.”
Sue and I love having the grand-kids visit. It is home-run derby, chess, bike races, multi-day Risk games, horseback rides and ballgames. In the midst of it all, my periodically disappearing into our master bedroom for 30 minutes of alone time is key.
When it is only Sue and me at home, Sue knows there are times I need to retreat to my study…or Starbucks, and be alone. Even when we are camping in the mountains and there is no one around for miles and miles, I will often take my chair and find a place “by myself.”
- I value freedom.
There are a tangled web of reasons for this, but I can’t stand to be controlled, micro-managed, or boxed in. There are a lot of ways that help me feel free, and one is I love vast open spaces. I need a view…to be out and about…and it helps to be alone. Isolated. The vast emptiness of the American West is incredibly restorative. Being with five thousand people cooped up on on a cruise ship sounds dreadfully draining. By the way, my favorite cowboy song is “Don’t Fence Me In.”
- I value learning.
I love it. I always have a new book on my Kindle. Learning and journaling new ideas and insights is life giving. To go through a day without discovering a new treasure feels depleting.
I have a lot more values, and yours may be very different, but here is the BIG QUESTION: Is it okay to value what is important to me? To focus on my own needs so that I can be healthy – healthy to serve and love others without feeling guilty?
My answer is absolutely yes. Philippians 2:4 has been a huge help to me. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others“. I read this wrong for years…I read it, “Don’t look to your own interests, that is selfish. Always focus on other people’s needs. Give and give and give until you have no more to give.” This took me way beyond stress to a full year of sick leave.
But what God is telling us here is really just the opposite – He says don’t look ONLY to you own interests…in other words, looking after yourself, taking good care of yourself, valuing what is restorative so that you stay healthy is okay. It is permissible. It is just not the ONLY thing we do, we ALSO look to the interests of others. And sensitivity to the Spirit of God in us will help us know when to do which.
So here is a QUESTION for you. Perhaps this could be a little exercise. Do you know your restorative values? Why don’t you write them down and list your top ones. Then ask yourself these questions:
- How do I honor the way God has made me and live out these values?
- How am I subtly ignoring these values and allowing stress to grow in me? What do I need to change? There are a lot of reasons we may choose to subtly ignore our values…and they are usually because we really value something else more. Being able to identify my competing values has really helped.