Not About “Me-Time”

There is this myth in our culture that we have to look out for number one in order to get anywhere successfully. “Put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.” It sounds like such wise advise. It sounds like wisdom. 

People hop from church to church because they aren’t “fed”. Even worse are those that use multiple churches to meet all their own “spiritual” needs. Sunday morning here, Bible study there, women’s group over here— using what they consider to be the “best” of each “option” to build their perfect spiritual atmosphere. 

There is a very big book industry based on this concept. You’ll find options to fit every person, every religious affiliation, every type of person. Moms need “me-time”. Christians need “me-time”. Women need “me-time”. It sounds like wisdom. 

Sometimes, what sounds like wisdom, isn’t wisdom at all. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 (CSB) says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, the Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile.” This message of “me-time”— looking out for yourself first— that isn’t the Christian message at all. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. As Philippians 2:4 says, we are to look out not for our own interests, but the interests of others. (If you want to argue the “not only” portion, do yourself a favor and look up the MOUNCE Greek translation on Bible Gateway and see that the “not only” has no Greek underneath, because it isn’t in the Greek. See Dr. Kinlaw’s The Mind of Christ for more on that subject.) 

Christ says, to find your life, you have to lose it. He doesn’t say that, to find your life, you need to set aside an appropriate amount of me time in order to better “center yourself” for that life. Nope. Following Jesus is dying to self. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Jesus is full of paradox. Things that sound like wisdom are foolish. The last will be made first— not because it is fair, but because that is His way. Those who lead will serve. Those who seem wise will be fools. If you really want to live, you lay down your life and let Him live through you. 

I’m not saying to neglect your health. I’m not saying that anything you do “for yourself” is sinful. I am saying that perhaps we need to look a little closer at the wisdom of the world and not accept it just because it sounds like wisdom. Check it against what God says in His book. Check it against your cultural assumptions. (Gym time is a luxury not afforded to many in this world. If you equate your gym time with personal righteousness, you are saying something about who can and cannot be righteous according to your gospel.) 

If I find myself looking for the religious experience that best suits me, I doubt I will find it. If I’m not being “fed”, perhaps the issue is that I’m not out in the field sowing. (“He who does not work will not eat” could apply to spiritual feeding, as well.) Perhaps I need to stop treating church like a spiritual gym and more like the meeting together of the people of God. 

When I am tired as a mother, the Bible does not tell me that luxury (through gym time, manicures, shopping, hair appointments, massages, etc.) is the way to find rest for my soul and strength for my task; the Bible tells me that in my weakness, He will be strong. It tells me that I can rest in Him and His promises. The Bible tells me that I will not work alone and that my work in making disciples of my children is His great commission. I could write an entire book on the blessing of being a mother and the amount of grace I’ve received from letting God work in those tired, busy times— but for today I’ll save you all of that. What I will say to the fellow mother who is struggling, feeling weighed down— the answer isn’t “me-time”. The answer is Jesus. Throw your full weight of burden on Him and watch Him transform it into something beautiful, meaningful, and redemptive.

Be careful, dear friends, in listening to what seems like wisdom. There is nothing wrong with going to the gym, getting your nails done, getting a massage, etc. There is something wrong if you equate those things with what it means to be a godly person. There is something wrong if you see those things as your “right”. There is something wrong if you are so focused and intent on those things that your are putting them first. This isn’t a call to martyrdom— to smear yourself in ashes and sackcloth to prove your righteousness. This is a call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is a call to stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about how you can serve others like Jesus.

How Else Will They Know?

no neutral

My brother and I used to do these goofy plays. Don’t think Shakespeare in the living room. This was more like SNL. Anyway, the big ending to one of our plays was, “Somebody must tell them!” said very dramatically to the audience with great pause. (Then my brother would say, “The Meme!” which we thought was oh so hilarious, but no one else got, which was what made it so funny! Note, this was not yet a thing, since this was 1996. Nonsense was the name of our game. But that bit doesn’t pertain to this right now.) We find ourselves at a place in our culture where we all yell, “Somebody must tell them!” We neglect to see that *we* are telling *them* every single day with every single interaction.

Have you ever thought about the above quote? That you will either build someone up or tear them down in each exchange you have with them? That is some heavy weight. That burden is not feeling light about now. But you know you’ve been there.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says not to you, but to the air, “Some people should not have kids!” And just like that- pfft. Punched in the gut. All your air is gone. Your struggle just ended in defeat. You’ll question what you could have done better. Then your humiliation will turn to anger. And you’ll be mad at that idiot. Mad at the world. Mad at your culture.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says, “You are doing a good job. They are well behaved and lucky to have you to teach them.” And just like that- you feel lighter. All that work and someone noticed! She said you’re doing a good job! She knows you are trying. She sees the kids really are trying and doing a really great job considered how long you’ve all been sitting here. You are happy. You are doing this hard work well! What a great community to build one another up.

I have literally had both of those things happen to me. Not on the same day, mind you. Different days. Different people. Different waiting room. Same me. Same kids. Same eternal struggle. And there were some people who said nothing, but gave me that judgy look. That unhappy to be sharing the same space with you look. And others that give you the “been there, done that” smile and nod. They’re with you. They understand.

We all have this power. Every day. Every interaction. I can build this person up. I can make their day a little brighter. I can be a little bit of sunshine. OR I can tear them down. I can make their day a little darker. I can be the rain on their parade. That is a lot of power. A lot of power in the small things.

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

I have a funny t-shirt that I still wear that was The Pastor’s in college. It says, “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” And it was funny tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Christian culture of the day. Wear your Jesus shirt, slap an ichthus on your car, burn your secular CDs and we all know you love Jesus, right? I don’t know what our modern equivalent is. Maybe tell everyone how perfectly broken you are, Instagram your devo time, and talk about how authentic you are? Maybe that isn’t fair. The point is, the WAY to know we are Christians is by our LOVE for each other. So simple. We haven’t grown past this. This is basic. God loves us. He LOVES us. Like, love loves us. We are loved. And what do we do? We love!

This common courtesy is honey. It draws people in. It builds them up. It plants seeds in their life that will grow when the soil is ready.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

But WHY? I don’t have time. I am busy. Can’t I just ignore everyone and keep my head down and get through? (1) Where is the victory in that? (2) No. Sorry. This isn’t about you. If you are too busy to show some common courtesy, you need to reevaluate your calendar. If you are too busy to be kind, you need to evaluate your priorities. If you need more reason…

“According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another we do to Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

 Galatians 5:13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

“Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you fathom that? You have the power to give someone the courage to be simply by the touch of your affirmation.” – Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

I’d like to leave you with the following challenge. go in love

Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy. Small talk. A smile. Giving a little of your time to make the day of a stranger a little better. On the one hand, we gravitate toward stories of the small “random acts of kindness”. We post them on social media. They might bring a tear to our eye. But when it is us in a situation where we could use a little common courtesy, how often do we find ourselves showing that small grace?

IMGP2160

Usually our reasons to not be courteous seem valid.

We’re busy! We need to get home and get dinner started or we won’t have time to feed the kids before they need to be at the ball field. We have a ticking clock in our heads telling us there are not enough hours in the day to make our obligations. We certainly have no time for chit chat. We certainly have too much on our plate for patience.

We’re stressed! All those million things that jam pack our schedule full all fall on us my shoulders right this second. If the kids are late, my fault. If their homework isn’t done to perfection, my fault. If their dinner isn’t healthy & nutritious enough, my fault. It all falls on me and it is all bearing down every second of every day. Stressed seems too tame a word for what we feel!

We’re tired! Burning the candle at both ends, trying to make all of this work. Kids finally get in bed and we’ve still get a few hours worth of work before we can tuck in. And just as we do, someone is crying in the night needing us. We haven’t slept in a decade and that never seems to be ending soon!

We’re selfish! Let’s stop pretending. We don’t want to chit chat when we could be reading our e-mails or playing Candy Crush in a moment of zoned out peace. We like to talk about “me” time and try to sneak it any way we can.

We feel judged! Usually because we judge ourselves. We feel like every statement is somehow a commentary on our lives. We may find we are quick to judge others, and assume the same. And yes, sometimes this really is the truth, but so are all the other things I listed.

We’re oblivious! You might say, “Well, this belongs under selfish!” Stop judging me and let me talk! (Ha! JK) This is when the selfishness gets so engrained, that it literally doesn’t even occur to us to think of someone else. You might argue, but we’re parents, we are always thinking of others! Thinking of your kids and thinking of complete strangers are two completely different things. But too often we get so into our own lives that we are completely oblivious to the lives of others.

I have absolutely been there. God has been working on me with this issue for years. Honestly. You can ask some of my small group peoples. I don’t do common courtesy. Until this past year or so, that is. This anti-chit-chat girl has become friendly to strangers. It didn’t happen overnight. And I still have to actively force myself into this common courtesy business. But I think this is something we all need to hear. I think this is something God is calling us back to in our culture. I’m not talking about online. Redeeming social media is another discussion completely. I’m talking about real life. We’re talking about loving the neighbor right in front of you right now.

I’m breaking this down into smaller bites, because what I have to say may get long. And you may need time to digest each piece. I know I did. This is also written to Christians. I don’t expect the World to live like Christ. I expect that of Christians. So, my secular readers, read on if you find interest in the inner workings of Christian life, but know where I am coming from, The Cross.