Since my last post, I have been fortunate to have a few weeks off. Looking after ourselves is something that is so vital in our lives, but something that is often the first thing to go when we are busy looking after others. I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling.
Over my years of ministry I have learnt how vital it is to take time for yourself. Those of you who have been in church recently will have heard me talk about just how important it is to do so. Now I’m sure many of you will be sat there thinking, 'Well I don’t have time', or 'I have too many responsibilities'. I’m with you on that but I was reminded recently, when I was quite literally on an island in the middle of nowhere, that in order to be able to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves.
This doesn’t have to mean leaving the country. It doesn’t even have to mean taking a day off, but it does mean fitting a small amount of time into your day or your week, when you shut the door on other people and you just sit and be with God. Its amazing how restorative this can be. How even just a few moments of simply being and presenting yourself before God, can help nourish and nurture your soul.
In my position, where my spiritual life is very much a part of my vocation and at times gets mixed in with pressures and responsibilities, I find the need to physically leave where I am, to ‘escape’ for a while, to put a physical distance between myself and the demands upon me. I have spoken to people who feel similar, who find solitude whilst out out walking their dog, riding their bike. For others their ‘escape’ is closer to home - the garden shed, a cup of tea in the early morning whilst the rest of the house still sleeps, a few moments just before bed sat in a particular chair at home. It can literally be anywhere. It just needs to be a space where we can stop and focus on God, rather than ourselves, or other people and allowing ourselves to simply be.
For me, I have always loved being by the sea. On my rest day, if I’m having a bit of a tough time I will take myself to the coast to look at the sea, to stand in front of the vastness of God’s creation. On my time off recently I was fortunate enough to go and spend some time at my favourite beaches. Whilst there I was reflecting on why beaches have such an effect on me and jotted my thoughts down in a poem (see the photo).
I am no poet, but something inspired me to write these words. I don’t get to visit those beaches often, but in those moments when I need to simply be with God, away from all the pulls and demands on me, I will read it again. I will close my eyes and imagine myself there.
You can do the same. Find somewhere in you home, in your garden, in your neighbourhood or further afield and let yourself just be. You may already have found it in the years gone by, but its been pushed to the back of your mind. Find it again now. Or borrow mine! Think about how you felt when you were there, recreate that moment and then simply be.
You don’t need words. Just sit. Allow God to come to you.
Then hold on to that place. Go there often, physically or in your mind.
Make time for it, and allow God to come to you, restoring your soul.