Get up earlier. Read your Bible longer. Journal—better yet, do an art journal and use highlighters with different colors for different grammatical structures. Have a retreat; make sure to date your husband. Listen to sermons while doing dishes.
These are just a few of the things I have been told to do in order to fill my cup. As I try to do all and be all, I find myself actually saying prayers asking God for a bout of sickness just so I could stay in bed and have an excuse for getting absolutely nothing done in a day.
As an overseas mother of five, adding to my to-do list is simultaneously overwhelming and exhilarating. Overwhelming because my list is already more than I can accomplish with the remnant of brain cells with which I am starting my day. Exhilarating because nothing feels better than to tick off tasks as I run myself through my day. As I do more, I am filling myself with the air of being needed, valued, and capable. This form of validation is addicting. So I say “yes” to more. Besides, where would my family and community be without my assistance?
About three years ago, I decided to stop saying “yes.” When you are a wife overseas, the pressure of “yes” is hidden under the veil of hospitality, having open arms, and allowing our homes to be a refuge. These are godly desires that will be touted as a woman’s calling in most women’s Bible studies and in talks given.
But so is saying “no.”
I remember lying in bed and telling my husband, “I feel like I am losing more sleep over other people’s life issues than they are!” I am a fixer. I love to lead the charge in providing food for a sick mom or inviting the singles over for dinner. If there is a need, I want to be there to fill it. This had become my thing. My self-worth had been blanketed with helping others and people-pleasing, and it was suffocating. I was exhausted and had very little to offer my own family.
For me, self-care is about saying “no” and realizing that within my “no” is the reality of allowing somebody else to say “yes.” Sometimes that will mean that others will struggle and suffer because I am not there to meet and tidy the situation. I am learning that is okay. Ultimately for me, I realized that my over-serving was a result of not fully believing that God is going to come through. I would SAY that I trusted the Lord, but I KNEW that I had a plan in my back pocket—just in case.
By being everything for everyone all the time, I was leaving little margin for God to be God for others. In the lack of things or solutions, others will lean into the Lord for provision and understanding. In the messiness of parenting, a mom will learn patience and perseverance instead of relief and comfort from my rescuing her. I am relieved from my guilt by remembering that Jesus passed by scores of people and did not offer them healing. Jesus removed Himself from the masses to get away and pray. Jesus surrounded Himself by twelve, which by default said “no” to thousands.
Jesus set boundaries.
The primary way I have succeeded at saying “no” more often is by giving a delayed response. Now, when someone asks for something from me, my response is, “I need to go and ask my husband first.” This gives me the mental pause to sort out whether or not I should say “yes.” It also allows me respond with a text or email if it is difficult for me to say “no” to that particular person.
There is a lot more to unpack in learning to say “no.” There are books, sermons, and plans, but none of these will be effective if we do not first understand that saying “no” is essential not only to the care of self, but also for the care of others. Setting boundaries is a statement that we know God will come through, even if we do not.
Question to consider: How have you seen the following statement in your life: “Setting boundaries is a statement that we know God will come through, even if we do not.”?