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Spiritual Self-Care

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. —Galatians 2:20

You’ve heard of WWJD, right? It’s the acronym for an interrogating spiritual question: What would Jesus do? Popularized by a youth group in Michigan toward the end of the twentieth century, WWJD was slapped on t-shirts, necklaces, bumper stickers, and bookmarks as a point-to-pause for the Christians; convicting discernment for Jesus followers to, as Spike Lee might put it, do the right thing.

At a meeting of our church’s servant leaders last Sunday, I reminded us of WWJD, but suggested that the well-intentioned question takes the onus off us to never tire in doing what is right, as Galatians 6:9 instructs. For one thing, while it can be inspiring to imagine what the earthly Jesus might do in our time and context, it’s impossible to know with any degree of certainty whether he would, for example, go directly to the pulpit at our church (his church) and preach words of affirmation and comfort, or if he would overturn some chairs and tell us how we’re missing the mark. For another, we literally can’t do most of the things Jesus did, and the thought of trying to do the impossible can intimidate us to the point of doing nothing; and it’s safe to say that nothing is the opposite of what Jesus, who taught us to love one another and lay down our lives for each other, would have us do.

The late, great theologian Peter Gomes asserted that instead of WWJD, we should ask ourselves, What would Jesus have me do? “[Jesus] came to ask human beings to live up to their full humanity; he wants us to live in the full implication of our human gifts, and that is far more demanding,” Gomes preached. While it certainly is more demanding, the good news is that the Spirit of God in Christ lives in each of us, and that gift of divine Spirit living within us is the Christ-self—our spirituality—that needs to be cared for and nurtured if we’re going to answer that challenging question: What would Jesus have me do?

There’s a Christian hymn called “The Servant Song” that sings, “Won’t you let me be your servant? Let me be as Christ to you.” To serve one another in ways that reveal and extend the love of God can definitely be demanding, but what I suggested to our servant leaders is that the extent to which we care for and nurture our spirituality determines whether and how we can answer Gomes’ question. Self-care is good and necessary, but followers of Jesus need to also find ways to take care of the light of Christ, the Christ-self dwelling in each of our lives, so that we can discern what Jesus would have us do each day and then do it with courageous joy.

So, what is your spiritual self-care? What do you do to care for and nurture your Christ-self? Our church’s servant leaders shared a few things they do.

“I find a few moments of silence to get centered, breathe, and pray.”

“I devour theology podcasts.”

“I read a meditation that shows up in my inbox every day.”

“I keep a gratitude journal.”

“I do sudoku.”

“I read a daily collection of the Psalms.”

“I go outside for reminders that I’m a part of God’s creation, and that creation is bigger than just me.”

“I reach out to people who give me life.”

And as we shared our methods of spiritual self-care, there was this palpable feeling of courageous joy at the reminders that nurturing our spirituality is an important part of our shared discipleship, and that we’re not alone in caring for the Spirit of God that dwells in each of us.


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