My husband and I joined the local YMCA last Sunday. It was a decision long in the making. We have been talking about how to make better choices, get more healthy, live longer, and be better parents. But it’s an expensive investment in our future, and it’s one that requires an ongoing commitment on both our parts. So far, he goes on his way home from work in the morning, and as soon as he comes home, I head out.
My goal is to go, work out, get back, and be ready for our day before our son is really ready to start anything beyond breakfast. The one day I had to take him along with me, and put him in the Child Watch program (which he loved), I felt…guilty. It’s my responsibility to be taking care of him, educating him, nurturing him – not some stranger’s.
Yet, if you look around culture, and especially the memes being shared all over social media, you see things that say things like this: “Take time for yourself. It’s not selfish. You can’t serve from an empty cup.” This is especially rampant among motherhood, but I’ve seen it across all facets of women in the church. Sadly, there are many women who have taken “me time,” and turned being away from their families into an art form. They equate spending time on what are truly, honestly selfish pursuits with turning them into better mothers or wives.
But does pursuing selfish things really turn women into better people?
These words about “refilling your cup” are often pictured across an empty coffee cup set against a lavish background. They are linked to some sort of website promoting peace, theology, or mindful living, sometimes even a completely taken out of context Bible verse! These imply that this concept of “me time” is not only important, but it is a biblical imperative.
However, it is not. I researched the word “cup” in the NIV. I don’t prefer the NIV, but I know many people do, and “cup” is only used three ways:
A) a real, honest-to-goodness cup (see Genesis 40, Genesis 44, Luke 22, and Mark 9).
B) a metaphor for God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment OR His salvation for nations or people (see Psalm 75, Psalm 116, Isaiah 51, Jeremiah 25, and Matthew 26 for just a few examples).
“Me time,” I would argue, is the antithesis of everything Jesus taught when He said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give My life as a ransom for many,” and, “No greater love has a man than this: that he lay down his life for a friend.”
In fact, Jesus promises His followers just the opposite of an empty cup: springs of living water. John 4: 13-14 tells us that Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water (referring to an earthly well) will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (NASB)
Now, before the wild shrieking attacks begin on me being anti-girls’ night out: I am not. I think every woman deserves the following:
- Time to read her Bible and pray, every day. For me, this is certainly not ninety minutes away in a coffee shop with a pinterest-inspired journal and a fancy study plan. Usually it’s ten-fifteen minutes of reading while still in bed, and praying while in the shower (because, honestly, it’s the only time I’m alone every day). How else do we stay connected to God if we aren’t in the Word and praying?
- Time to be healthy. So, yes, please get in some exercise every day. We cannot serve our families and churches if we are unhealthy. But is it the best practice to drop off your kids somewhere while you “work out” for two hours, if that two hours really only involved about twenty minutes of exercise and the rest is internet surfing or gossiping with friends in the onsite cafe?
- Time one-on-one with your spouse. I’d love to write more about this, but since Keith works nights, we don’t get the “all important save your marriage date night once a week.” 🙂 But I think spending uninterrupted time with your spouse is definitely important.
- Time with friends. Our homeschool group had moms’ night out last night. In fact, I hosted. Our son spent the night with his grandparents – and he had a great time! But it is a rare thing for all of us ladies to have a night away from our kids (and there were only five of us who made it – the rest had family obligations).
I would ask this: how many nights/evenings/hours are necessary to spend away from your spouse and/or children in order to be refreshed? I know women who somehow manage two-three nights a week away from home, or hours each day, under the guise it makes them a better person. But does it? Or does it just make them selfish? What if their husband was gone with his buddies that much? Would we feel the same about that?
Society tells women that we can have it all, do it all, and be all. Society tells us that we can have all the “me time” we need, or more accurately, we want, and we shouldn’t worry about at what expense that happens. Society tells us that “me time” will give us what we need.
But Jesus promises us that He will fulfill us. We don’t need to look to outside sources to fill us up to serve – He will give us all we need to serve our families and our churches.
In Psalm 23, we are told that the Good Shepherd Himself “restores my soul,” and Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Seek Him. Put Him first. Then you will have what you need to serve your family and your church. And who knows – you might even find more fulfillment that you were hoping for.