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Self Care for Men?

Making the most of our lives right now

I remember going to the hospital to visit a man who was dying. His cardiac monitor started to slow down like a wind-up music box coming to the end of its tune. Only an hour later I walked over to the maternity ward to welcome a new baby into the fold. That day reminded me that the moments surrounding the start and end of life have a huge impact on us. But my question for all of us is this: Are the moments in between just as powerful?

Enter Jesus.

Ever since high school I’ve felt that Jesus, standing tall and radiating integrity, was a power unto himself. In John 10:10 (ESV) he says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In other words, a pulse by itself doesn’t mean you’re alive. It also means that making Jesus your number one priority has a direct impact on your life before death.

So let me share two of the many ways Jesus has made my life on this side of the soil more abundant in a very real and down-to-earth way.

The first has to do with almost losing my marbles about eight years ago. I was a new pastor with a young family, trying to navigate conflict and steering change at a time when many churches are struggling. The result was stress, lack of sleep, high anxiety and less quality family time. I think I had an ulcer.

When you’re at the bottom it’s very hard to think proactively about anything, much less living “abundantly.” Plus, aren’t pastors supposed to have it all together? And, as far as I can tell, it’s not very common for men to admit they need help, right? Aren’t we’re supposed to be strong and independent?

One of the key insights I gained during that murky chapter of my life had to do with what it means to truly have a Saviour. There’s nothing like the bottom to break the illusion of your own self-sufficiency; I clearly needed outside help. In Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV) Jesus says that the “weary and burdened” should come to him and share his “yoke”–something that suggests two workers, not just one. This passage (and others) reminded me that Christianity is about a Saviour more than behaviour. When we make it all about how strong, good–or even successful–we are, we overemphasize our independence and underemphasize our total dependence on Christ and his rescuing power.

When I clarified Jesus’ role I also gained clarity about what it means to be strong: Strong people are honest about needing help and serious about getting help. It involves a level of honesty and humility that doesn’t always come naturally. I got a prayer partner. I sought out a Christian counselor. I spent more time on my knees than ever before. I started running again. And my church set up a human resources team to be more proactive about my health. Admitting I was in over my head made me feel vulnerable (yikes! Another no-no for men). . . but also honest, and real.

An unexpected bonus was that as I blogged and wrote about my experience several pastors (particularly men) reached out to me. It was as if they had been struggling in a silent silo of inadequacy. (Try googling any actual research on men and self-care, and you’ll find that it’s basically non-existent. Why aren’t we talking about this?) Although one fellow pastor did tell me to “suck it up,” others said my honesty encouraged them to address and improve their own situations. I think that’s huge and benefits the kingdom.

A second way Jesus has given my life more abundance has to do with daily habits. 

I’ve come to discover that the more you actively seek God in your daily thoughts, the more you see God active in your daily life. So I started a daily devotional called “Up!” The idea was simple: Something people could read in under a minute that would help them start each day in a biblical, relevant way.

But what started out as something for other people also turned out to be for me. The devotionals kept (and keep) me rooted in Jesus’ words and I can see and feel the difference he makes in daily life. It’s been a great project and I’m happy to share that this autumn it’s being published in a book format! “Up! – 313 Devotionals To Help You Start Your Day in a Biblical, Relevant Way.”

So examine your daily habits. Make sure they honour Jesus–what you think about, watch and read; what relationships you cultivate; how you spend your time, energy and money; and how you make decisions. If Jesus is Saviour, and if what God’s son says goes, his words need to be establishing our identity, calling us forward, and making a tangible difference in our daily lives. 

Friends, Christians believe in life after death–but we also believe in life before life after death. The moments surrounding the start and end of life have a huge impact on us. But the moments in between can be just as powerful.

Author

  • Matthew writes the “Up!” daily devotional at TheUpDevo.com and is author of Turbulence: Devotionals to steady you through the storms of life. Learn more at MatthewRuttan.com.

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