It is very important and also very much overlooked in today’s I-must-all-way-be-busy world. A while everyone is in danger of ignoring their own soul care, those on the front lines of fighting social injustices (i.e. pastors, nurses, doctors, social workers, etc.) are extremely vulnerable. These are the people with huge hearts who strive daily to fight against injustice and to care for those on the margins of life, however, they don’t get the support or praise they deserve, which is why organizations such as CareShyft.com aim to provide support for those that support the elderly. Because the needs of others are always there, they tend to forget to care for themselves and look for things that might aid them such as Aged Care Help which can really make a difference. Although care homes are an essential part of the lives of many elderly people, their families should also be able to take care of them too. With new technology available for elderly people, like mobile phones from Fanmi Senior and others, families could be contacted if the patient’s carer is unavailable. Not only would this allow carers to have a bit more time to themselves, it might also be nice for elderly patients to speak to their families every now and again.
Sir Terry Pratchett beautifully illustrate this problem in his book I Shall Wear Midnight. In this story, Tiffany Aching is a 16-year old witch who recently completed her apprenticeship with some older witches. Wanting to impress both her teachers and the people in her steading (think parish), she spends every waking moment helping people. She clips the toenails of the elderly who cannot bend over; helps the expectant mothers prepare for their new ones; checks in on the sick; keeps the local Baron in check when he oversteps his boundaries; provides advice for those in trouble; settles disputes; not to mention keep the monsters at bay.
Tiffany allows herself to get so busy that she cannot remember when she last slept a night in a proper bed. Rather she operates on a few hours of sleep catch here and there as time allows. Her parents notice this trend and try to talk her into taking care of herself…but she refuses. Too much to do, she says.
Finally near the near the end of the book when she is nearly to the point of exhaustion, the following happens:
“Miss Tiffany, you need a rest, a proper rest in a proper bed. What kind of witch can look after everybody if she’s not sensible enough to look after herself? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. That means, Who guards the guards, that does,” Preston went on. “So who watches the witches? Who cares for the people who care for the people? Right now, it looks like it needs to be me.”
She gave in.
We all need a Preston in our lives. Someone to tell us to stop and rest; someone who will not take “no” for an answer.
Better yet, we need to create rhythms of soul care in our lives that allows for us to ministry from the overflow of our lives rather than draining ourselves dry. Otherwise we will do what Tiffany does and go right back to our destructive pattern of not caring for ourselves (see The Shepherd’s Crown, the sequel to I Shall Wear Midnight).
Witching (Pratchett-style), pastoring and fighting injustice are life-long callings. Let us take the long view of life and take care of ourselves so that we can help those around us. Life, it has been said, is a marathon, not a sprint.
Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. –Mark 6:31, The Message