When Everyone's Taken Care of But You
This past week wore me down. My husband came home from work one day with the news that he had been having aches and chills, and with the flu being passed around so much this winter I knew better than to ignore it. I spent the rest of the day running around like a madwoman -- wiping, spraying, and disinfecting everything in the house, stripping the sheets, changing the towels, buying medicines and face masks, picking up an air mattress for the guest room, washing my hands more times than I could count, and praying fervently that the baby and I had not already been exposed and about to come down with the flu ourselves. For the next five days, my husband remained mostly quarantined, unable to touch me or our daughter or lend a hand around the house. I became the sole caretaker, bearing every responsibility of caring for the family and maintaining the house on my own.
I kept up as good of an attitude as I could, reminding myself that this too shall pass, yet each day felt like a never-ending battle. As I fought to keep my family healthy and the house in order, I also had to deal with a sickness of my own -- the frustration, bitterness, and even apathy towards the people I had been tasked with caring for. With no one in my corner to back me up or tag team in, I wrestled with my selfish desires each time the baby needed me. I often longed to be able to neglect my responsibilities and just "check out." By the end of the week, I felt utterly depleted. And even though I knew this would all be over soon, I was still fighting the voices in my head telling me that I'm nothing more than a dish-washing, nose-wiping servant -- invisible, unappreciated, and alone.
I was saddened to find that even after we deemed my husband healthy enough to return to the land of the living and our life resumed like normal, I continued to feel like I was drowning -- drowning in responsibilities, expectations, and burdens that I just didn't feel like carrying anymore. I had spent so much of myself caring for others that all I longed for was for somebody to care for me. But spouses still have to work. Babies still have to be fed, changed, and loved. Laundry still has to be folded. Dinner still has to be cooked. The checkbook still has to be balanced. And I'm still both wife and mom.
So what do you do? What do you do when everyone's taken care of but you?
I know the answer to this question because I've had to be reminded of it and relearn it again and again. Everything I've experienced since stepping into motherhood -- every trial, every sickness, every bad day, every horrendous night, every meltdown, every tantrum, every attempt to find happiness, every moment spent striving -- eventually culminates and leads me back to this truth.
There is no amount of self care that can fully restore or complete a woman who's been worn thin by motherhood. No revamped routine or lifestyle change that can make the depleted mom feel like a brand new woman. No inspirational book or Pinterest board with the answers the bored housewife is looking for. No great Netflix binge or long overdue back rub to speed up the grieving process of knowing your life is no longer your own.
These things may help you and I feel better for a brief period of time, but that's not what keeps us going or makes up for all the time spent caring for everyone else. That's not what gives us renewed passion to pursue our spouses after we've been "all touched out" by needy, little hands. That's not what gets us out of bed when we're woken by the baby's cries. That's not what pulls us out of our heads when we're beginning to doubt our purpose and believe the lies.
There is only one Person who has a unique, incomprehensible knowledge of the deep needs of our souls: our heavenly Father, the One who calls us "beloved daughter." The Lord sees the weighty burdens you've been carrying and is acquainted with the emptiness you feel deep inside. And he alone knows how to care for your soul in a way that restores your strength, returns your joy, and fills your cup up until it is overflowing. If you decide to test and experience this for yourself, you'll find that his soul care is enough. In fact, it's more than enough. it's everything.
His love poured out for you on the Cross is what motivates you to bear your own.
His patience for you is what reminds you to forgive and let go.
His power and strength is what courses through you when you're at your wit's end.
His Word is what fills you when all that the world has to offer leaves you empty and dry.
His trials are what change you, making you into the new woman you have always hoped to be.
His embrace is what wraps around you when there's nobody else in the room.
His glory is what drives you to keep pressing on and make it through another day.
His joy is what restores you when there is no rest or relief to be found.
His deep is what calls out to your deep, to the heaviness you feel within.
And knowing the difference between having someone to care for your body and someone to care for your soul is what empowers you to walk in the Lord's freedom.
It frees you to enjoy your marriage without the expectation of your spouse meeting your every need. It frees you to love and serve your little ones without getting a "thank you" or sign of appreciation in return. It frees you to cast vision, think creatively, and feel divine purpose though you may still look to the world as nothing more than a mom.
This is what soul care is all about: enjoying the freedom of the Lord as you learn to rest in his love and affections for you. Being emboldened to live a life of sacrifice and worship because you no longer feel the need to chase after anything else. Taking him up on all that he has to offer, every promise in Scripture.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29, emphasis mine).
No matter the week we just had, we are invited to find rest in him. True rest for our souls. There is nothing quite like it and nobody who can care for us quite like him.
This is the truth I cling to today and what I'll be fighting to hold onto in every season to come. I know I will face many difficult things in this life, things that could make a week of the flu look like a walk in the park. But because of his great love for us demonstrated on the Cross, we are ushered into new life and deeper relationship with him, both now and for eternity. This is what our faith and hope is in, and "we have this hope as an anchor for the soul" (Hebrews 6:19).