“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” (Psalm 65:11)
To say that this past year has been difficult might feel like a major understatement. It’s been over a year since the world turned upside down. And while this has looked different for each of us, collectively, we have all been experiencing a season of upheaval, changes, transitions, and grief.
As you have worked in your church and led your ministry, how many times have you felt like you just had to show up for others, even though you also felt like you had nothing left to give? How many times have you tried to pour out something from a place of total emptiness?
Use your imagination with me for a second and picture yourself as a pitcher of water, filled to the brim. Now, every time you’ve shown care, love, and attention to someone else, watch a little bit of water pour out of the pitcher. Every time a church member has called you on the phone, every sermon you’ve given, every hour you’ve spent on Zoom with your teenagers, visualize a little more water pouring out. Every day you’ve spent trying to work while your kids do virtual school, every committee meeting, every decision-making conversation surrounded by COVID-19, every technology question, all it took to make Holy Week happen…every one of these moments has required you to pour out a little bit of yourself to others.
It’s all been good and holy work. But it has been work.
And in a constant state of work, we often forget to rest or take care of ourselves. We forget, that is, until we are well on our way to empty.
As the analogy goes, if you keep pouring water out of your pitcher without pouring anything back in, you are going to run dry. And when that happens, it becomes extremely difficult to pour anything out for anyone else. Including yourself.
But, as followers of Jesus, we’ve got a well that doesn’t run dry. In fact, it overflows.
What if, instead of pouring out everything we have and refilling only when we are close-to-empty, what if we were a people of overflow? What if we could actually live from a place of living water and abundance – instead of emptiness?
This is not too good to be true. I believe all we need are a few reminders of regular rhythms and habits that can fill us right back up so that empty does not define who we are or how we are.
Reminder #1: You are a human being, not a human doing.
There is a reason we are commanded to take a Sabbath and to rest. The rhythm of Sabbath reminds us – each week – that we are human beings, not human doings. Sabbath connects us back to our humanity and reminds us that the world can keep spinning without us. We do a lot of feeling, doing, and thinking throughout the week, but most of us don’t do a lot of just being.
What does it look like, for you, to just be? To be still and know that there is a God who loves you and sees you? Sabbath exists to remind you that you are a beloved child of God who has worth and value regardless of what you produce. As Shauna Niequist has said, “Sabbath. When we act out our belief that we are not what we do, that our value comes from our createdness, not from what we create.”
Reminder #2: Love yourself well.
Remember the second greatest commandment Jesus gave us? “Love others as you love yourself.” Jesus didn’t say love others in spite of yourself or instead of yourself or rather than yourself. He said love others AS you love yourself.
So how are you doing with loving yourself? Most of us in ministry are really good at loving others well. (That is why we do what we do.) But we often forget to love the person that we have to spend the most time with – ourselves! Running ourselves into the ground, not taking a break, and neglecting our own care is not loving ourselves well. But a good first step is acknowledging how you are and what you need, then doing something about it.
Reminder #3: It is okay to turn away from the crowd.
There may be so many demands for your attention that it seems like there’s just no time to take a break. Well, you want to know who else had demands for their attention and, yet, turned away from a crowd? Jesus.
Jesus was not a stranger to taking care of Himself. And He did so, even though there were plenty of people who made a really good case for needing Him. “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)
Reminder #4: How you care for yourself is unique and it can change.
How you choose to care for yourself, how you spend your Sabbath, what you decide is life-giving for you and fills your pitcher back up – answers to questions like these may be different for you than they are for others. And that’s okay.
I define self-care as paying attention to what you need and then meeting those needs accordingly. That might mean drinking water when you are thirsty, going to bed early when you are tired, spending time in prayer when you need guidance, or reaching out to a friend when you are lonely. What you need can change on the daily which means what re-energizes you and how your pitcher is filled back up can look different from day-to-day, too.
Becoming a people of overflow isn’t possible by operating like the rest of the world. But it’s more than possible when we prioritize care and rest just like the One who said:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
A blessing to you, as you figure out what living from a place of overflow looks like in your world:
May you rest.
May you find peace.
May you welcome abundant life.
May you learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
May you take a moment to remember the world can run without you.
May you take care of the only thing you really have control over… yourself.
May you engage in life-giving things so you can be refilled and live from the overflow.
May you be reminded of your belovedness and feel the warmth of Love’s embrace.
Abby Buter lives in Tacoma, WA although she’s not shy about letting people know of her Michigan roots. After spending time within the nonprofit and marketing worlds, Abby came to find her passion of developing individuals and organizations. She seeks to help individuals, organizations, and churches be healthier and to live into who God has created them to be.
Abby graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University with a degree in Community Development and from Eastern University with a Master’s of Arts in Urban Studies with a Community Development concentration. She completed her master’s thesis on how faith-based nonprofit organizations create cultures of self-care, which fuels her passion for the work she does each day. She specializes in self-care and the Enneagram and walks alongside individuals and organizations on their journeys towards health and wholeness.