Self-Care Saturday: A New Thing! / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

Recently, I have felt an uneasiness in my spirit. It is not troubling, like dis-ease, but rather is an anxiousness I feel when I know that God is up to something new in my life. I can best describe it as a sanctified disquietness. I felt it before I moved to Washington, DC for graduate school at Howard University. I felt it in the two week time period between Joseph and I ending our relationship and getting accepted to Seminary at the Theological School at Drew University on a full scholarship—a dream I didn’t even knew I had. I felt it just before the whirlwind of 2010 when I graduated from Drew, got engaged, began my position as Assistant to the Pastor at the Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle, NY, passed my ordination exam, and got married in a matter of two months. It has been a while since I’ve felt it, but I feel it now.

Image from www.pexels.com

Image from www.pexels.com

A new thing!

On the verge of a new thing about to spring forth, I have to admit, I have been spending way too much time thinking about the old things, especially as it relates to my health and fitness. If you utilize Facebook, then you are likely familiar with the “On this Day” feature, which uses an algorithm to show you memories from one, five, and even ten years ago on the exact date. On this Day is cool because it reminds me of how God has blessed me. I especially like that I can see how much Big Girl and Baby Girl have grown through the years. Where it has been problematic for me is in my health and fitness. 

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One day this week, I came across a memory of myself—much thinner—with the girls in the stroller. We were all smiles, well two out of three of us were. I had just finished three miles at our favorite park with my Black Girls Run group. If I recall, it was a few months after my first half marathon and I was running a 12 minute mile pushing eighty pounds (between the girls and the stroller). Instead of seeing the picture and being excited, my heart sunk. I felt shame. I felt defeat. I called myself names which I won’t share because they are cruel. 

And then God’ remind me that I’m on the verge of a new thing and brought me back to what words of the Prophet Isaiah:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
— ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:18-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

If I were preaching, I would exegete this text and show you all of my hermeneutical and homiletical work. I’d tell you what it meant for Ancient Israel then and what it means for us today. Suffice to say, this text is an invitation to look forward and not behind. It is an invitation to forget the former things—even the good things—to make room for the new thing that God is doing. Now, it doesn’t say to forget God. We can remember God and God’s power. What we are to forget is the old stuff. The old good stuff can leave us boastful, prideful, and not positioned for God’s new because we’re so focused on our previous accomplishments. It can also place a limit on what we think is possible. We forget the former good stuff so God can blow our minds once again! The old terrible stuff can leave us feeling depressed and shameful, and shame can render us paralyzed. How can we receive God’s newness if we are still beating ourselves up for past failures? 

What God was telling me was to forget my size ten, 12 minute mile running self. She was amazing, but she may not return, ever. And clinging to her has rendered me feeling defeated and paralyzed to do the work necessary in my health and wellness. Fear of never being her again has kept me from being my very best self, right here and right now. In bringing to mind Isaiah 43:18-19, God was telling me to remember the presence and activity of God in my life: how God kept me, how God helped me, how God gave me energy and endurance, how God strengthened me. Remembering who God is and what God is able to do will position me to receive the coming newness in my life—spiritual, emotional, physical, and vocation—in whatever form God sends it. 

That’s good Donna, but what does this have to do with self-care?

A new thing!

Often we think of self-care materially—as things that we do—to care for and feel better about ourselves. Often self-care is about the external. We get manicures, pedicures, and massages. We eat a healthy meal, drink water, get sleep, or go for a run. We get together with friends or make time to spend alone to catch our breath. All of that is self-care, but self-care is deeper and more nuanced than that. Self-care are also those habits and practices that we implement that help us to be our best selves, including being mindful of our thoughts and self-talk. Self care is thinking those things—true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy—that lead us to live with grace and resilience. Self-care is speaking about ourselves in ways that honor that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Truth be told, I’m better at getting manicures than I am speaking kindly and graciously to myself. And, with all that I said above, in this season, self-care means not looking back (even at the Facebook memories), until I am able to do so without blocking the newness that is about to spring forth in my life. 

So, on this Saturday and the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, my intention is to forget the former things--successes and shortcomings--and to speak kindly to myself as an act of self-care and self-love.

Dear Reader, how are you caring for yourself these days? What self-care habits and practices give you life?