Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or the executive leader of your company, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the demands of others. People will bring you real and perceived needs, expecting you to fix it immediately. I find that the more plates I have to spin, I start to forget what it means to be a kind person. Instead of treating each concern with respect, I become short with others whose needs I find trite. I begin to complain behind their backs. I begin to not like the person I am becoming.
Recently, I was reading “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis (a German Catholic monk, 1380-1471). As I did more research on the man behind this awesome book, I came across this below…How legit is this prayer for the stressed out?!
Give us, O Lord, steadfast hearts that cannot be dragged down by false loves; give us courageous hearts that cannot be worn down by trouble; give us righteous hearts that cannot be sidetracked by unholy or unworthy goals. Give to us also, our Lord and God, understanding to know You, diligence to look for you, wisdom to recognize You, and a faithfulness that will bring us to see You face to face.
I learned that John Wesley had been influenced by Kempis’ devotion. In one of Wesley’s journal entries (5/5/1749), he quotes Kempis in response to some weary members of the Methodist societies: “Deal not harshly with the one that is tempted.” Andrew Thompson has noticed that this quote comes from a chapter in Kempis’ Imitation of Christ which emphasizes the need for prayer in times of great stress. Kempis says, “In temptations and trials the progress of a [person] is measured; in them opportunity for merit and virtue is made more manifest” (Book 1, Chapter 13). We all get stressed out, we all face temptations and trials. Clinging to God in these times gives us the opportunity to grow in character. Read Thompson’s article here.
It turns out that Thomas a Kempis didn’t enjoy administrative responsibilities. After several opportunities to serve as a monastic leader of his brethren, it became clear that Thomas should be left alone to his prayer and writing. I like the way it’s explained at ccel.org, “The other monks eventually recognized Thomas’s talent for deep thought and stopped troubling him with practical affairs.” Now how many times have you wished someone said that about you?
John Wesley was known to wake up before 5am daily to devote time to prayer and searching the scriptures. Since having two children, I have found it increasingly difficult to make that early morning prayer routine happen. I don’t really know whether Thomas or John drank much coffee, but it’s definitely part of my self-care package! The secret to vital care-giving is operating from a cup that overflows, not a cup with just a few drips and grinds at the bottom. It seems counter-intuitive to put your oxygen mask on first when the plane is going down, but when you take the time for self-care, you will always have more to give to others, and you will be more likely to find it life-giving.