In this life, we only get one go-round. There are no ‘Mulligans’ (dressed-up golf-speak for what six-year-olds call a “do-over”). We’ve got one life to do good to others, and to ourselves. One of the hardest things for some people, especially parents, is to be good to themselves, without feeling guilty.
Reagan told a great story about this phenomenon in his speech to the British Parliament. He was talking about the reluctance of much of the West to stand-up for their own ideals of freedom. Ideals which, as Reagan said, “have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world.” Reagan described how “[t]his reluctance to use the vast resources at our command reminds me of the elderly lady whose home was bombed in the Blitz.” Rescuers went through the ruins of her house and found the old woman, barely conscious. The staircase was the only thing left standing, and behind the stairs, amid the rubble, they found a bottle of brandy. They brought the brandy to the old woman, intending to put a drop to her lips to help revive her. But as soon as they uncorked the bottle, she came around immediately and said: “Here, here, young man. Put that back. That’s for emergencies.”
Scripture tells us: “My son, with humility have self-esteem; prize yourself as you deserve” 9Sir 10: 270.
None is more stingy than he who is stingy with himself; he punishes his own miserliness…. My son, use freely whatever you have and enjoy it as best you can; remember that death does not tarry, nor have you been told the grave’s appointed time. Before you die, be good to your friend, and give him a share in what you possess. Deprive not yourself of present good things, let no choice portion escape you…. Give, take, and treat yourself well ( Sir 14: 6-17).
It’s important to be good to yourself. God put us here not just to survive, but to thrive. He has work He wants us to do, and we should do that work with joy and relish and zeal. A little pick-me-up can help keep our spirits vivacious so we can meet that challenge.
Espeically in those times when its most difficult, when we’re weighed down with doubts and fears and sadness. We know plans go awry. We have to deal with things we’d rather not. There is loss, there is pain. There are real problems. But we are still called to do God’s work, and to live with eagerness and enthusiasm for what God calls us to. That’s why the Bible tells us:
Do not give in to sadness, torment not yourself with brooding; gladness of heart is the very life of man, cheerfulness prolongs his days. Distract yourself, renew your courage, drive resentment away from you; for worry has brought death to many, nor is there ought to be gained from resentment. Envy and anger shorten one’s life, worry brings on premature old age. One who is cheerful and gay while at table benefits from his food (Sir 30, 21-250.
We can’t stop the rain from falling, we can’t stop trouble from knocking on our door. But the sun also shines, and we can open a window. Take the opportunities that come our way to be good to ourselves. Maybe you love music – get a new CD. Or that new book you keep picking-up in the bookstore, but always put down because you can’t bring yourself to spend $25 on something so ‘frivolous’ or ‘selfish’. Buy it! Then give yourself permission to spend time actually reading it, with a tasty drink and a snack at your elbow — and without worrying about the dishes! It’s o.k. to use the resources God gave us to do something nice for ourselves. That’s part of why God gives us His gifts. He loves us. He wants to be good to us, and sometimes we need to let Him. Maybe for you it will be downhill ski-lessons (as it was for my sister Ruth – after two kids and closing in on 40 she picked up a new sport!). Whatever it is, find something to break your mind out of the daily round for a moment. Distract yourself from worries and concerns. If you can, even for only a bit, you’ll come back refreshed and renewed. Maybe that little break will give you the different perspective you need to see things in a new light. Find something to lift your heart. As the Kingston Trio sang in an old song, “Raise your eyes to the far horizon where the sun is rising.” It will help you get on with God’s work of thriving.