Thursday, June 6, 2013

Your Mission, Should You Accept It

Back in the early 80’s I was employed as an Outreach Worker for an inner-city ministry. We would feed the kids, comfort and care for the elderly, and provide a soft place to land for people who were just trying to survive in an atmosphere of drugs and poverty.

One day the Pastor came into the office and announced that I had been adopted as a missionary by a small, rural sister church in the mid-west and that they would be contributing to my salary (small as it was) which would be a blessing as our resources were few. At first I thought I had misunderstood him. The word “missionary” conjured up images of weary, overworked people in Africa or the Rain Forrest building wells and holding Sunday services under a thatched roof in the jungle. The Pastor assured me that in their eyes I was, indeed, a missionary except that my “jungle” was the inner-city streets swarming with drug dealers and gang members instead of lions and tigers. The whole concept made me take a closer look at myself as a human being rather than defining myself by the job.

A little more than 16 years later I found myself living far from those mean streets in a small, rural village of my own in a different jungle of sorts teaching myself how to garden. I was feeding the soil while I fed my spirit. I tended the flowers and plants and gave myself a soft place to land, a place to redefine myself without the trappings of a job or a title. I was, in effect, a missionary in my own back yard ministering to my own needs and the garden’s as well.

Sometimes we have to treat ourselves with as much love and compassion as we would those people we perceive to be in need of those very things. We are the first ones to put ourselves out there when the need arises, but the last ones to be on the receiving end when we are the ones in need. Women, and especially older women who have devoted a lifetime to others, are especially vulnerable to this. By the time I found myself standing in that garden surrounded by the unknown but willing to learn, I had already burned out, dropped out and allowed the well to run dry. As women we shouldn't  have to get to that state before we minister to our own needs. As women who have raised their families and put them first for years and years, it is time to redefine ourselves in this next chapter of our lives by being on the receiving end of self-love, self-compassion and extreme self-care.

Today, and for every day going forward, become a missionary to yourself. Feed your body and spirit with healthy offerings, care and comfort yourself when you need it, and give yourself a soft place to fall … and don’t get up until you’re ready.

And so it is.