Hurricane Recovery Edition: Self-Care Isn't Self-ish!

Reading time: two minutes. Our hearts and our prayers are with all in the Hurricane Harvey recovery zone.  They are far too busy to be reading this, but it’s an opportunity for all in the caring professions to reflect upon the need for self care in times of trauma. Pastors and congregations in disaster areas are called upon to serve every kind of human need: spiritual, emotional and physical.  When the needs are so great, it’s easy to become exhausted ourselves and thereby become unable to serve as we’d like. The Lutheran Wellness Wheel considers all of these needs.  Let’s review the basics of self-care in times of crisis. In the midst of the hurricane’s worst winds and rains, people cry out and ask, “Where is God in this?”  When the winds subside, the cry of the heart remains. You can see why it’s critical for us to be renewed in our spiritual lives when called upon for the touch answers.  When caring for the spiritually devastated, we find strength in our own baptismal identity.  Harvey’s floods destroy.  God’s floodwaters of baptismal grace renew.  Moment by moment, we return to the certainty and guarantee that “nothing in all of creation will separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8). Refreshment in the promises of the Word of God keeps us spiritually strong.  When sharing the hope and promises of scripture, we remember that those promises apply to us also.  We become proclaimers and hearers at the same time.   Relationships suffer as much as homes do in times of natural disaster.  Tempers become short.  The ancient game of casting blame comes far too easily.  When everyone is stressed, it’s hard to be tender and compassionate. So we turn to the Spirit of God for healing and peace.  The fruit of the Spirit is patience, so we bear with one another, understanding that we’re all reacting to trauma and hurt in ways we regret.  The fruit of the Spirit is kindness, so we do our best to listen to the hurts of others, even while we’re hurting ourselves.  The fruit of the Spirit is peace, so we re-build bridges through forgiveness and grace and restore broken relationships through absolution.  And in times of crisis, when we run to help others, we’re in the physical danger of neglecting our own needs.  When responders are needed, it’s so important to protect our response-ability by at least tending to our own bare minimum bodily needs of nutrition, hydration and rest.  Hurting people are counting on us.  Recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint.  For the sake of those who will rely on us, we “get our own oxygen masks on first.” Care for yourself so that your capacity for caring remains high.  Let’s remain steadfast in our prayerful encouragement of those responding to the tragedy in Houston.