Is ‘Me Time’ Biblical?
Author of the book "Enough About Me," Jen Oshman speaks to women about issues of identity and self-image. Discovering who we are and whose we are, says Oshman, is the key. Looking only inward will leave you feeling fearful and paralyzed. But there is no fear in the love of Christ.
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Jen Oshman speaks to women about issues of identity and self-image. Discovering who we are and whose we are, says Oshman, is the key.
Is ‘Me Time’ Biblical?
Bob: We live in a culture that says: “Life should be all about me.”
Jen: To be motivated by self and to seek self-glory is, at the end of the day, so exhausting. I think that’s what we’re seeing. If it’s all about you—if you have to decide who you are, who you’re going to be, and conjure up the energy to get there; and then once you are there, keep that hamster wheel spinning—when you were not made to be God—but in that situation, you are acting like God; you are your own god/you are your own deity, keeping your life going, worshipping yourself to keep it going. It is crushing.
Bob: And social media is not helping.
Jen: We’re scrolling social media at night when we get home, and we’re exhausted. We’re looking at everyone else’s beautiful images of their very successful career, their beautiful family, their beautiful children, their beautiful vacations; and we’re comparing ourselves to them—our hard day to their highlight reel—and we’re feeling incredibly disappointed in what life has delivered us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 12th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. The culture keeps telling us life should be all about us. But as we’ll hear from Jen Oshman today, if you buy into that perspective, you’ll wind up exhausted and disappointed. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think it was probably ten years ago—I think I remember the first time I ever heard somebody use the phrase, “me time”: “I need some me time.”
Ann: Oh, yes; that probably came from a mother.
Bob: It did come from a mother!
Ann: Of course! Because we’re longing for that. [Laughter]
Bob: It struck me, because I can relate. Who doesn’t need a little down-time?—a little relaxation, some quiet, some alone time. But I thought, “I’m not sure me time is really the way to explain that.”
Today, we want to talk about being done with me. Jen Oshman is here to help us talk about that. Jen, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Jen: Thanks so much.
Bob: Jen is a pastor’s wife, who lives out on the front range—Parker, Colorado. She and her husband were missionaries for years. They are parents of four daughters. Jen has written a book called Enough about Me. Is this a memoir? [Laughter]
Jen: I’m in there for sure. [Laughter]
Bob: How did this whole idea begin to percolate and resonate with you?
Jen: As you said, my husband and I were missionaries overseas for a long time/for about 15 years. We ministered to American military in Japan, and we were church planters in the Czech Republic. For about two decades now, I have been heavily involved in women’s ministry—always teaching women’s Bible study, always involved in discipleship, counseling relationships—just really enjoying being a part of the lives and stories of women around the world.
I was seeing, from overseas—being an American but not living in America—I was seeing this trend/this movement, as you said, ten years ago, hearing “me time” for the first time. I was seeing this growing trend coming out of—not just the United States/not just America but also the church in America—this growing movement: conferences, songs, Bible studies, books all about focusing on yourself/focusing on who you are, how God made you, and what He’s going to do in and through you.
Now, some of that is really pure, and good, and beautiful, and biblical; but I did see it going kind of awry—and this increasing focus on self rather than on our Savior—it was very concerning to me. As I saw it heightening and heightening, I said, “Lord, if You will allow me, I would love to speak into this conversation.”
Ann: Jen, go into that a little bit more. What do you mean by how it can become dangerous? Give us an example of what that would even look like.
Jen: In the book, I talk about it’s crucial that you and I determine who we are and whose we are. In order for me to know myself, I need to know who my Creator is: “Who is the Giver of Life?” “Who is my Maker? Who formed me?”—and for what purpose?” and “Who is He?” and “What is He like?” If you and I are going to thrive, we have to go back to this very simple question: “Who are we?” and “Who do we belong to?” “How did He make us?” and “For what purpose?”
In this moment, in the 21st century United States—and it’s in the west/throughout the wealthy west; it’s not just the United States—but it’s especially poignant, here, in the U.S. today: we want to just look within; determine, ourselves, who we are; create our own identity; and then conjure up the energy and the effort to get there. It’s all completely inward focused.
The reality is—it’s really hurting us: depression is on the rise, anxiety, stress, drinking, suicide—al of these things are manifesting themselves in teen girls and women. I know it’s present in men, as well; but I love women/I’m in women’s ministry. This inward-looking—this inward-seeking/this self-focus—has culminated to the point that we are really hurting ourselves with our self-focus. I want to encourage women to: “Lift your eyes up to the God who made you. There is where we will find some peace, and some rest, and some thriving.”
Ann: You had an experience with God in college.
Ann: Tell us about that.
Jen: I open the book with sharing my own story. I went away to Indiana to college there. I had grown up in a home with divorced parents and a home without the Lord. My mom, praise God, had taken me to church, as a nine-year-old; and I had heard the gospel. There was some Christian influence in my life, which I am so thankful for/thankful to the Lord for doing that through my mom.
But by and large, I grew up in a setting that did not have a Christian influence in it. My identity, my joy, my pride, was all coming from academics, sports, activities, being a leader, being a go-getter, just having an identity really fixated on: “What can I do?” “What dreams can I make happen?” “I am a strong woman; I’m going to go get ‘em; I’m going to make this happen.”
When I got to college—and the sports were harder, the academics were harder, the social scene was harder—all of those places that I had placed my identity, sort of fell away; they were broken down. I was no longer successful in the ways that I had been before. That was a gift of grace. Really, it was the Lord showing me, “You are not enough, but I am. Cry out to Me; seek Me, and you will find Me.” As a freshman in college, I did, on my dorm room floor, literally, broken-hearted. The things I thought I was built on/where I had put my identity was really in a false place. The Lord said, “I will heal you. I will make you whole, but you have to surrender to Me. You belong to Me, and I treasure you.”
Dave: You discovered, at that moment, that everything you’d hoped for let you down.
Dave: You found Christ. In fact, you asked the question in the book, “Have you ever wanted something really bad, and then when you finally got it, it was underwhelming?” That has happened a thousand times in my life, from little things to big things. It happened two nights ago. We fly into Little Rock to do radio this week; and the rental car that I had booked—they’re closed! Literally, walk over there; they’re gone for the day. I won’t mention which rental car was open, but I walk over there. He said, “Yes, we can get you a car.” I walk up there and I said, “I guess I know never to book with So-and-so again. I’m booking with you.” And he goes, “And we’re going to make sure we keep you.”
The next thing I know—I just get a compact; right?— most inexpensive you can get. I walk out to a Dodge Challenger. I have it one day—we go out to dinner last night—we come out, and somebody dinged the door. Immediately, I’m like/now, I’m mad at the car: “Why do we have this car? I don’t want this nice car; I’ve got to park it!” Again, that is life. It was such a joy for a moment; I’ve never had a Dodge Challenger. Now, every time I look at it, I’m like, “This car stinks!”—you know? [Laughter]
I felt that about our marriage.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say.
Dave: I’ve felt that about our career. Everything has, in some way, never lived up.
Bob: I was on a business trip to Florida—this was many years ago—the trip ended early. I had an extra day in Orlando, and I had a free pass to Disney. I thought, “This is going to be the greatest day, because I can ride where I want to ride. I can do what I want to do. When they say, “Any singles?” I’ll get to the front of the line. It’s just me on my own at Disney.”
I remember riding a ride and getting off and going, “That was awesome,” and looking around for somebody to talk to about how awesome it was. All of a sudden, it was the most miserable day of my life, to be at an amusement park with no one to share it with. That was—yes, I thought this was going to be great; because it was all about me—and it wasn’t so great.
Dave: An interesting thing—
Jen: That’s a great story.
Dave: —Jen, you say in your book; because you’ve seen this over, and over, and over with women.
Dave: Talk about that a little bit. I mean, what is it—it’s not unique to women, obviously—
Dave: —but you’ve seen it, probably, like I said, a thousand times in women’s ministry. They’re let down by what they thought would give them life.
Ann: You even say that women are having a new mid-life crisis. What does that mean?
Jen: It’s true. My generation/we were raised in the height of the self-esteem movement. I was literally in classrooms, where I was singing songs, doing worksheets, parts of programs and plays, where we were telling each other and telling ourselves: “I can handle it. Whatever I dream, I can achieve,” “Reach for the stars; whatever it is you want, go get ‘em.”
It was also on the heels of Title IX in terms of girls getting equal funding for sports and other activities—that’s a great thing; I celebrate that—I’m not talking negatively about that at all. That created an atmosphere—I think, maybe especially for girls—that said: “Anything boys can do we can better. You can dream it, and achieve it.” That was what we were hearing on a daily basis from our parents, from our teachers, from our coaches, from telling each other that; and we fully believed it.
We grew up: we went to college; and we entered the work force or we entered volunteer force—or whatever it is that each woman is a part of now—we’re all having that moment/that Disney World moment of like: “This is not as great as I thought it was going to be. This is actually a huge let down.” What’s happened is—we’ve put all of our hope in ourselves.
Also, not only is it the age of self, it’s the age of social media. We’re scrolling social media at night when we get home, and we’re exhausted. We’re looking at everybody else’s beautiful images of their very successful career, their beautiful family, their beautiful children, their beautiful vacations; and we’re comparing ourselves to them—our hard day to their highlight reel—and we’re feeling incredibly disappointed in what life has delivered us.
Even those of us, who have achieved what we wanted to achieve, realizing, “This does not deliver. This is not the high, the peace, the joy, the satisfaction that I thought I was going to achieve at this moment. It’s actually hollow.”
Dave: In some ways, you say this in your book, that’s a gift.
Jen: It’s a gift.
Dave: In the moment, it doesn’t feel like a gift. I, literally, just thought of college—playing quarterback, winning a conference championship, at northern Illinois—in the shower after the game. I mean, it’s your whole goal, as a college athlete, to win a conference championship. We won it. I’m in the shower, less than an hour later; I’m not a Christian. Head under—not a lot of hair, by the way—head under the shower head, thinking, “This is it?!” It’s so hollow. And an hour before, on the field, cheering.
I knew right then: “This can’t be what life’s about.” It pointed me to finally following Christ. That moment in our life, which is so disappointing, is actually a gift; right?
Jen: Yes; I mean, it’s just the beginning. It is when we realize that we are frail and finite/that we are sinners separated far away from God—that we were made by Him, for Him, through Him, to Him—and yet we are separate from Him. It’s when we run out of steam; we run out of fuel of self—which was not meant to drive us in the first place—it’s that moment/that moment [inaudible] and have relationship with Him.
Bob: You’re a mother, raising four daughters.
Bob: I’m thinking of moms, who are raising daughters, and want their daughters to be strong, confident, capable young women. The culture is reinforcing that message—what you heard you can be—you can be whoever you want to be/whatever you want to be. There’s a truth to that that you want to emphasize. Yet, alongside of that is: “And it needs to be all about you.”
How do you navigate those messages so that your daughters learn what it means to be strong, capable, competent women, who are excelling in who God made them to be, and yet, not have it be all about them?
Jen: Yes; it’s a good question. This book did come largely out of trying to raise women, who—I want them to know that they are strong and that they are able, but why is that?—“Who are they?” and “Whose are they?
They are strong, and able, and capable; because of the God who made them. I want to be rehearsing that truth to them over, and over, and over: “Great job on that test!” “Great job on the field!” “Look at how the Lord has designed you,” “Look what He gave you,” “Look at the opportunities He gave you. Let’s steward them well for His glory and for your good.”
Ann: So that’s how you’re talking to your four daughters.
Jen: That’s how I talk to them; maybe it sounds a little bit strange. It’s a big worldview shift inside your home. Rather than saying, “I am so proud of you,” I follow that up with: “Look at how the Lord made you,” “Look at what He’s done for you,” “Look at the resources He’s given us. How can we, as a family, steward these opportunities so that God’s name is known and so that you glorifies Him?” That’s going to be for their good, because that’s how we were made. We were made by Him, for Him, through Him, to Him as Colossians, Chapter 1, says.
Bob: One of the key themes in the Art of Parenting® video series that FamilyLife® put together is the theme of identity—helping children understand their identify. We focus in on Ephesians 2:10: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” That’s so inline with what you’re talking about: when a child succeeds in something—has an accomplishment/does well—to be able to say, “This has to be one of the things that God prepared beforehand for you to walk in. Look at how you’re living out His purpose and plan for your life”; so they begin thinking—not “What do I want my life to be all about?”—but—“What does God want my life to be all about?”
Ann: It’s easy to slip off of that a little bit. When our church started, I started our women’s ministry at the church. It was really going well; it was exciting. I’ve had so many surrender moments of Jesus, but this kind of was in my wheelhouse.
I’m an achiever anyway, so at the end of this ministry year, we sat around with all the women leaders. I said, “Let’s go around and give character attributes and new names—like, ‘Okay, Jane; you have been amazing this year. Let’s tell Jane what her strengths and gifts are/how we’ve seen God use her this year.’” Somebody would say, “Your name is Grace; you give people grace. You surround yourself with Jesus all the time.” Each woman had this name that was so beautiful.
It was my turn; I was like, “Let’s not even do me.” They were like, “No, no, no. Let’s do you, Ann.” I was getting ready, like, “Oh, this is going to be—God’s going to fill me up; this is going to be amazing.” They looked at me—and this one older woman, who I really respected—she said, “You know what you are, Ann? Your name is The Energizer Bunny.” They all laughed—they’re like: “Yes! She is The Energizer Bunny!” I was like, “Uhhhh! Uhhhh! That’s not a great name.” As I drove home after that meeting, I started to think, “Why would I get that name?”—because I am a driver; I can drive hard.
The next morning, I was getting ready; I was putting some makeup on in the mirror. I felt this little whisper in my mind of, “Your name is Striving.” I stopped myself for a second. I thought, “What? What was that?” I felt God whisper into my spirit, “You’ve been striving so hard to achieve that you’ve kind of left Me and lost Me a little bit along the way,”—because of all the things we were doing for Jesus. That kind of feeds the identity of what you do, and what you accomplish, and even women you can bring to Christ.
I realized, at that moment, that I was in a moment of repentance, like, “Lord, You’re right. I’ve taken my eyes off of You. I’ve been relishing the praise of people and what God is doing, but it’s kind of become all about me all of a sudden.” I ended up thinking, “Lord, what could it look like for me to get back on track?”
I ended up carving part of a day—of saying, “I’m going to give an entire morning when the kids are at school. I’m going to be with You from nine to noon,”—which may not sound like too much time—but as a mom/as a busy mom, that was a significant amount of time. All I did is: I was in the Word; I was praying; I was worshipping; and it got me back on track. Do you know what I mean?
Jen: Yes, yes; I do.
Bob: So you were having “me time”—is what you were saying? [Laughter]
Ann: I was having He time/God time because it was all about me; I switched it back. Do you think it’s easy for us to fall off?
Jen: Yes; so easy. I hear myself in that story on a daily basis. Daily tasks—like you; I’m goal-oriented—I want to get things done. Before 10:00 a.m. every day, I’m already having to repent from being self-driven rather than being driven by the Lord.
They can look really similar; right? It’s the heart/the heart behind it: “What is the motive of our heart? What is the posture of our heart in the pursuit of these good things?” Because we should be using our time well; we should be going for it. We should be leaving it all on the field, in the name of Jesus, for His name, for His glory, for His kingdom. But that activity can look very similar to the activity of Jen Oshman trying to build her own little kingdom; right?
We have to be real before the Lord and say, “Show me/reveal to me these places in my heart. Reveal to me what is really driving it. What is my motive?” To be motivated by self, and to seek self-glory is, at the end, of the day so exhausting. I think that’s what we’re seeing. If it’s all about you—if you have to decide who you are, and who you’re going to be, and conjure up the energy to get there; and then once you are there, keep that hamster wheel spinning—when you were not made to be God—but in that situation, you are acting like God; you are your own god/you are your own deity, keeping your life going, worshipping yourself to keep it going. It is crushing.
Dave: Yet, there’s this nuance I’m hearing. Tell me if I’m hearing this right. You said earlier, “If I’m trying to figure out my identity, often we look inside: ‘Who am I?’ Sometimes, we find greatness: ‘I am strong, ‘I am courageous,’ as a man or as a woman. But there is this nuance that, if I want to understand my identity, I need to look up. Yet, in looking up, I can understand who I am in a different way. It’s a totally different way to understand.”
I’ve said many times—if anybody was at my church, they’ve heard me preach this, probably, too many times—I always say, “Every decision you make, every single day, is based on two beliefs, I think: belief about God—theology; belief about myself—identity. If you don’t understand who God is, you don’t understand who you are. You’re going to make some really bad decisions, based out of fear. But if I look to God—and understand who He is/to understand who I am, as a child of Him—that’s a great way to find identity”; right? “It’s different than looking here.”
But if I find it here—I mean, one of the songs I love—tell me if you like this—because it’s a worship song that could be self-focused; but I think, if you understand it the right way—here; I’ll do it—
Jen: Let’s hear it.
Bob: He loves getting the guitar out.
Dave: —not the whole thing. I know we’ve all heard this line. [Singing: “I’m no longer a slave of fear,”—that sounds pretty self-focused—“I am a child of God.”] I mean, that is a song I have wept, singing, in leading our congregation. It’s because I think it helps me go, “Wait, wait, wait. I’ve been making so many decisions out of fear. I’m timid; I’m afraid,”—because I’ve forgotten my identity—not because I’m great; He’s great! I’m His child, so I can walk in—a woman can walk in/a man can walk in a room with confidence—almost like, “I own this room, because the Holy Spirit walked in this room with me. I don’t need to be afraid. I can make decisions; I can lead my family.”
That nuance is true, in terms of identity’s good if it’s understood vertically, but it could be bad if it’s only understood horizontally. I don’t want to put words in your mouth.
Jen: No; I think you’ve nailed it. I totally agree with you.
In the first scenario, where you’re only looking within, then you have to be your own god—that does drive fear/so much fear. We’re paralyzed with decisions that we have to make: with what we’re going to do with our weekend, our future, our retirement. It’s paralyzing when we are self-reliant, because we are all we’ve got. But we were not designed to be that way.
The reason you don’t have fear, as the song says/the reason you can cast out fear is that you are in Christ and Christ is in you. We are abiding in the Lord: “We can do all things through Him”—right?—“as we are abiding in Him. Apart from Him we can do nothing.”
Bob: I’m thinking about the verse that teaches us that: “We are to do our work heartily”—so be achievers: go for it; work hard; exert yourself—“as unto the Lord.” That’s the thing that’s different than the achiever, who is achieving for self/for his own glory or for his own joy, and the one, who is saying, “I’m doing this because this is who God made me to be, and I want it to be as unto Him.”
This is where I think all of us need this correction. I know a lot of women have gotten this book and gone through it in a women’s study/in a small group study. This is a book for mom to do with daughters—and wouldn’t hurt for dads to do with sons, either. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order and copy of Jen Oshman’s book, Enough about Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order the book by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is Enough about Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self by Jen Oshman. Order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or order by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about this whole idea of turning away from a self-orientation in our lives. The culture keeps pointing us back to that. How do we combat those cultural messages and follow Jesus? We’ll talk more with Jen Oshman about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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