In this Episode
On this episode, we are joined by Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, theologian, psychologist, and author of Too Heavy a Yoke, Black Women and the Burden of Strength, and her newest work, a 49-day devotional titled, Sacred Self-Care: Daily Practices for Nurturing Our Whole Selves.
We invited Dr. Walker-Barnes to speak with us, because folk are tired for multiple reasons. The gig economy has folks working 2-3 jobs while climate change has folks running from forest fires while dodging tornadoes, trying to breath when you take your dog for a walk, and trying to survive record-breaking heat. And people of color, women, the LGBTQIA+ community and Transwomen in particular, are increasingly having to survive legislated attacks against our personhood.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Thread or Insta Lisa @lisasharper or to Freedom Road @freedomroad.us. We’re also on Substack! So be sure to subscribe to freedomroad.substack.com. And, keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think!
***FLY will be streamable everywhere on September 22, 2023.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:00:00] Coming to you from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. I’m Lisa Sharon Harper, president of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap. Welcome to the Freedom Road Podcast. Each month we speak with national faith leaders, advocates, and activists to have the kinds of conversations we normally have on the front lines.
It’s just that this time we’ve got microphones in our faces and you are listening in. Now, today we are graced with one of my friends in the movement, and at the same time, somebody who has had truly prolific influence over the last, I would say like the last seven, maybe seven to ten years. Like people are really, I don’t know, I’m beginning to hear.
Her voice, all over the place, and also recommend her everywhere. But she is [00:01:00] beginning to be recognized as a significant womanist voice in the Christian space. And so Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes is a theologian, and y’all get this, and she’s a clinical psychologist. Hello, who can say that?
Who’s actually done all of that work? And she’s an author, the author of Too Heavy a Yolk, I Bring the Voices of my People, which I had the great honor of, um, contributing the forward for. And her newest work, a 49-day devotional titled Sacred Self-Care Daily Practices for Nurturing Our Whole Selves. I just love that.
I love that title. So I invited Dr. Walker-Barnes to speak with us today because folk are tired. I mean bone tired for multiple reasons. I mean, the gig economy has folks working two and three jobs while climate change has folks running from forest fires while [00:02:00] dodging tornadoes, trying to breathe when you’re taking your dog for a walk in the middle of the tornado, and then trying to survive record breaking heat all in the middle of taking your dog for a walk and not being able to breathe.
And so people of color, women, LGBTQ people that whole community and especially trans-women are in particular, are increasingly having to survive legislative attacks against our very personhood. So folk are tired! So we need some sacred self-care! Somebody say with me, sacred self-care. Sacred self-care, okay?
So we are gonna get some instruction on how we do that today. And I have to say, I was reading through this and just feeling really grateful for the work that Dr. Walker Barnes has put into this book, because it’s not actually just a devotional. I think some people have given up on devotionals.
They don’t, they don’t do them. Others actually it is their bread and butter. It is the thing. Well, I just wanna encourage everybody to go out, get this book, [00:03:00] because this is one of those books that is not just a, you know, nice thoughts for each day. It’s literally instruction on how to do the Jesus-walk in a way that doesn’t kill you.
Right? So in a way that actually brings life not death. So let’s dive in. We would love to hear your thoughts so you can thread me. I almost said the dreaded. T-word, but I’m not doing that anymore. Um, the, you can thread me or insta me @LisaSHarper or to Freedom Road @FreedomRoad.us, and keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think.
So, Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, welcome to Freedom Road. Thank you.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I’m so delighted to be here to be talking with you. I always enjoy our conversation, so I’m excited about this one.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Ditto. I mean, seriously, whenever we’ve talked… First of all, [00:04:00] when we talk, it gets real, real quick. And what I really love about you, Chanequa, is that you are just like, you are bone honest.
Like you just, you do not hold back. And you are not about like saving anybody’s face, not yours or anybody else’s. And so I know that the conversation we’re gonna have today is gonna be from a very honest place. And you know, and I welcome that. And I ask you and I, not only do I welcome it, we need that.
We really need that right now. So can I ask you just to start with your faith journey? Just tell us a little about like how did you come to this Jesus walk? And the reason why I start there is that every single time we always start there, ’cause I want folks to have a little sense of who you are before we dive into like the meat of the combo.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, I love that. So I, um, I grew up in a very faith-filled family. To this day, my great-grandfather was a Methodist pastor on my maternal side. And then on my [00:05:00] paternal side, I had a lot of, uh, several Baptist, my great-grandfather was a Baptist pastor, right? And so…
Lisa Sharon Harper: What?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. And so I came through this, um, from a family that was steeped in the faith.
I always tell people I don’t remember a time where I didn’t believe, because I went to church from a very early age. My faith was really shepherded by my grandparents. I would say my, my maternal grandmother. I would really see as the person she was to me what Timothy’s grandmother was to him, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: The one who really nurtured me in the faith, who often picked me up on Sunday mornings and took me to church and Sunday school. And then our home was steeped in faith. So I grew up in a Baptist church here in Atlanta, a black Baptist church. And the church itself I would describe as a movement church.
[00:06:00] My pastor was, um, what we would call a race man, right? He was one that came of age before, you know, was coming of age, right around the civil rights movement, was an active participant in the movement. We were hearing about racial justice issues in, in church on a regular basis. We talked about race, we talked about social issues.
So growing up I thought the two were intertwined for everybody. I thought being a Christian meant being engaged in the world, caring for the poor, caring for the marginalized, I thought it all went together.
The one thing my church did not include was gender. Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh, interesting.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: So, right.
And so we had this real strong race consciousness and so I kind of grew up developing that as a teenager, this sort of racial consciousness. And only later on did I begin to kind of layer these other aspects of it. But that is really how it started. I have been… I’m a [00:07:00] seeker, I think in a different way.
I believe God is in… No one denomination or tradition has a monopoly on God. And so my walk has led me from that Black Baptist church, um, to sort of evangelical social justice spaces. To predominantly white mainline spaces. I really have grown, I think, tremendously, from having a foot in a lot of spaces.
And I think that’s part of who I am, is, you know, the psychologist and theologian, right? The academic and the practitioner is that I’m always wanting to glean from a lot of people. So that’s sort of the faith journey in a nutshell.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s funny because I actually think that’s part of the reason why we connect, right?
Like I think that early on, I would say probably around 1999, I had an experience, a prayer experience in the midst of being in a [00:08:00] mission agency that focused on college campuses and it was in a black prayer service and everybody surrounded me and started praying for me. And I was like, what?
Like what are they doing? And I freaked out. But in the midst of that, what happened was I realized that I didn’t love myself. So, you know, here; this book is about sacred self-care. Yeah. And I had this experience probably about 20 years ago, 24 years ago, where I realized I don’t love myself. And it’s not that I just don’t love myself, I don’t agree that God made me well.
I don’t agree because, you know, I wanted to be more black. Right? Yeah. I was like, why am I not, why was I not brought up? I was not brought up in the black church. I was not brought up in church at all. Right. My family, um, has all these different strains to it. I had lived in lots of different like corners of different communities in our demography.
And so I want it to be more immersed [00:09:00] and I think that God has taken you, it seems on a really diverse path. I love hearing you say, actually has strengthened or, or given you a very unique perspective that is valuable to the world right now. That’s what I found in that prayer time. God said to me, there’s method to the madness.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. Yeah. There is. Um, I love it. My you know, my musical traditions in church come from a wide variety of places. And I find that if I am, if I stay in one particular environment for too long, my spirit starts longing for something, right? It’s like, yeah, this is great, and… Right?
And so for me, you know, I laugh that I can go from wanting to sing, kind of traditional black hymn, right? To then I think about the hymnals, the Methodist hymnal to then I want Hillsong, right? Like, you know, even with all the problems, I’m like, okay, and I need a little [00:10:00] bit of oceans now, like, just a little bit, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s true. That song gets me every single time, every time almost against my will. Quite honestly.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: On the one hand I’m like, oh, this again? And then I’m like, yes, Scott.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And so, yeah, that’s… and, you know, so trying to bring all of that together, and you’re so right. We can grow, we can, that can make us think we’re not enough, right?
Where, because we don’t quite fit when we’re that diverse. In every environment it feels like, well, am I enough? Black church? Like, right. I know these hymns and love them, but oh, that hymn, they’re singing. I don’t know that one. Right,
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right. Where am I enough evangelical or am I enough? You know, any, you don’t, you never feel like you’re enough.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right, exactly.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Because you actually are so diverse in your very makeup.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes. Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So I actually have another, another piece of diversity for you is just your bio. I mean, that you are both a clinical psychologist and a womanist theologian. I mean, how did that happen? [00:11:00] What, what came first and, and how did the other one come along?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, so I think in this, I think in some ways it goes back to this, this church environment, this church that did not believe in women in ministry, but at the same time was very racially conscious. And so when I went to college, I think I actually first experienced my call to ministry the summer before my freshman year.
And it was doing outreach community service work. And I knew then that God had a call on my life. I expressed it in that way. I didn’t imagine it could be the church. As a matter of fact, my freshman roommate was planning to major in religion and, a young white woman, and I remember when she said that, I said, and what are you doing that for?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my God. And lemme say I know what you’re talking about. You know, I grew up, I’m just, okay. So I guess there’s like a lot of connection here. Yeah. I grew up, [00:12:00] my faith was planted in the context of a U M C church and also Young Life. Um, but then when I got to college you know, it was Campus Crusade and they are not about women leadership unless there are no men around.
Right? So I actually did lead for a while and certain things, but then when men came, I was told I have to step down. And I internalized that. So the very first time I ever heard a woman preach, I literally said, this is heresy.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Wow.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right? Isn’t that like, it’s just, it’s internalized.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: It is. It is.
So because that wasn’t an option, I knew God wanted me to do something. I knew it, it, it was about, um, racism, right? That it had to do with the wounds of racism. And so I said, well, how can I channel this? What do I do? And so I chose psychology. So as an undergraduate, I double majored in psychology and African and African-American studies.
And that was because I started looking [00:13:00] at what are, what are the career paths I could take? And I said, I can get a doctorate in psychology and I can focus on African American families. And so that, it was about me trying to find a way to channel this call. And then I ended up, you know, so pursuing that, I’m in my first job.
Lisa Sharon Harper: But, Chanequa, I’m sorry. Can you go back very quickly to when she said that she was gonna, she was going to work in the church and you said, why would you wanna do that? Or, or why that was it about you? ’cause I thought you were saying that it was about, you know, you didn’t think women could lead.
Is that… Did I get that wrong?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. It’s absolutely right. And, and, and my roommate, um, she was, her, her mother was an Episcopal pastor and I still thought, okay, so maybe white women in the Episcopal, right. So then it still wasn’t about me. It was about, so still about race. Yeah.
’cause being a southerner, I was like, I don’t know about, Episcopalians. Anyway, that sounds weird, [00:14:00] right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s deep. That’s so deep.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. So I kept finding ways to, like, you are sort of this anomaly, you’re this weird person. Right. Mm-hmm. I know God wants me to do something, I gotta figure out another way to do it.
And so really, that didn’t take a single religion class as an undergrad, right? Like just moved away from that all together.
And threw myself into psychology and into clinical psychology. Just really thought, where can I do this work? And, yeah, I began to do that work. Got my first job after finishing my doctorate.
And I was working at university of Florida and I was a clinical professor, so mostly doing clinical work and training graduate students. And this woman came in and she had an issue that I realized was spiritual, and I was stumped because I didn’t know how to help her. I didn’t know how to help her.
[00:15:00] And I really, I tried everything I knew from psychology. I mean, I was literally running into my office, taking every, every diagnostic instrument. My office looked like a tornado, hit it afterwards because I was like, no, there’s a psychological problem. And then I thought, oh my, this is really spiritual.
What do I do?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes:And I realized my training hadn’t prepared me for it, and I didn’t know how to integrate the language of my faith and my profession.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And I thought, so what I ended up telling her, this woman, and I called her husband in, and I said, I think you two need to go home and pray.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes:I didn’t even wanna pray with them. I was scared to pray with them, Lisa, because I thought, how am I gonna write up my note?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right. Right. I mean, isn’t that like, is that allowed? Like, you know, all those, all those questions come up. Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I said, you know, I can’t, like nobody could know that I did this with them.
And so I just said, you two need to go home and pray. [00:16:00] Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And that case just kept, kept stirring in my mind. Right. For the next couple of years. As I left that and went on to a tenure track kind of academic position, I kept going back to that. And thinking about pastors who were helping people like that and how pastors might come at it from a completely different end. Right?
And not see any of the psychological issues at play. And so I began to think about, I really wanna train pastors to provide better care for people. So I began to do these other things and before you know it, I’m in seminary, right? Um, and I actually won, I had been working with my church on issues of self-care with women, and it came out of my own journey.
So this book I say is like, it’s the culmination of a 20-plus year self-care journey. Where I’m dealing with the stress of this profession. Trying to figure out what it means to be a young black woman [00:17:00] in a very hostile academic environment, and how do I thrive? And I started trying to take care of myself better and then realized, oh wait, this is having a real impact on my health and wellbeing.
And so then finally these threads of mind began coming together because I started moving into the church and saying, oh, this is how I can take my profession into the church. And from there ended up really finally clearly hearing my call to ministry. And deciding that the work that I needed to do, I needed further training.Right?
And so I left my tenure track position so that I could go back to school and go to seminary. And…
Lisa Sharon Harper: Who does this? Who does that, I mean, you get one PhD. Only to get another PhD Yeah. And a whole nother thing. Who does that?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And I only have one PhD. Right. So I have one PhD, but I have two master’s degrees.
I did consider, at one point I was considering, [00:18:00] and it was womanist theologians who told me that I did not need a second doctorate.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Okay. Okay. Yeah. Well, you got the nod.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Okay. Yes, yes. Womanist, theologians, they were like, you do not need a second doctorate. You’ve done the work. You just need to hone your information sources.
So, so it was all the, while it was this theme of self-care and, and, and so going to seminary helped me to start thinking about theologically, right? Like, yeah, what does it mean when I’m talking about self-care? It’s actually different than the way I had been thinking about it before. So this book is trying to pull that together.
It is trying to weave together the theology and the psychology. ’cause psychology is so practical. It’s… and how does this affect people’s lives, right? It’s not kind of pie in the sky theology. It always has to be grounded because I tend to think in terms of treatment plans and outcomes and yeah, I still think in those ways.
And so I’m always thinking, okay, how do I distill this in ways that people [00:19:00] can take it? Where’s the resistance and how do we make this helpful to people?
Lisa Sharon Harper: See, that is what I appreciate about what you have done, and we’re gonna talk more. I’m gonna, you know, brag on your book in a little bit but before I brag, let me just say, it is a very rare gift to have a book by an actual clinical psychologist that also has such deep knowledge about womanist theology and understandings of the intersections between race and gender and class and all the things, sexuality, everything.
And especially in today’s world, we just really need that. So, I mean, my next question is like, what, what do you mean by “sacred self-care” as opposed to just “self-care” and why now?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. So self-care has really become this sort of commodified, commercialized concept, right? So [00:20:00] now you can see commercials that tell you, you know, self-care is about buying a particular product, right?
Mm-hmm. And as I kept trying to teach people about self-care, I was always running into this, is this selfish? Right. And women especially are always asking the question, isn’t this selfish actually activist?
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s true. Yeah. Wait, wait, wait. Before you go forward. I think some people are gonna need to have a distinct, they’re gonna need you to break that down.
Why womanist as opposed to, ’cause I, well, let me just say, I, I learned for the first time recently that the difference, a key difference between feminists and womanists is that feminists do think more about the self. I mean, the goal is to go forward as the self, but a womanist is really about moving the entire community forward.
It’s more collective. Is that right?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes. Yes. And that’s really… And that’s really a lot of black women. And the, the term womanist was term was coined by Alice Walker and she talks about we’re committed to the survival of [00:21:00] all people. Right? And she used, you know, male and female, but she also used across the racial spectrum, right?
And so that even though we ground our perspective in the stories of black women, where they’re using black women’s lives as our center, the idea is that if we focus on black women, because black women are caregivers for so many people, and we always bring our whole networks with us, that we’re actually then caring for everybody.
And so it’s this way of being communal care. So sacred self-care is very womanist because it’s not just about me and myself. Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow, that’s really good.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. It’s about, that’s really good. The people I’m in relationship with. Right. And it’s understanding that those relationships and those people, Are actually part of my self-care because I’m created to be in community and in relationship with other people.
So that’s the… [00:22:00] I think that is the fundamental… what distinguishes this from other ways that people talk about self-care.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So good. And can I just say like, so, uh, I feel like I wanna jump to the end when I’m like recommending this book to everybody and how they should be using it, but I’ll just, I’ll give you a little forecast, a foretaste here.
I think every church should be using this book.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Well, thank you!
Lisa Sharon Harper: As a discipleship tool, I’m very serious. And now that I, it’s very clear, this secret piece being collective, this is about the community. Um, it’s about understanding self-care in the context of community and in the context of a network of relationships.
What a beautiful. I don’t even know if it’s just an addition. It might be a corrective, quite honestly, from the typical self-care books that we typically use in our discipleship, you know? When we talk about Sabbath or when we talk about prayer, we talk about all these things.
They’ve [00:23:00] been, they’ve been sketched for us by white men usually. And as such, or even white women, and they tend as such to be very individualistic in their scope. It’s about me. And how I get, how I care for myself. But, so I can’t wait to dive in and actually figure, find out from you.
Like, okay, so how is this different with the community? And why now? Why, why now?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Why now? Because I think so many of us are hurting. And I think the, the stresses of our lives especially in a lot of activist spaces and a lot of congregational leadership spaces, right? That we’re seeing burnout at these, these massive levels, right?
We’re seeing high levels of trauma. And so I think we just need to do something different, right? And there it seems like the… and the earth! the [00:24:00] earth is literally suffering under the weight of our busyness and of our always trying to achieve more and consume more, right? And so there’s a way in which if we could care for ourselves, we could care for the Earth better too, right? If we rest, the earth gets to rest, right? That like, in the real sense of Sabbath, right? And show right. If we slow down right, then the earth gets to breathe a little bit more as well. And so I think there’s a, there we are at a real crossroads I think in American history and human history where we need to do something different.
And the different can’t be becoming more individualistic. It has to be in some way learning to focus. Like not trying to run from ourself, but learning to focus. But in this way, that is very much tied into who has God created us to be.[00:25:00]
Lisa Sharon Harper: These are our stories. You’re listening to the Freedom Road Podcast, where we bring you stories from the front lines. Of the struggle for justice.
All right, so Chanequa, what do you think gets in the way of us taking care of ourselves the most?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I think in a lot of ways. So I will say, I do really frame this from the perspective of women and girls, right? People who are socialized as girls and as women, that for us in particular, we are conditioned from a very early age to be other-focused.
And I actually think boys and men are also socialized, but it’s in a different way, right? Boys and men are socialized to think, not themselves, but the external world, and how am I going to conquer [00:26:00] the external world, right? Girls and women are socialized not for ourselves, but how am I going to take care of the other people, especially the male figures, as they conquer the external world?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And you can layer, then, other aspects of our identity onto that. So, you know, some of us, that gets heightened because of race, because of sexuality, because of class, because of immigration status, right? There are all these different ways that we learn not to think about who we are. And not to focus on our bodies and our bodies’ needs. Right?
Instead, especially as Christians, we have this really sort of negative relationship with our bodies. We think of our bodies as bad.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right? As sinful, the flesh. Right. And so much of our discipleship is oriented towards trying to transcend the body. So we ignore the body, we suppress the body, and repress the [00:27:00] body.
Right? But we are embodied, right? God doesn’t create us without bodies. Like none of us are like disembodied spirits just floating. We are bodies. Our humanly life is experienced.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: In the body, right? And so for me it’s no, not suppress the body, but actually learn to pay attention to this body.
What, what is, what am how? Because this is how I experience God. This is how I experience other people, is through the body. So then how do I learn to pay attention to my body and what it’s saying? And of course this comes out of my own health journey as somebody who’s dealt with chronic illness and cancer for the past 20-years, different chronic illnesses and a two-time breast cancer survivor.
And a lot of this I think was because being a good student and a good girl, right? A good southern girl, a good Christian, I really learned. [00:28:00] Don’t pay attention to that urge. Don’t pay attention. Like, you know, you get a PhD by learning to sit your butt in the seat and work for long periods of time.
And so what if I’m feeling a little pain right there, because maybe I need to get up, ignore that, right? So what if I need to go eat something healthy or I need to ex… ignore that I gotta get the work done, right? And so, wow, learning how to come back and be whole for me is about embodiment. But again, recognizing that my body was not created in a vacuum. It’s created to be in relationship with other bodies; it’s created to be in relationship with the earth, right?
And so how then do I come back into the body that God created and gave me, and then honor that body as this is the first gift, the first and best gift that I’ve ever been given by God, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper:Yes.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: How do I care for that?
Lisa Sharon Harper: You know, I’m [00:29:00] really, I’m just really struck by this I’m remembering a conversation I had with Ruby Sales about Fortune, actually.
And she, ’cause I had, in my first chapter, maybe it was the introduction, I had talked about, you know, the, the subjugation of black bodies. And I mentioned, I had that phrase several times in the book, and she said, Lisa, why are you always focused on the bodies and not like the whole person? And I think that part of the, I never had an answer for that before, but as I’m listening to you, I think it was because of my evangelical upbringing in the faith. Like I came to faith in an evangelical context at 14 years old, which is very impressionable. Right? And then so all the way through high school, all the way through college, all the way through my young adult years and pretty much most of my, actually all of my thirties as well, like I was very, very deep into white evangelical world.
And in that world, Paul is [00:30:00] the king, right?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: And Paul is very much shaped by his Roman, a Greco-Roman western cultural thought, which is quite ironic ’cause he is Hebrew, he is actually, you know, a Jewish person. But, um, his, so his, his home culture is Hebrew, but he’s very much Roman by culture.
And, and that means that he’s very dualistic. Yes. Hello? Yes. So he has, he has divided the body and the soul. And I never really understood why like, What’s bad about that? What is, and how could that be bad? Paul does it in the scripture. I mean, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with the fact that Paul divides the body and the soul?
And so I know I’m kind of going all over the place here, but here’s, here’s where I’m going with this. I realized a few years back, maybe about two or three years ago in the middle of the pandemic that I had been living as if I had no body.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right? [00:31:00] Like I was dragging my body behind me to all the different speaking events and you know, marches and jail and all that.
I mean, I was living as if I had no body. And then I was surprised when my body started breaking down on me. You know? And like I start, can’t get out of, literally, it hurt to get out of bed. And then I found out that I was severely vitamin D deficient, you know, and blah, blah, blah. And so I think that if Paul had been a little healthier, maybe I would’ve been too.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: How do you, how do you deal with Paul? How do you deal with that?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, I, you know, I think even the way you just framed Paul as being this, this Hebrew who is living under this Greco-Roman colonization, right? And it makes me think of it and you know, inter like, oh, that’s internalized oppression, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper:Yes.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: It’s when you take on the oppressive worldview as your own. And I think that in some [00:32:00] way is part of what we’re seeing with, with Paul at, at times. Mm-hmm. And to me, there are other scriptural stories, so I’m always, you know, okay. So yes, there’s this one part, but is there something else in scripture?
For me, the incarnation is another way of thinking about the body. Right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. That’s good!
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: When I went to seminary, Yeah. When I went to seminary, I, like a lot of people, I kind of thought of Jesus as half man, half God. Right? And, and what you could do in scripture is you could kind of pinpoint, okay, that’s his human side talking.
Okay. No, that’s his divine side talking. And I think within the first, I don’t know, week of church history and theology, we learn that’s not the way to think of this. Right. Jesus is one unitary being, there is no division between the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I think that gives us a powerful and, you know, way of thinking, this kind of corrective to this [00:33:00] dualism is thinking, no, Jesus at all times in heavenly existence was embodied. Right?
The earthly existence was embodied the entire time. Right. The disciples experienced him in the body. He experienced life as a human being in the body. Could have done it the other way, but did it in the body. Right? And, and Jesus is so attentive to the needs of the body, right? The miracles, a lot of the miracles are about what?
The body, it’s feeding people, healing people. Right? He was so concerned with our bodily existence. And so I think for us to recognize that we also can be concerned with our bodily existence, right? The way our bodies work is how we’re designed to work, right? Like our bodies are designed to need water.
That is part of God’s intention for our bodies, right? This thing, vitamin D, the [00:34:00] fact that the sun gives us vitamin D.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh, yes. And it’s from the fact that we are at least I am working indoors most of the time, not getting out and getting sun. In fact, I don’t know. Well, I know that part of it for people of African descent has to do with the amount of melanin in our skin that kind of wards off the vitamin D, right?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So we have to get more sun in order to have more of it from the sun.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: But then we end up not getting as much because we are so. Such work. Horses Yes. Have been trained to be such workhorses.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes. Especially women. And we’re so disconnected from nature. Right. So again, um, when, when I think about the complexity of the human body, I, it, I am always just brought to a point of awe and wonder and worship. Right?
Like the elimination system. Right? This, this the intricacy where God thought you’re gonna take things in, you need to get stuff out. Right. [00:35:00] Think about that. That’s true. Our bodies are miracles, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: So, yeah. So instead, so we don’t need to kind of distance ourself from that. Instead appreciate the miracle.
Mm-hmm. Right. Like to appreciate the miracle and, and again, those connections, right. Um, the fact that touch loving touch releases endorphins for us, right? Like that again we are designed to be in relationship. Right? We are designed literally to need it. And we know that if we don’t get good relationships, if we don’t get, there are all these negative consequences that happen from not tending to, to the body. So, um, yeah. So I think those are ways in which we can begin to think differently, uh, about the body. Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So I really love how you’ve structured this [00:36:00] book. You know, you move from an introduction to the fundamentals of Sacred Self-Care into several deep dives on particular aspects.
Sacred self-care. Um, I love that you take a week-long dive right on each of these different aspects boundaries. I mean, I remember when I studied boundaries for the very first time in the 1990s, it was such a new concept in my circles, I think for many people. And it was really foundational.
It became foundational to what it looks like and what is necessary to have a healthy faith life. Right? So another week you’re, you’re doing a deep dive on caring for our emotional selves and a whole ‘nother week it’s on caring for our minds. And I just, it struck me, this is all really essential stuff.
I mean, this is not. This is not actually a fluff devotional, actually. You’ve structured it like a devotional, but you, what I see, I see you, I see you, Dr. Chanequa. You are actually discipling the next generation. That’s what you’re doing [00:37:00] here and you’re giving them and like the operating instructions on how to do the Christian faith in a way that is healthy and leads to flourishing.
So I wanna know, when did you kind of realize that this book was needed? You know, like when did you realize that? The next generations need this book.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, I say that this book is really a primer on self-care that’s just written in a devotional format, right? And this started, um, really as an exercise on social media that I was doing in 2021.
I was actually working on another book at this time. At the time, it was sort of a follow up to I Bring the Voices of my People. It was looking at the stress of racial justice work and how, how we cope with the stress. Of course, this is in the midst of the pandemic, right? The pandemic has happened, and it was around February, 2021.
We’re approaching Lent, [00:38:00] I’m starting to give thought to what am I gonna give up this year? And I think, I mean, well I’ve given up a lot already, right? Like we’ve all collectively given up a lot this year. And I began to realize that another practice that I’ve often used for Lent is taking on something instead of giving up.
And I thought this seems like another year where I think I need to take on: where I need to take on something that’s nurturing and that’s life-giving rather than giving up something as my discipline. And as I began to kind of pay attention to other people talking about this, I thought maybe I should invite people into my practice, right?
Like, let me find a way to invite people into what I’m doing. So I started an Instagram challenge. Onm you know, self-care. It was a Lenten self-care challenge that I did in 2021. And I began to say, let me just think about how I would teach [00:39:00] self-care to people, right? And each week we’re just gonna focus on a different thing.
And about halfway through the challenge another colleague in ministry a sister, she reached out to me, she said, you know, this is a book, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And I thought, yeah, I think this, yeah. And I was, I also found that the writing aspect of it was really challenging for me, right? Because Instagram, you only get so many characters.
That’s right. And so for me it was, how do I give substance, right? How do I give substance? And this finite amount of characters each day.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s good.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And I really begin to enjoy that element of, of the writing. Right. Um, and learning. Yeah. So break it down, get out of your way. Get rid of all the, you know, some days I write these long things and I’m like, I gotta get rid of half of this.
Yes. How do [00:40:00] I get to the point and how do I break down? Some of these concepts are more complex. How do I break that down? And then also, again, this is the therapist in me. What’s the resistance? Right? People often know what they should do, right? They, we… A lot of us know, if you ask people, “What does it mean to be healthy?” we can rattle off the right things.
The issue is the resistance. So the question then is, why don’t we do those things? That’s good. And so I begin to frame this around what gets in our way. We don’t have good boundaries.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right, right, right.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: We think our emotions are the enemy of our logic, and so we wanna repress those just like we wanna repress the body. Right? We don’t know how to cultivate attentiveness to ourselves. So that’s the mindfulness part of it, right. That, so I begin to just really say, I’m gonna focus the book on, not so much this is what it means to be healthy, [00:41:00] but these are the hurdles we have to get over in order to practice the self-care that we need.
Lisa Sharon Harper: I love that. I really love that. What was the hardest section for you to write?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Well, the hardest section for me to write…
Lisa Sharon Harper: Was it boundaries? Was it the emotional life or the mind? Or was it the introduction?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: You know, I think it was actually in a lot of ways it was that first part about framing self-care. And I think that’s when I began to realize that this is discipleship. Right? And that part of the writing was, and I think in some ways still is intimidating because I realized that what I was doing in writing about self-care and trying to, you know, that first week is really sort of giving a theology of self-care. And in some ways me thinking, but who am I to do this? Right? [00:42:00]
Lisa Sharon Harper: I feel that every single time I sit down to write a book, I mean, I literally get to the first page and it’s blank and I’m going, what was I thinking?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right? I’m not a systematic theologian like, who am I to sit and say? And yeah. And so that was hard. And then the other part that was…
Lisa Sharon Harper: But you’re a theologian.
I just wanna say… who are you? You’re Chanequa Walker-Barnes, who has lived some life and done your homework, and that’s who you are to be able to speak into this. I’m just saying.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. Thank you. And in some ways, oh, the, the scriptures and the hymns…Were very difficult because I wanted this, so when I did the original challenge, it didn’t have explicit scripture, right?
Every day. It was just, here are my thoughts on these topics. But for the book, I really did wanna ground it in, in scripture. I wanted to connect it, I wanted to feel like a devotional and connect it to our Christian tradition more explicitly.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So good. [00:43:00]
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And the reality is scripture doesn’t talk about self-care a whole lot.
Like that term isn’t a scriptural term. Right? And some of the things I’m talking about here, well, they’re not explicitly mentioned in scripture. So for me to find what are ways that scripture can speak to self-care and speak to these topics, and then what resources do we have in the Christian tradition, in our hymnals that also can bolster the teachings that I’m trying to communicate here?
And so that was, that probably was one of the hardest things, but so fulfilling for me too. It forced me to look at scripture in different ways, to be more imaginative, more creative, and really to do a deep dive, just to start reading and searching and comparing. And, I mean, I was in some of those old commentaries and Strongs, my Strongs concordance got used more for this.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh, [00:44:00]
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes. I was pulling back those old, like the first, the first reference tools I bought Right on the Bible. Like, okay, I gotta go back to the old school stuff for this. We are
Lisa Sharon Harper: doing some study here. This is like, we’re, we’re diving in.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes, exactly.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes. Yeah. It’s so good. So what was the most live chapter for you to write?
Like live in terms of as you were writing God’s working it out in your own life?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Oh goodness. Is there a particular chapter?
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s like all of them.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: All of them, right. I think, you know, every time I write something, Lisa, I feel like God uses my own life as an object lesson. Right. And God and I have conversations about this because I really don’t like it.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It just feels so vulnerable. Right?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, I think for me the part around boundaries in a lot of ways. Yeah. Still, even though it’s something that [00:45:00] I work on. Mm-hmm. But to really, because, you know, the tricky thing about boundaries is that boundaries aren’t good, boundaries aren’t bad. Right? They’re not by themselves inherently good or bad. There’s a real nuance in art to getting good boundaries. So yeah, healthy boundaries for me to try to, yes, for me to try to articulate. It’s not just put up walls. That’s not what we mean with boundaries, but really what is a good B, what is a good boundary, right?
And how do I, how do I express that? But then also practicing that, that turns out to be one of the most difficult things over and over again, that I have realized. Right? Like, you don’t just, you don’t do a boundary once, right? Oh, and a lot of that just came from me practicing and then reflecting on practice, right?
Like, I just put up a boundary, that person, why did I have to do it again? And again. Oh, I mean, like, okay. So it is not just do it one time. It’s I have to do it multiple times.
Lisa Sharon Harper: You [00:46:00] gotta own it. You have to own it.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. And so I think for me to pay attention to that process as it was happening in my own life and then try to write about it was one of the hardest things.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Mmm! I feel that. Yeah. Okay. Last question of this segment. So which chapter do you think speaks most to the needs of Gen Xers right now? That’s people like, are you a Gen Xer or are you millennial?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I’m a Gen Xer.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Okay. So Me too. Yeah. We’re Gen Xers, you know, we are the Breakfast Club generation. The Reality Bites generation, hip hop generation, mind you. But which chapter do you think would speak most to us? And then I’m gonna ask you about millennials and Gen Zs separately.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: You know, maybe, maybe the self-compassion part chapter, that section. Because I [00:47:00] think Gen Xers tend to be very pragmatic in a lot of ways, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yep, yep.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And I, I often think of us as we are the generation who experienced both the hope and the failure of prior movements.
Lisa Sharon Harper: You are messing now, what? Wow. That is so true. Yeah. You know, can I just… so hold that thought? Yeah. I just wanna add this one thing and then ask you to move that forward.
The boomers before us straddled two worlds, right? The boomers before us began their childhood in the world where segregation was legislated in the norm. And then they moved from their childhood into their adulthood in a post segregated world, which is… Can you imagine that? Like, that’s their experience of the world.
They also experienced this, [00:48:00] this like one foot over here and one foot over there. But I never thought of Xers as doing that in some way too. So now move forward with your thought. Like, can you go a little, explain that?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. Yeah. So I think part of that is, you know, um, I think of me being born right in the, the, you know, the tail end of the civil rights book.
So much hope, right? The world is your oyster. You’re gonna be able to do anything, right? And then we begin to see, oh wait, it’s not working. And, and very quickly, as you know, the eighties are coming in. We have, um, the rise of gangs, of, of drugs and the drug wars, right? We have this, um, the, you know, kind of Reaganomics.
We have all these in this, this shift towards this conservative way. What happened to everything, the Cold War, right? So we go from like we I think we lurched very quickly from one crisis to another, and we saw this. So I think because of that, we can tend to be a very cynical [00:49:00] generation.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That is so true. That’s why we are the reality bites generation. It’s really true.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: We’re so, we’re like, whatever.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Then we emote, we love to emote.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Exactly. We can be that way towards each other. We can be that way towards ourselves, right? And I think there’s some ways, you know, we talk about ourselves as like we were the most overlooked generation, the latchkey kid era, right?
A lot of us have learned how to take care of our emotions and sort by really not taking care of our emotions, right? We lived with a lot of fear, but we… it was during a time where we weren’t encouraged to talk about that fear. I used to drive around when we wrote, when I rode around my mom, I would look for bomb shelters, Lisa.
I was constantly looking for bomb shelter signs because I just thought, yeah, nuclear war is gonna happen any minute now. I remember that. I’ve gotta know where to go.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right? I need to know, wherever we are in the [00:50:00] city, I need to be able to say there’s a bomb shelter. I, I lived with that and I think about that now, right?
Oh, about that. I lived with that. I never told my mom. I was doing that. I never told her. I was living with that fear. And I think a lot of us could have similar stories where we had these emotions, but we were living in a world that didn’t know how to deal with that. And so…
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s true. There was no language for it.
There was no language for it. Even the whole psychological movement, everybody has a, has a shrink, didn’t come till the nineties. Right. I mean, that was the nineties. We were already full grown adults at that point.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. Yeah. That’s deep. And so we often don’t know how to, we’re we’re, we’re such a just, you know, pull up your big girl panties, you know, generation like that’s us.
That we often don’t know how to say it’s okay to be softer. It’s okay to feel vulnerable. It’s okay to feel like I have needs in this moment, and I can pay attention to that. So that is the chapter on, [00:51:00] or the week, I think of the weeks as the chapters on self-compassion.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh, right.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: So that, um mm-hmm. That, and it’s really the third practicing self-compassion, right? Yeah. Where we, start talking about, you know, our internal language to ourselves, right. The inner critic. Right. Um, all the ways that we try to measure ourselves up to what we’re supposed to be doing. Yeah, ’cause there’s a lot of that because we had to learn how to be such a self-contained generation. We were also the ones who the social fabric was sort of tearing away those old neighborhoods that took care of everybody. Right? Because we were now moving out of these segregated communities. And so we didn’t have that sort…
And so there are ways in which we didn’t learn to… ’cause we had, didn’t have it modeled for us really how to care for ourselves well.[00:52:00]
Lisa Sharon Harper: Walking Freedom Roads from coast to coast and around the globe. This is the Freedom Road podcast.
Now, Chanequa, coming back to that question, what do you think is gonna be the most impactful chapter for millennials, do you think?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Oh, millennials. So millennials are very different because they are the these are my needs. Right.
They, they know, I know my need.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So true.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. It’s been, yeah, and I’m, and I’m my first priority and, I think for them, oh, wow, let’s see this, it seems…
Lisa Sharon Harper: like they kind of like, When we started to realize what we were doing and not meeting our needs, we kind of overcorrected [00:53:00] and like it, you know, it was… acculturated, um, I don’t know if that’s the right word. Millennials now have all of the weaknesses that we didn’t have.
They have it as strengths, like those are their strengths. Yeah. That’s deep. Okay.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah, and I think some of the stuff that for millennials that might be more of a challenge might be in terms of connecting with other people.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. Right.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: And so the power of relationships, right? And so the idea that your self-care isn’t just about you.
But it’s also about other, and that you actually do need other people, right? So it’s not just about I’m, you’re not just the self-contained and I’m just gonna live my best life. And, yeah, I think maybe millennials, they’re also that part of that, the, the talk show era, right? Like there’s sort of Absolutely.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Everybody’s a host, everybody’s a host of a talk show, whether it’s, whether you’re, you know, Oprah [00:54:00] or you have your own Instagram thing, like, you know. Yes, yes, yes. Everybody, yes. Okay. So, which, which chapter speaks to that? Is gonna speak to that.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: So yeah, I think, let’s see which chapter. And that’s a theme that comes through a couple ways, but I think especially when you get into the self-care fundamentals and the power of relationships, the healing power of relationships, I think will be really helpful for millennials in recognizing yeah, that relationships matter.
And that we carry people with us, right. And people carry us.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s exactly right. And what did you say earlier? The self-care journey from a womanist perspective is a collective journey. Yeah. You can’t do it without the collective. Yeah. So if you’re not connected to the collective, then you are actually in many ways like short circuiting your freedom. Yeah. Short [00:55:00] circuiting your liberation. Yeah. How about Gen Zs?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Ooh, gen Z is, is is tricky. Um, and so I have to think, my son’s a gen zr. Ooh, okay. Um,
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right, son. Yeah. They are, they, they are more complex, but I’ve heard that they’re much more like us than, than actually the millennials that they have, us as in Gen Xers, they have a more, um, there’s a groundedness to them.
Yes. That is, you know, not trying to be famous. It’s really not about the fame, it’s truly about what works. But they lack the jadedness of the Gen Xers. Yes. Maybe because they’re young, they’re young enough that they haven’t gotten that yet.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right, right. Um, I think for them, what might really resonate with them is the section on, um, honoring your emotions.
Ah, I think, I think Gen Zs are very emotional, [00:56:00] right? And in some ways they’ve been taught to pay a lot of attention to their emotions, but sometimes they actually don’t know how to… like, how can I pay attention to these emotions in ways that I don’t just kind of wallow in them. Right?
But again, this balance between, okay, I recognize that this is fear, and now what do I do with that? Right. As opposed to, well, I’m afraid and that’s all that matters. Which is, I think sort of the, you know, the, the emotions get to, um, kind of run the show. As opposed to sort of being aware of our emotions and saying, okay, emotions are energy and this is telling me something about my needs right now.
And let me pay attention to that and let me see how I can… I don’t wanna use the word productive ’cause that has a lot of capitalist notions. But how are ways that I can allow this emotion to, to move through [00:57:00] me and experience it without necessarily controlling me? Because I do think they tend to be maybe almost too in touch with their emotions, right?
Like, yeah, I’m having a bad day and therefore it’s only gonna be a bad day. But what does it mean that you’re having a bad day? Right? What, what exactly does that feel like? Right? They’re also the, I’m feeling some kind of way generation.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah, that’s true.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: So, no name that, like what’s the kind of way
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s exactly right.
Yeah. You know, wait, lemme just say what I hear you naming and you know, for Gen Zs who are listening, um, feel free to, to thread at me. Don’t tweet at me ’cause I’m not gonna answer you. But thread at me, thread to me and or thread to us and, and help us, you know, if we’re getting it right, let us know that.
Or if we’re not, if we’re off-base, then let us know that too. But what I’m hearing you say, Dr. Chanequa, is that, that, that the Gen Z generation is very much in touch with the fact that they’re feeling emotions, and they might even be in touch with which emotions they’re [00:58:00] feeling. But, and I have seen this as well, there tends to be kind of a deification of the emotion.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So the emotion takes over and becomes the arbiter of truth.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes:Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: When that is not actually the way that emotions work. Right. Um, emotions can tell us. What if we’re in danger or if, if we’re experiencing something that we like or whatever. Mm-hmm. But it’s not necessarily supposed to be the thing that shapes or defines rather reality.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It can shape it, but doesn’t define it. Right. Talk to that.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. So emotions, you know, I, I talk about them as they are partners to our reason, our logic, our embodiment. Right. So that when we use them together is when they help us to make sense of the world. Right. That’s good. Not rather than just saying, let the emotion run with it, but no.
Okay. So yeah, I’m, I’m feeling something in my gut when I have this, what is that telling me? But we’re using that information [00:59:00] together. Right. Also recognizing that sometimes our emotions lie to us.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right. That’s right.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: So, yeah, sometimes our emotions tell us we’re in danger when we’re not. And so it’s, again, it’s learning how to investigate the emotion and just approach it and say, Okay.
But also the fact that we have a little bit of, um, we do have a little bit of control over our emotional experience. And so I talk about cultivating particular emotions. So we’re gonna honor the negative emotions and be aware of them, but there are ways we can cultivate positive experience. So we don’t have to let the fact that I’m having a bad day, right? I woke up feeling a certain way. That doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It can be, you know what? I think I also need to incorporate some laughter into my day. Some play into my day, right?
Let me do that intentionally. And so I think that could also be helpful, this idea that yes, emotions that are existent, they tell us information, [01:00:00] and we have influence over them.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. Okay. So I remember how hard that we ran during the 2020 election season, and it felt like a massive marathon. I mean, we’re coming into an election year right now. Yes. Right. So we’re literally over halfway there to election year 2024. And it’s gonna be just as if not more intense.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: You know, you’ve heard it said, and I’m sure everybody’s heard it said, this is the most important election of your lifetime. Well, that is true, and it’s gonna be the case every single election for the next several, several rounds, right? Every last one is gonna be the most important one because the forces that are trying to, um, whittle away at our democracy are not shrinking back.
They are fighting, and they are coming back. They’re coming back hard each time. So, you know, I feel like this summer and this fall, our kind of our last opportunity to take a breath before we like, go under the water and start [01:01:00] swimming hard, you know, or maybe another all these analogies start running.
But how do we enter into the 2024 election season in a way that doesn’t burn us out. ’cause I honestly feel like I got burned out in 2020. Like, I finished that marathon and I think it took me a whole year to even get up off the couch after that.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Wow.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It was so hard. How do we pace ourselves?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. So I think first it’s the awareness that we’re going into the difficult season, right?
Um, yes. I have a, I have a, one of the chapters is Anticipate the Hard. Yeah, I saw that. Oh my. And so, um, recognizing when there are hard seasons. So an election season is a hard one, and we know it’s not gonna wait until 2024. Right. It’ll be kicking up. I mean, starting to kick up now. Now, right. It’s starting now.
And every, every election cycle, it starts sooner. Right. So, recognizing. It’s coming, right? [01:02:00] There’s gonna be an onslaught. So when we begin to recognize it’s coming, then we say, okay, what am I going to need? Right? What am I going to need to get through this season? How is this going to impact how I operate each day?
Right? And so for folks who do a lot of political organizing, it may mean, you know, you have less time to prepare meals. So then how do I make sure that I’m going to get healthy meals during a season when I have less time to maybe grocery shop or prep? Right? So identifying those resources, right?
Also, where can I build in breaks?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Build them in now.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Build them in now. That’s good. Don’t wait and say, I’m gonna wait till I get to the point where I need it. No, just build it in. Right. And part of
Lisa Sharon Harper: And then take them, actually do it, and then take them, right? Yeah. I’m the kind of person who builds it in and then doesn’t do it.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Right. Right. So, right. But to build it in and do it. And, and this is critical [01:03:00] to our organizing and, and activism because it actually helps to reinforce the idea that we are part of a collective movement. That the movements are not about us. Right? So if we built in, I’ve got a retreat that I’m going to in the midst of this busy season, and I’m gonna go on retreat, and guess what?
The world keeps spinning. The work keeps moving forward because we all need to be able to take turns. Right? And this is the other part of the collective act, you know, self-care, especially for activists. The idea is that, you’re gonna tap out. I’m gonna step in. And then eventually you’re gonna come back in and somebody else is gonna tap out for a while. Right?
But we’re gonna keep the work going because it’s not just individual work. So I think looking forward to that and knowing what is it that you need, no paying attention. How did it affect you last time? Hmm? What did you give up? What did you lose? What, what, what were your self-care disciplines that just [01:04:00] disappeared and what was the impact of that?
Know what you need and then say, okay, what supports do I need? What accountability partners do I need? Who’s going to be checking in with me to make sure that I’m doing what I need to be doing? How do I need to structure my life so that I can, I can do that work, right? When I’m traveling, can I still exercise? Right?
Can I still… what does it take for me to be able to meditate and to pray in the midst of these busy seasons? And so those are some of the ways that we, but begin to think about it before it’s coming. ’cause you know it’s coming. And then also in the aftermath, how will you, how will you recuperate?
So sometimes I have times, like, especially, you know, the academic year is predictable. I know what my hard times are going to be. There are times where, yeah, I’m going to, some self-care stuff is just gonna get put to the side. I’m gonna have to do it to get through what is the [01:05:00] point at which I recover.
Right? And so I say, okay, so I’m gonna get through… I’m gonna get through commencement the week after commencement, I take a break, right? And so sometimes it’s just anticipating where it’s coming and building in recovery time after that as opposed to just running on to, to the next thing.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s so good.
And I mean, I love that particularly, I mean, look everybody here on Freedom Road today. Your homework is to go take a look at your calendar going into the fall, and for those of you who are like me, who are a little bit like, you know, you’re already planning into 2024, go take a look at your calendar in 2024.
And now, right now, today, yes. Think about when you can take your vacations in 2024. Think about when you can do your retreats of silence, if that is something that you do. I know that I aspire to that every year and next year I’m gonna do it. Actually, let’s go this way. This year I’m gonna do it.
I mean, going into… [01:06:00] and maybe even this summer I’ll do it, but like, what’s your rhythm of life going to be? Rhythm it in. Now put that stuff in as the pillars, right? Is that, is that…
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes, that’s really what it is. Yes, absolutely. It’s, absolutely. And use your cal… you know, for me, ’cause I use my calendar, so block out times, right?
And just put in there now that you’re not available, because if you don’t block it out, you’ll just start scheduling things into it. You’ll, you know, if you just say, I’m gonna take that third week of June, but you don’t block it on the calendar, then next thing you know you’re adding things into it and the whole week has flown, right?
So yeah, that’s, yeah, go ahead and just block the time out. Now you can also do that weekly. Right. Like your, you know, I, I’ve done it before where like my gym time was in the schedule, my writing time, it’s in the schedule, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes, me too.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I have raised where I know this is my time and I put it in there because otherwise I’ll stick a doctor’s appointment in there.
I’ll stick a meeting in there, right? But so then [01:07:00] protect that time and figure out ways that you can do that. That’s also a way that you can bring other people in your life along with you. Because you can prepare them for it. I get moms often asking, how do I do this with young kids? I say, bring them with you.
Help them be your advocates. Right? So mommy really needs to take this time at this hour I’m supposed to be doing this thing. Can you make sure that I’m doing it right? Kids love that, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s so good.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. They wanna boss adults around. They wanna say, mommy, you’re supposed to be doing this. Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: I love that.
I love it. And it’s, it literally is again, bringing the collective, making it a collective effort.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes. Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Okay, so last question. I can imagine, this is actually going back to what I said earlier, um, in our conversation, I can imagine churches using Sacred Self-Care, your book as a basic foundational book for discipleship.
That is my goal for your book.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Oh, wow.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That it would become one of those books that, you know, [01:08:00] just like Rule of Life or I don’t know, you know, you choose it just… the spiritual disciplines or Fosters prayer that they would be using sacred self-care as a basic book for discipleship, not just black folk.
Everybody. Right. So everybody, yeah. And I love that because you actually really have written it toward everybody. As a womanist you would do that. So I wanna know, how do you hope it will be used?
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: I think in very many of the same ways. I’m, I’m almost scared to claim that as a hope for myself, but
Lisa Sharon Harper: You gotta put it out there.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: The more I wrote this book, the more I thought, this is sort of a book on how to be a human, right? Yes. Right. How to be a human, especially in terms of the Christian life. I do, I wanted to transform congregations. I wanted to, to [01:09:00] transform clergy. Right? I teach, I teach seminary students about self-care, and I always tell them, take your congregations with you.
When they say, there’s no way I’m gonna have time for this. And I say, it’s because you’re not teaching the people to do it for themselves. If you teach the people to do it for themselves, they will support you doing it for yourself. Wow. Absolutely. Right? And so I think, yeah, my hope is that yes, this will be part of Christian life.
I think every book I write, every time I write a book, I’m like, this is the, the most important one. But in many ways, I feel like this is the most important one. The thing I say to myself that I haven’t said out loud to other people is I write this book to save lives.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Ooh. Yes.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah. And that’s really, that’s really what I wanted to do.
So from whether it is congregational pastors, it’s the members of [01:10:00] congregations, um, activists, right. I want this book to save lives. And I think that if we learn to handle ourselves well and care for ourselves and each other’s selves well, I think it could be transformational in our world. Um, yeah.
So I think to me, a lot of this is the heart of the gospel and increasingly, I think it is the heart of what Christian discipleship ought to be about, right? Not so much, you know, who can do what and who can’t do what, and, but really what does, what does life my day-to-day life look like? If I accept that I am created in the image of God and so are you.
Lisa Sharon Harper:Yes. Wow.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: What does that look like?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. You know, can I just say that, I mean, one of the reasons why the word [01:11:00] discipleship floated to the top for me is that, you know, in my evangelical world, experience, like discipleship was a real thing. People actually asked people to, “Hey, I would like to disciple you. Would you be up for being discipled?”
In other words, mentored. But it’s even more intense, right? It’s like a, it’s like a. Coming alongside living life with somebody and passing on all the goods that you have gotten for them so that they won’t have to learn the hard way, the way that you learned.
And they’ll be able to kind of build from that and pass on to the next person discipling, right? And I think that that’s a lost art. I don’t see a lot of churches doing a lot of discipleship. Yeah. Right now we do a lot of fill-in-the-blanks. We do a lot of worship coming around and singing the Hillsong, you know, the songs and all of that. Going to concerts.
We could do a lot of, even a lot of protesting quite honestly, you know, like quote justice churches. But I’m not really sure [01:12:00] how many of us, of our churches, and this is across the line, not just evangelical everybody, how many of us are actually taking the time to instruct the next generations coming up in the wisdom that the previous generations have gleaned in how to set boundaries.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That are healthy.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: In how to honor your emotions and at the same time not be ruled by them, right.
In all of these things that you talk about and how to have what I used to call and I got from, I can’t remember the author, but just, I’ll just say a fun day, like how to have a day that is just fun and actually see that as a part of the living out of the faith.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Yes.
Lisa Sharon Harper: These are things that were given to me in the context of being discipled. And as I think about younger generations, I am flabbergasted by how many leaders, even [01:13:00] today that I meet, who have never been discipled, they’ve never had anybody walk alongside them and say, this is how, this is how we live the life, um, the, the, the Jesus way in a way that is healthy.
And so that’s why I appreciate your book so much. I just feel like, my God, in one book form, what you really have done is you have given kind of the basics of this is how we live the Jesus Way. Yeah.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes: Thank you so much. That’s my hope. That’s my hope. Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: The conversations leaders have on the road to justice. This is the Freedom Road podcast.
Thank you for joining us today. The Freedom Road Podcast is recorded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and wherever our guests are laying their head that night. This episode was engineered, edited, and produced by Cory Nathan of Scan Media and [01:14:00] executive produced by Freedom Road LLC.
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