Hey, friend. When did you last take time for soul care?
It’s not a vacation-guilt-trip we’re after here.
But summer is almost over. The ministry year is planned. (Or, maybe you’re really stressed because it’s not!) As one who’s learned the value of taking care of my own soul (and paid the price for not doing it), let me encourage you to get out your calendar & find time. Make time. Cancel something if necessary. We can’t afford not to.
Ruth Haley Barton spoke to a group of leaders in my area a few years ago from her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. A friend and I drove to hear her. I laughed a little too loud and identified all too well as Ruth described her experience with burnout at age 30. Maybe I was the only one in the room who’d also sprinted in her shoes. (I doubt it.) The elbow flying into my ribcage confirmed my friend wanted me to really hear Ruth.
Yes, I listened. Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a lesson I keep learning at deeper heart levels. So how do we find this elusive soul rest? What does soul rest mean to you?
1. Physical nourishment
Sleep is an underrated spiritual discipline. Our local newscast reported this month a recent study has shown 7 hours of sleep to be the new magic number humans require. I think not. (For me, it’s more like 9.) When’s the last time you awakened without the aid of an alarm clock (or another person)?
When’s the last time you savored a meal? Enjoyed physical exercise? Had a massage? The physical and spiritual are connected. Take time to be in tune with your physical condition.
Also known as “margin.” Richard Swenson’s book Margin is a great reminder about the need for whitespace around the black & white “text” of our activity-filled lives. This summer I also discovered Bonnie Gray’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. Bonnie’s questions at the end of each chapter are worth the price of admission for this book. (I also happen to really enjoy Bonnie’s story and applaud her courage in sharing her journey.) Read it, and find your own “whitespace prompts,” invitations to create space in your life for God to work.
I have come to realize how life-giving it is to appreciate the beauty God created in our world. We live in a culture of chaos. War. Death. Pain. Sickness. We are surrounded on every side by the reality of living in a world broken by sin (Romans 8:19-22).
The pain can be oppressive. It colors every interaction. Affects every decision. Getting back to the heart of God becomes a little easier as we take time to appreciate the beauty we do have. (Can you take a trip to the woods? Find a body of water? I hear God more clearly as I'm surrounded by the beauty of nature.) Where do you encounter beauty for your soul?
Draw near to God, and find Him drawing near to you (James 4:8). And if you have trouble hearing Him, find the counsel of a wise friend to refocus you. The guidance of those trusted souls who’ve gone before me provide wisdom when I’ve needed it. The Good & Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith, Invitation to Solitude & Silence by Ruth Haley Barton, and Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning have been helpful companions. I’ve also found it helpful to discuss these books with a trusted friend.
Caring for your soul might seem like a luxury you can’t afford. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As we enter a season of more activity, I pray today that we would experience the love of Christ in a deep way, resting in His unshakable love for us (Ephesians 3:14-19).