The world we live in challenges us now more than ever to discover and embrace Soul Care. After my own crisis and burnout, I quickly discovered that while my life had been quite full, my soul was actually quite empty. I knew God but I had a new longing to be with God. That longing for a life with God took over and I began training as a spiritual director and later as a Holy Yoga Instructor. Like Spiritual Direction, Holy Yoga offers individuals an opportunity to practice being literally in the presence of God. Holy Yoga instructors have the privilege of helping others not simply know God, but to be with God as they care for both their body and their soul.
Unfortunately, we can easily be so busy planning or “doing” ministry that the needs of our own soul become distant and lost. This is true for most individuals in ministry, whatever the ministry may look like. Without a real concentrated effort on care of the soul, we can easily lose sight of our calling and face discouragement and burnout. As a spiritual director, I meet with overworked pastors, stay-at-home parents, and exhausted care givers. There is one common trait for each, God longs for us to spend time with him and to care for the person he created us to be, no matter the demands of our daily life.
Quite often I hear that soul care seems selfish or overrated and is the first to fall away when the demands of everyone else top our lists. But put simply soul care is a mandatory part of being a servant of God. When your soul is on fire, you can not help but live a life with God. So, how do we kindle the fire in our soul?
Dallas Willard said, “the secret for caring for our souls is Practicing the Presence” of God. So how do we not only teach practicing presence but fully live into it? How do we ignite this fire within us and keep it burning? How do we not let the stressors and realities of every day life extinguish the flame?
- Rediscover spiritual disciplines by carving out time and space for sabbath, silence, worship, and prayer. Discover a new discipline or return to a familiar one that fuels your soul. Select one or more for your current season of life and then practice.
- Give yourself grace and space to listen to God. Focus less on the legalism of “I should do this” or “I shouldn’t do that” and simply take time to be with God.
- Take a retreat. Whether it is a structured day in your own community or a weekend away with others, retreating was modeled for us by Jesus.
- Reach out to a spiritual friend. Connect with someone you trust who you can be completely open and honest with and share with them the longings of your soul, then listen for theirs.
- Consider meeting with a spiritual director. A spiritual director is a companion trained to help you recognize God’s activity in your life. If you need resources for finding a spiritual director in your area, click here or contact me with questions.
- And as Dallas Willard reminds us, “Practice Presence” by inviting God into your every day, ordinary, and amazing life: “I always put the Lord in front of me; I will not stumble because he is on my right side. That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety.” (Psalm 16:8-9 CEB)
Soul Care does not mean we cease from activity. It means we care for the very part of us that God created so that we can continue to be his hands and feet in this world. It means that we find greater joy in the tasks of ministry. It means we know God even more intimately and ourselves more deeply. It means we find both our passion and our rest in God. It means we truly are servants of God and our souls are on fire.