Yesterday, I stood in front of a ministry team and asked: "What tends to emerge in the life of a person who neglects his or her soul? What symptoms creep in?"
I explained that no one ever sets out to trash the condition of his soul, and particularly not those of us in vocational ministry. Yet we often find ourselves in a spiritual death spiral—facing ever increasing ministry loads yielding ever diminishing returns. But we march dutifully onward, assuming that our spiritual state, a neglected soul, is somehow part of the "deal" in a life devoted to ministry.
So, I asked, what are the signs of soul neglect? At first the room was silent. Then somebody ventured, "Anxiety," and I knew they got it (not every group does). Once started, their answers came so fast I couldn't write them on the flip chart fast enough.
"Self-absorption," they called out. "Shame," "apathy," "toxic anger," "chronic fatigue," "lack of confidence," "isolation," "sin looks more appealing," "no compassion," "self-oriented," "drivenness," "loss of vision," and "no desire for God." Soon every inch of the page was crammed.
A sad feeling hovered over the room as these leaders, "weary in well doing," saw themselves in the mirror.
Then, with much relief, we turned the page, and I asked: "What emerges in your life when you're deeply connected with God, when your soul is healthy?"
This page also filled up quickly: "love," "joy," "compassion," "giving and receiving grace," "generosity of spirit," "peace," (at this point, some bright bulb usually suggests the entire list of the fruit of the spirit!) "ability to trust," "discernment."
Heads nod in acknowledgement as individuals recall times when this was their experience, too. "Boundlessness," "work coming out of the overflow ...