My articles for Building Church Leaders are all about caring for your soul, nurturing your relationship with God. I'm convinced that most of us just soldier on, and don't really think about caring for ourselves. We're busy caring for our families, earning a living, leading at church. We care for the people or children we lead, our families, friends, but we back burner our own needs.
Suppose you decided you needed to improve your physical health. How would you do it? Perhaps you'd read a book on diet and exercise, even talk to a personal trainer. Or, you might just decide to skip desserts and go for a walk every day. You know that reading a book or even talking to an expert will only get you so far—you have to put the advice into practice in order to see change.
How is your spiritual health? Can you even tell? Ministry productivity doesn't necessarily equal spiritual health, especially if productivity is the result of working too much or ignoring relationships in order to accomplish tasks. Church attendance isn't necessarily a way to measure spiritual health, although going to church regularly can help us grow.
To improve our spiritual health, then, we must begin with honest assessment: What do we need? Where are things "broken" or unhealthy? What steps would put us back on track?
Spiritual practices like prayer, study, service, worship—all these feed our souls. But so does a practice that seems like a non-practice: rest. It's an interesting soul care strategy, perhaps one we should pay attention to. In the midst of a hectic and productive ministry season, Jesus told his disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Jesus invited his disciples to care for their souls. He is inviting you to the same thing. Perhaps you can't hear him above the din, or you just murmur, "I couldn't possibly …"
I recently went away for a three-day weekend with friends. (In spite of the fact that a little voice in my head said, "I couldn't possibly …") I had time for prayer; time for walks in nature, which fed my soul; time to write; time to sleep. My kids and my husband did not say, "Wow, you look tired. Why don't you go away for the weekend?" Nope. I had to stake out territory for my soul, explain briefly that I would not be available for a few days, and get in the car and go.
Maybe you can't get away for three days. But could you get away for one day? Or an hour? Could you take your lunch hour to simply walk in a park or sit in a library by yourself?
When it comes to taking a day off or even an hour to ourselves, so many times we think, I couldn't possibly do that. People need me. No one will let me.
You're right. No one is going to give you permission, no one is going to dismiss you from your obligations. No one except—you.
How would you complete the sentence, "I couldn't possibly …"?
Now, figure out a way to do the thing you think you can't, but that your soul is longing for. Especially if that means taking time for rest, for solitude, for refreshment: simply taking a break. God calls us to work hard, to give him our best effort. But he also invites us to rest. Are you doing both? If not, what keeps you from taking time to rest?
Keri Wyatt Kent is a speaker and retreat leader, and the author of nine books, including Deeper into the Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament. She is a founding member of Redbud Writers Guild. Connect with Keri and read her blog at keriwyattkent.com.
For further insights into your spiritual health, we encourage you to take our free How Is Your Soul? interactive assessment.