Soul Care Matters

Live, Love and Lead from a Healthy Soul


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Spotting Soul Depletion

Grab a cup of coffee and join me as I write about the condition of soul depletion.  My hope is thatPlaceholder Image today’s blog will begin to answer some important questions about the health of our souls.

Most of us are familiar with a routine health check but doing a soul check is not as familiar.  Our vital signs give us a snap shot of how well we are doing.

How do we know when our soul is doing well?

How do we know if we are suffering from soul depletion?

Eugene Peterson gives some vital signs of soul depletion and soul health in his paraphrase of Matthew 11: 28-30. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Soul depletion is apparent in us when we lack energy, motivation and joy.  Soul depletion is also evident when we feel tired and burned out on the things we once loved, even the best of things. Living in an ongoing hurried, busy, frantic way with little time to rest or refresh is a fast track to burn out.  This can be seen in overwork, over-responsibility or over achieving but they all lead to the same end.

The picture of soul health is quiet the opposite.  Our souls flourish when we establish  boundaries, live in an intentional rhythm of work and rest and enjoy specific times of refreshment.  Jesus invites us to flourish! He calls to us to do life with him in an unforced way. He promises that when we do life his way, our souls can be free from the relentless stress that leads to a tired, worn-out, burned out condition.

Soul health can slip away very easily for those in leadership.  Leaders are often plagued with demands and expectations and can also be prone to a pursuit of perfection, performance or the praise of people.  All of these deplete the soul. Unless we develop a keen eye to spot these behaviors they can also become unconscious idols we serve.

We recently reflected on the history of our soul health and depletion and found similarities to what is seen in Matthew 11:28-30. From times of transition and change, to periods of stressful productivity in ministry, to facing grief at the death of our mothers, we seemed to be flourishing. Although each situation was very different, what they shared in common is that we had a sense of peace, contentment and even joy.  Why? Because Jesus put nothing ill fitting upon us. In his company, we were able to live free and light regardless of our circumstances.  All was well with our souls!

Soul health is evident when peace, contentment and joy describes the condition of our internal world regardless of our circumstances.

One the other hand soul depletion is very different. When my soul was depleted I had an absence of peace, contentment and joy.   The more depleted my soul became the more I failed to notice the positives around me.  Caught in a hurried, frantic state I made more efforts to please people than God. My need for perfection took precedence over my dependency on God. I grew exhausted and worn out. And  I wasn’t even aware that my soul health was slipping away  little by little.

Soul depletion mirrors a process similar to the erosion of soil.  With erosion, a structure can become unstable little by little over time, and yet the problem goes unnoticed until it hits a critical point.  By the time we notice the erosion of our soul, we can be suffering symptoms of spiritual, emotional or physical burnout.

SIX FEATURES OF SOUL DEPLETION  

Our spiritual practices change. Hurry results in less prayer, avoiding the practice of silence and solitude, the neglect of fellowship and abandoning the Sabbath.

Self-reliance slowly takes the place of trusting God. The failure to set boundaries, make prayerful decisions, take time for restoration and acknowledge our human limitations points to self-reliance. We forget our lives rest on God’s promises not us.

Resilience to manage difficulty slips and faith weakens. When stress becomes greater than our ability to cope, depletion is evident. Doubts, fears, and confusion become the norm and can challenge our hope in God. We can also become prone to anxiety, depression and emotional difficulties. .

Physical stamina gives way to exhaustion and health concerns emerge. We may sleep too much or too little, feel worn out and depleted or develop physical complaints. Headaches, GI problems, elevated blood pressure, or other health concerns can come on unexpectedly.

Relationship health declines and conflict grows. Once enough depletion occurs, relationships can become marked by a pattern of unresolved conflict.

A false way of being covers up the true-authentic-self.  We can experience a deadening to the convictions of Holy Spirit. This is more than “backsliding” it is a disconnection from one’s identity as a child of God. We no longer live out God’s purpose for our lives but instead follow sinful impulses.

 

What we need most to return to soul health is to be reminded again and again that Jesus  invites us to …

  • come to me
  • get away with me
  • walk with me
  • work with me
  • watch how I do life
  • keep company with me
  • learn the unforced rhythms of grace

When is the last time you checked the vital signs of your soul?

 

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Soul Care Begins With Change

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Soul Care begins with change; the kind of change that reflects genuine care of the soul and respect for the real you. Do you ever feel chained up by the way you live?  In big and small ways we can unknowingly and unwisely live false lives by mindlessly ignoring the needs of our soul. We do this when we live  hurried, stressed and without rest. We do this when we live driven to achieve, meet demands and people please. We do this when we live enslaved to limitless schedules, without healthy rhythm, quiet or stillness. We do this when we lack the enjoyment of companions, connection and fun.  Simply put…we live false lives when we live in a way we were not made to live.  Over time this way of living leads to neglect, bareness and serious deprivation of our soul.  In this condition we cannot live, love or lead well.

When you think about living, loving and leading from a healthy soul what picture comes to mind? Is it vastly different from your current way of living? Have you ever considered what the state of  your soul health would be one year from now if you continue to live the same way you are currently living?  Will you make gains; will your soul health improve? Or will you become worn out and burned out on life?

SOUL CARE EVALUATION

The care of the soul was taught and modeled by Jesus. In Scripture, we see his rhythmic way of tending to his soul by both engaging and disengaging in ministry; by the practice of silence and solitude to meet with God; and in living with spiritual companions in a genuine faith community. (Read the Gospel of Mark)  Jesus’ way of doing life reflected a deep knowledge of the value of his  soul and the importance of soul care.  For people of faith, Jesus’ way is a sacred way.  More importantly his way is an invitation to those who are tired, worn out and burned out on religion to come to him, learn from him and recover their life (Matthew 11:  28-30 MSG). Sadly in our modern age the church, both leaders and lay people, too often forget Jesus’ invitation and instead neglect the very practices that sustain the health of their souls.

Does a change in the way you care for your soul sound inviting or intimidating? Scripture says “there is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12) .  Evaluate your soul health for a moment.  What do you dread at the start of a day? What keeps you awake at night?   What grieves you? What relieves you? What do you long for? What inspires you?  Is something missing? If all was well with your soul (the real you) what would be different?

EXERCISE

To explore possible change in the way you care for your soul begin by writing a few paragraphs about the condition of your soul today. Include changes you desire and a few details.

  • What needs attention?  Sleep?
  • What can no longer be ignored? Hurry and noise?
  • What needs to be made right? Relationships?
  • What do you need to accept?  Your limits?
  • What longing resides in your heart? Mercy and grace?
  • What step can you take towards soul care?  Good question!
  • What resource or help do you need to take that step?  Great question!

Making changes to care for our soul requires honesty with ourselves first and then with others. It also requires vulnerability and the guts to take important steps to engage in soul care. Be realistic and accept that change of any kind is a process that involves consistent small steps.  Over time small steps of soul care can become a new and stable way of living.

Why consider soul care or be concerned with the condition of your soul?  Why change? A soul nurtured and tended to can thrive and fulfill a God-given purpose but a neglected soul will surely shrivel and become dry.  A great little book to help you begin a journey of soul care is titled “Soul Custody” by Stephen Smith.

Happy New Year/ Happy Soul Care. Why not focus on what really matters in 2016? Soul care is all about tending to what really matters!

Blessings!  Karen Mees

 

Coming up next week is a post from Merle Mees!

 

 

 


Welcome To our Blog

Soul Care Matters blog is a new venture for us.  As a pastor (Merle) and a professional counselor (Karen) we know first hand that soul devastation is real and it occurs when we neglect our souls.  After three decades of ignoring soul care our marriage and ministry became barren. We had no choice but to find a better way to live. Through the help of spiritual directors and supportive friends we began caring for our soul.  Our lives are now devoted to living, loving and leading from a healthy soul. And we have a passion to share the important message “soul care matters” with others! 

Soul care is a way of living as well as a journey. Here are a few basics truths that can help you begin to consider your soul.

  • Your soul is the real you, your true self. The soul is all of you – mind, emotions, spirit and will.  Living, loving or leading apart from the awareness of your true self is devastating to the soul. Knowing and being your true self is essential to caring for your soul.
  • Your soul is a unique creation of God  (Gen 1:26-27; Psalms 139). The soul is not man-made or man-shaped but it can be devastated by man.
  • You have only one soul. Any soul can grow barren and even be lost when it is ignored (Proverbs 14:12). We can care for our soul or not but we don’t get a second soul in this life.
  • Your soul was created for a purpose. The soul is a gift given to every human to love God and live life on purpose.  Soul care matters because without it we cannot love God or live the purposeful life he intends.