LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE:
Math was never my strongest subject in school, but join me in a little math problem, would you?
We have 168 hours in a week. Let’s say you get 8 hours of sleep per night. That’s 56 hours. And you work in ministry, so you’re probably averaging somewhere around 50 hours of work per week. So, together, sleep and being in the office is about 106 hours in your week. This leaves you with 62 hours left, or just over 8.5 hours a day. Then when we factor in things like eating, hygiene habits, drive time, and checking things off the to-do list, which is about 25 hours, we’re up to 131 hours of our allotted 168. That only leaves us 37 hours in our week.
I have a wife and three boys whom I love, a community group I meet with weekly, parents to keep in touch with (hi, mom!), and a few close friends to connect with. To end our mathematical journey, I’ll give my wife an hour a day, each of my boys 30 mins, and I’m left with just under 3 hours a day to average out to my community, extended family, and friends. We all know that no day goes exactly as planned, so 3 hours will likely get cut into by any unforeseen circumstances.
When we do the difficult task of scheduling out our lives, we are faced with a sense that we may not have enough time to do all the things we want or need to. So what gives? If we’re honest, it’s usually our personal time – the time normally given to caring for our soul – that’s neglected, and when that happens, our spiritual walk suffers.
As shepherds and leaders, neglecting our spiritual formation is costly. First and foremost, because we are made to depend on and delight in God, we suffer when we don’t foster these things. We’re invited to play a leadership role in the lives of others created for the same purpose, but we can’t model what we aren’t doing. We can’t encourage others to do what we aren’t doing ourselves. If we’re spiritually worn out or empty, we’ll never have the capacity to lead, support, empathize, serve and develop others in the ways the Spirit may lead us to do.
My wife is faithful to remind me, “If you’re not well, you can’t lead us well,” and this is true for anyone leading anywhere, particularly in the context of the Church. If our souls are weary, our minds are clouded, and our hearts are hard, we will struggle to be the under-shepherds we’re called to be. We’ll never feel the joy, peace, and rest the Good Shepherd offers us.
Before taking a practical turn, I want to attend to the cynic in all of us. A few years back, if I happened to be reading an article like this, I’d be resistant to anything that smells like “self-care,” boundaries, or limitations. But in recent years, God has graciously invited me to consider my humanity. I’ve come to more fully understand the reality that I come with intrinsic needs, and I’m unable to fulfill them in and of myself. God has graciously reminded me that He is faithful and good, holding all things together by His power so I don’t have to. He has been gracious to highlight areas of my life – my pace, rhythms, burdens, and pride that were not dealt with or stewarded well. So what does it look like to care well for our soul on our spiritual journey?
1. Admit Need
This might seem like a gimme, but I think it’s incredibly important to point out. As leaders, we can easily succumb to the temptation to take on the weight of the world (or at least whatever we’re leading), and in an effort to carry it all, we ignore our need for help. When we choose this posture, though, we reject our humanity which comes with implicit need. When we reject our needs, we reject God’s design for our life – the design He called “very good.” Finding health for our souls requires acknowledging the need to be tended to in the first place and that only our Heavenly Father can do it.
2. Establish Rhythm
Like any habits in life, spiritual rhythms require consistency and practice. There’s no magic number or amount of time, but finding the consistency that works for you is crucial. There are no rules against putting spiritual practices on your calendar. In our busy culture, if things aren’t on my calendar, they usually don’t happen, so don’t feel shame if you need to do that. Creating space for spiritual practices is vital to maintaining rhythms that will help us communicate with God, hear from Him, and consistently live the way of Jesus.
3. Practice His Presence
Brother Lawrence offers a glimpse into his walk with Christ in a series of letters combined in the book “Practicing the Presence of God.” He describes his desire to “think about God as much as possible,” and by doing so, finds delight in the presence of God regardless of what he is doing – even washing dishes in a monastery.
Our spiritual care doesn’t have to be relegated only to rhythms or spiritual habits but can be found in thinking on and delighting in the presence of God, even in the mundane areas of life. Daily commutes, household chores, meetings, email writing, and so on can be moments of delight when we consider the presence of God in it all and choose to embrace each moment as a means by which He is forming us and inviting us into deeper communion with Him. In that nearness, we find refreshment for our souls and the fullness of life Jesus invites us into.
4. Live in Community
Leadership can be really lonely, but following after Jesus is not a life meant to be lived in isolation. In our lives as leaders, we should be deeply rooted in the community of God’s beloved people. The body of Christ is a gift, one of His good graces that remind us of His faithfulness and provision. In community, we see His image reflected, His goodness expressed, His compassion shared, and His love lived out. Community is a vital part of caring for our soul. Even in leadership, we need amazing people with whom we can be honest, vulnerable, and sharpened.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- In your life, what draws focus away from practicing spiritual health? Why do you think it’s those specific things?
- What sort of practices or rhythms can you add to your life that will help prioritize your spiritual health?