How is your soul? What does that even mean? And how do we know? When our souls are unhealthy, I don’t think that it's always clear. In my experience, we don't wake up one morning and find that our, once happy, healthy soul is now sickly. It seems to be a slow process, similar to the “boiling frog” story. You know the one; it’s so tragic. This frog just thinks that’s he's found himself a nice little pond to hang out in, but it’s not! He’s in a pot of water, it starts to get a little warmer and a little warmer until… bam! FROGLEGS!
One thing that that I have come to realize about my soul is that, similar to caring for any living thing, you can’t just “set it and forget it”. If you have any experience with plants, pets or children, you know that you need to feed them, love them and clothe or shelter them in order to give them the opportunity to flourish. We are the same way. We can not neglect caring for our inner lives and hope that they will continue to grow--or even just stay put! We are either feeding our souls and keeping them healthy or leaving them be and letting them deteriorate.
I know that you're busy… I’m busy, too. With multiple children, more pets than I probably should have and many activities that I am a part of, I barely have time to ask myself “Did I brush my teeth this morning?” let alone, “How is my soul?”, but man-- is it important.
I've experienced the effects of “soul neglect” in my own life. I started leading worship when I was 16 years old. It was very clear that God was calling me into worship ministry even then. We had powerful times of worship and our team felt really close. The congregation was always so encouraging, and, in truth, I was elevated quite quickly. I spent very little time caring for my inside and building up a solid foundation.
Fast-forward to age 22. I’m married, I’ve just had my first child and, man!--am I struggling! People talk about “bumps in the road;” mine felt like craters. I was depressed, numb and making terrible choices. I know that I fell apart slowly: I disconnected from my closest friends, made new ones who asked fewer questions and I became really good at pretending that I was OK. Leading worship was just something that I did, and I rarely thought past the musicality. If you had been in the room worshiping with me at that time, you probably wouldn't have realized it… but I was crumbling. The platform that I was on had no support and it was coming down.
God, with all of his grace and mercy, pierced the fog around me and suddenly I was aware of the state I was in. I found myself burnt out, depressed and in need of some serious repair. My relationship with my husband, family and friends was a mess. The weeks following were full of confession and asking forgiveness… from God, from my husband and everyone around me. I was in such a state of soul-sickness that I needed to step back fully from vocational ministry… it was time for Intensive Soul Care.
The last seven years have been a beautiful story of redemption, God's grace and obedience but they have been hard. I don’t take soul care lightly anymore; it’s like the foundation that supports everything else. It’s not to be forgotten.
In my own life, I have found that it helps to know the warning signs of a tired soul. Here are five things that I try to watch out for:
Life becomes all about me- I start to become more aware of what I want or need and where I feel like I'm being overlooked. I find myself asking the question, “What about me?!”
The things that normally give me life and joy, don't- Family, friends, writing and worshiping are normally things that are incredibly life-giving to me. But when I am in a bad place, these things can start to feel like burdens and obligations.
I'm spending less time with God- My quiet times starts to feel like a chore, instead of a space to recharge with my Creator.
My relationships start to feel strained- Bickering with my husband or constant misunderstandings with close friends start to arise. It’s tiring and usually a reflection of unmet expectations and lack of communication.
I start to seek positive affirmation from people around me- I find that when my soul is need of maintenance, I really rely on others to build me up. Without the affirmation of others, I begin to feel like I’m not good enough.
These five things have become good indicators to dig deep and spend some extra time caring for my soul. Can you identify with any (or all) of these? Would this be a good time to focus in on your soul?
This week, Phil Strout will be taking the time to have a webinar with us that discusses the value of Soul Care and ways that we can do it. Please join us on February 16th as Phil Strout gives practical tools to help us care for our souls! REGISTER NOW!