I have found that knowing yourself is the most important aspect of soul care. Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” The relationship you have with yourself is equally important to your relationship with God. You are the only one that has to live with yourself every moment of every day. The reality is, if you know your strengths and weaknesses you can more effectively navigate life. Over the past few years I have read helpful books like, “Falling Upward”, “The Road Back to You”, “Critical Journey”, and “Satisfy Your Soul”, where these authors have pushed me to know myself in a deeper way. What makes me tick? Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram have also been tools I have used to discover what’s inside of me. What I have found is a complicated person with a lot of brokenness, but someone that is loved by God just as I am. Knowing what gives me life and what takes life from me has been an important ongoing theme in my life. There are three primary areas that I look at and evaluate to assess how I am doing: people, work (vocation), and “when no one is looking.”
Do people give you life? Now, I think most of us would agree that people can both give us life and take life from us. The question is which are you spending the most time with? I have done discipleship on and off for the large part of 25 years. Those that come to me and are honest with themselves, are the ones I more naturally connect with and that gives me a lot of life. These people tend to take an idea I give them and do something with it. These are the ones I want to spend time with. Lance Pittluck once told me, “Don’t waste time on people that are not moving towards Jesus.” I get that this sounds bad, but let me explain the context. First, this applies to those that would call themselves Christians. If you’re pouring yourself out and the person just isn’t getting it then it is not benefiting either one of you. In my time I have had many of these relational “discipleships”. It drains me and deeply saddens me. I just have to remind myself that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw folks toward himself. It’s my job to be available to simply give what I have been graced to give to those God has graced to receive it.
Does your work (vocation) give you life? Carl Barth describes vocation best by saying, “We speak of the vocation of man confronting and corresponding to the divine calling. It is clear that in so doing we give the term a meaning which transcends its customary use in the narrower, technical sense. Vocation in the usual sense means a particular position and function of a man and a connection with the process of human work, that is to say, his job; and then in a broader sense of a whole group of such positions and functions.” So what is it then? Vocation is the sum of what you do; the totality of who you are in response to partnership with God. So, are the things that you are spending your time doing giving you life at work, at church (sometimes this is the same place), friendship, etc. Another way to look at it would be to ask yourself, how is this active partnership with God going?
What does life look like when no one is looking? It’s important to know how you recharge. What do you do with your down time? Are you playing games, looking at porn, mindless entertainment? While some of these things aren’t bad, without a balance of true soul care, they are not healthy. What gives you life and what recharges you best? In the process of finding your life-giving groove it enables you to have something inside to give. Remember, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Here are some suggestions that have worked for me and others throughout time: centering prayer, Lectio Divina, quiet time, walks, time in nature, having a spiritual director, or worship. Here’s a question to ask yourself if you struggle with finding what gives you life: l feel closest and recharged by God when… ? When I was teaching at Vineyard School, I most often connected with God and felt refreshed by God when I was talking about Jesus, and explaining the scriptures. God would fill and refresh me in a way I have never experienced before. It became my go to for refreshing. Literally anytime I was feeling fried I would start teaching about Jesus, a parable, miracle or one of His amazing sayings. I could feel His pleasure for me in a tangible way. Eric Liddell says: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
No matter how you care for your soul, it’s important that it is on your radar. We have so many situations, people, and garbage coming at us at such a high rate of speed (thank you internet). As we care for people, we only can give from what we actually have. I have found in my years of serving Jesus that people, vocation, and when no one is looking are key areas in my life to keep in perpetual check.