Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 9 part series on pastoral leadership that I am writing for my seminary class, Leading Christian Communities, with Dr. Kyle J. A. Small. My reflections in this series are based on the book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton.
“How is your soul?”
I was once asked this question in college. It struck me as personal, abstract, and to be honest, a little strange. It simply did not fit with the typical “how is” and “how are” questions.
“How’s your day going?”
“How’s your family?”
“How are you?”
“How is your soul?”
I quickly realized I did not have a clue how to properly answer the question. I recognized I had never really thought about how my soul was doing.
I discovered I have not properly been caring for my soul.
Think about it. Really. How is your soul? How is that innermost part of you, that soft and quiet place that knows you and your needs better than you know yourself? Ruth Haley Barton describes the soul in her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership in this way: “It is the part of you that longs for more of God than you have right now, the part that may, even now, be aware of “missing” God amid the challenges of life in ministry” (Barton 13).
This understanding of the soul illuminates the importance of caring for our soul, and strengthening our soul.
So how do we that? What does it look like to care for our soul? To strengthen it? To even be aware of it’s current state?
This 9 part series will be exploring these very questions in a number of ways.
To care for our soul, to strengthen it, to even be aware of how it is, we must first rest and abide in the presence of God.
Psalm 46:10 says it this way, “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth” (NRSV).
To effectively lead others, we must first care of ourselves. If we are not in a right place with God, we have no right to be leading others.
In order to do the work God has in store for us, we need to first spend time with the Father. When we close our minds to all the outside noise of life and rest in the presence of our Lord, we open ourselves to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. We are designed to work from a place of rest. To first abide in God, and then to go forth to produce fruit (see John 15:1-12).
Our souls are strengthened when we spend time with God. God is the King of the Universe, and we are here to rule on his behalf (see Mike Breen, Covenant and Kingdom). Did you catch that? We are His royal sons and daughters! This is a worthy calling! To best serve our Lord, to take up this calling, we need to first have a deep relationship with our Lord.
Rest. Then work. Repeat.
In closing, I’d like to consider these words from Ruth Haley Barton:
“Moses’ whole life can be viewed through the lens of his private encounters with God and how his soul was strengthened through those encounters…Moses’ encounters with God in solitude were clearly his lifeline, his only means of survival. When he got to the end of his life, he was described as the greatest prophet in Israel, whom the Lord knew face to face. He did not achieve his vision the way he had envisioned it, but he knew God and God knew him—which is perhaps the greatest achievement of all. These days, that is all I want.” (Barton 32, 33).
So, how is your soul?