Soul Care #1: Meeting Our Needs, Nurturing Our Souls

I'm reading a book called "Embracing Soul Care" and finding it to be extremely valuable as I sort through what led to a season of discouragement and exhaustion I hit last winter. I'd like to share some helpful points from it, in hopes that it might encourage or help someone else. First, a quote from the author and former pastor, Stephen W. Smith:
"I had preached that the soul needs to be saved, but I didn't know what to do with it after that. I'd hated books about soul care. They meant slowing down and measuring myself by something other than church-growth figures and my salary. Those books asked me to look inside, to pay attention to my soul, and to find my identity in God...
"Rather than care for my soul, I long tried to fill myself through effort and socially acceptable achievements. ... through some difficult experiences I learned that my soul is not an "it." My soul is me--the real me. Your soul is the real you...
"Like a hamster, I got on a wheel and ran and ran. [After I snapped], wreckage flew everywhere as my soul collapsed in upon itself...
"I realized then that unless I actually 'did' what matters most, I would keep on imploding, ruining my life and the lives of those I loved. This journey of exploring what matters most in life is the journey of soul care. I'm still on this journey. I have not arrived."
When I began reading this book, it was a wake-up call for me. I have not yet reached a point of soul implosion, but I don't want to. Too many people are depending on me. I want to be sure to thoughtfully nurture my own heart while walking this road of intentional, heartfelt motherhood.

And maybe that's the case for you, too. We've all seen the cases on the news of mothers who let everything implode... and while there are often many factors, it seems that the implosion often happens because the mother just tried to keep going, despite being mightily unhealthy. These women try to keep putting one foot in front of the other while being unhealthy spiritually, mentally, and/or emotionally... and it spills over into harmful behavior or choices.

We could take this too far, of course, and make "me time" and self-examination an unhealthy focus in our lives. But I think we should try to find a place of balance: not navel-gazing egotism, but also not running ourselves ragged meeting everyone's needs but our own.

I love this quote highlighting the importance of doing what needs doing NOW:
"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now." ~African Proverb

Soul care requires our time and attention. Have you been trying to "do it all" or be "Superwoman" and not taking care of your own needs? Have these quotes highlighted any areas of "drought" in your life? Is this an area that needs your focus, so that you don't end up (like the author wrote) "imploding", ruining your life and the life of everyone you love?

I write this not as some sort of scare tactic, but as a real concern for real moms out there who want to take on the world but forget to care for their own souls. I hope we can learn to walk in balance, both trusting God to meet our needs, but also doing what we can with what we have to stay healthy and nurtured as well.

Thoughts? I welcome your discussion.


Jessica said...

This past winter with the birth of my second child I went through a lot of hard things like health problems, my MIL dying within 2 months of his birth, my 2 year old going through a lot of challenges and my husband travelling a lot for work. I wasn't relying on God and I was so discouraged. It was such a dark time in my life. I was hours away from my home town and friends and my family was far as well. God allowed the hard time but this Spring I said enough is enough and went to a Biblical Counselor who is a very godly lady. She helped so much. She was able to show me that a lot of the things I was thinking like "I'm overwelemd" and I'm a "Bad mom" "I don't love my kids" are lies from the evil one. It made all the difference learning I have to fight a battle hourly to believe the truth. I have joy now and am closer to Christ than ever. Getting professional help or help from a Christian lay counselor shouldn't be overlooked for those struggling. I'm so thankful I was able to get help.

Brittany said...

Oh goodness!! I think all women have felt like this!

About 2 1/2 years ago, I was diagnosed with Lupus. I was literally EXHAUSTED 24/7, hair falling out, joint pain, etc. However, even through that I felt like I had to ignore it to "keep up" with others. In my opinion, I really do think society plays a huge role in this...they really focus on what one is (or should be) fast...and to what extent...all while looking amazing ;) I've recently truly felt in my heart that I have to slow doesn't matter what others think - only what God thinks. Right now, my calling is to be a mom - and I can only do that if I am a well rested and healthy mom :)

Erin said...

Hi Jess! YES! I'm right there with you. I often use your blog as a source of recommendation of my next good read and this is no exception. I definitely feel this, right now more than ever...after a spring of cancer scares (no cancer!) and surgeries and taking the summer off to relax (which didn't really work) we started back to homeschool a week ago and I am already exhausted! I KNOW that I need to make more of an effort to take care of myself, but how does a person find the time with four little ones (two school-age and twin preschoolers)? Looking forward to reading this book! And always enjoy your blog!


Sara said...

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking post. I am in the state of just putting one foot in front of the other and plodding through my day most of the time and struggle to find a balance between my needs and those of my family. I want to honor God and do His will with my life, but I feel distant from Him, and as a result, I find myself pushing away my family, too. I think engaging in the practice of "soul care" is something I really do need to focus on...and perhaps reading the book you referenced along with my daily Bible chapter would be a great place to start! :)

Annette said...

Ahh, this is a great subject! As a wife and mother of 12 this has been a biggie for me! Being a stay at home mom definitely has its challenges. I firmly believe that "soul care" begins with daily times of fellowship with the Lord and drawing on His strength. It is so easy to get wrapped up in life and let that our quiet time with Him slide. Instead of living and walking in the Spirit we are working through our own power, falling short, and failing.

Something practical:
At times I tend to struggle with disillusionment (living in my own little world and not able to see the full picture) and it really helps me to be able to get out and around other adults. My husband encouraged me to start working a couple of days a month (I have a nursing license and get shifts through a staffing service). My oldest children are 16,18, and 19 so my working 2-3 evenings a month is very doable for our family. It helps me maintain a realistic perspective and renews my resolve at home. I think every woman should have something of her own - I enjoy learning and have a desire to use my nursing skills as a way to minister to others. So for me, working through a distance learning program to earn a nursing degree is helping me to be stronger and a more well-rounded. Being able to give and interact with others is very fulfilling for me.

Something spiritual:
This year I have been reading through a wonderful (big) book by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones titled Living Water, on John 4, the story of the woman at the well. I am learning so much about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, living victoriously through His power, and finding satisfaction in doing the will of God, whether it be trusting Him in difficult circumstances, developing relationships with others, or replacing my own tendency to look out for myself with love, forgiveness, and grace.

Annette said...

A challenge:
There is so much fulfillment and satisfaction to be had in ministering to the spiritual needs of others - when speaking to the disciples after His meeting with the woman at the well, Jesus described the refreshment He derived from reaching out to the woman in need. His meat was to do the will of the One who sent Him. His need for food and His weariness did not control Him - He had hidden resources they did not understand and sources of satisfaction beyond anything they could have ever imagined. We can have that too!

There is so much hidden truth in Scripture - the Lord's utter forgetfulness of Himself and readiness to sacrifice Himself because of His concern for you and for me results in great joy when His intercession on our behalf bears fruit. He is our Example; He alone is our Source, our Living Water.