By Alex Ruzanic
I have a theory – in today’s culture our time is as important a commodity as money. Therefore how we spend our time speaks loudly about what and who we treasure. As youth workers we have a unique opportunity and tremendous responsibility to model a wise stewardship of our time for the students we care for and minister to. This MUST include something that I’m willing to bet many of us struggle with on a regular basis: SOUL CARE.
It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or paid staff, ordained or lay, full or part-time – the example you set for your students in this area can have an enormous impact on how they learn to incorporate soul care and by extension, self-care, into their everyday lives. If we want to buck the trends and see our young people still engaged in their faith 10 years down the road we MUST help them learn the importance of creating a regimen within their crammed schedules to slow down and experience God in the depths of their souls.
So I have a few questions: what are you doing today to take care of your soul? Are you substituting doing ministry for real interactions with the Holy Spirit? Do you expend the same effort on your relationship with God that you do with your significant other or best friend? Do you desire to experience the Holy Spirit in real and tangible ways?
From the creation story it is evident that we are designed to be in relationship with God. God pursues us and never stops. However the pace that we are living at in 2016 is not how I believe we were designed to live. Working 55+ hours a week, running errands in our “free” time, schlepping from event to event and taking care of life’s mundane tasks keep us busier than we should be. We have perfected the smartphone relationship – where we mistake characters in text message for meaningful interaction and reading scripture on an app for a spiritual connection. When we do this we are depriving ourselves of being connected to the One who made us and desires our presence each day. Don’t get me wrong, technology CAN be a great thing for us and for our students, but it cannot be the only thing. We must develop strategies to personally invest in our own souls in ways that will meet the longing that exists in all of us to be one with our Creator.
Properly caring for your soul is all about living in a place of abundance and not deprivation. Some ways to do this are carving out dedicated time, reading, having conversations, sitting in silence, praying in new ways, resting, and most importantly engaging in God’s presence to hear his Spirit speaking into your soul which is at the core of your spiritual life. When we don’t slow down and nurture our souls we grow dry, tired and frustrated. There is not a one size fits all solution – everyone has different needs and different constraints on their time. What a single person can do versus what a married person with multiple children can do is different and both are okay. Whether you meet with someone one on one take time out to pray and sit in solitude, or try a directed prayer time – if you stick to it the trajectory of your spirit life WILL change. When you invite God into your soul in new ways things will happen, that you can count on.
I encourage to you find a spiritual director or a mentor. This should be someone a bit further down the path than you are and who is at a place where you desire to be as well. A place of peace and true joy. Search for someone who exudes authenticity in their journey with God – remember nobody’s road is free of struggle but how they deal with the hard times is what should draw you to them. Be honest and ask them to help you in this process, it’s that simple. There is no magic or science, don’t make it harder than it has to be.
Spending time to allow your soul feel to rested and restored so that God can transform you will also transform your students and ministry. When you care for yourself you will be equipped to care for others in healthier and deeper ways. You will find renewed energy to get through tough times and soar in good times. The first step is always the hardest – we can always find ways to avoid self-care because it can be intimidating to open ourselves up to God in ways that make us feel vulnerable. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to find a way to enter this journey, to begin a process of SOUL CARE in your life.