Reflection on Soul Care
Amy Hudson | January 17, 2018
I was recently invited to lead a reflection time with Campus Staff at December Training on the topic of Soul Care and how it applies specifically to our work as Campus Staff with RUF. The thoughts penned here came out of that time together last month. In recent times, soul care has become somewhat of a buzz word in Christian circles and RUF is certainly a circle that has given it some careful thought. I’ve gleaned much from some particular Campus Ministers on this topic and their influence runs throughout this piece. Their meditations and reflections on soul care have influenced my own teaching and discipleship of college women as well as being enormously helpful in shaping my personal experience of soul care.
To know what soul care is, we have to understand what it is not. It is not the same thing as self-care, though self-care has a place in this conversation. Soul care is not just taking time to be alone with your thoughts or simply setting aside time regularly for solitude and meditation. These are important practices that require time and attention. Yet I would consider these to fall into the category of self-care. Self-care is so necessary and often times involves difficult personal lessons. Disciplines are developed over time and require efforts that make us depend more heavily on the Lord for the strength to do it. We must care for our own souls first if we are to lead others into the way of Christ. A healthy understanding of self-care propels us into proper practices of soul care.
It’s also worth noting that we should guard against a lightly-masked version of society’s current “treat ‘yo self” mentality. This is very challenging given the world we live in. For the follower of Jesus, practicing self-care ought to truly reflect the image of God in us. God created us for himself, that we may reflect him in our working and in our resting. The temptation to allow things other than the gospel of Jesus to care for our souls is very real. We are told at every turn that we owe it to ourselves to embrace a life that benefits us physically, emotionally, sexually, psychologically, etc. and working against this current can feel impossible at times. I thought one popular blogger said it well when she wrote, “True self-care is making a choice to build a life you don’t regularly need to escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.”
So what does it look like for the Christian to practice soul care objectively and practically? While the specifics may vary somewhat from person to person, the Christian ought to bear distinction in their practice of soul care. Three components have assisted me in a meaningful definition of soul care and I think lend themselves to practical application. First, we are to remember who we are in Christ. Sometimes referred to as “remembering your baptism,” we are claiming who we are (identity) in Christ and the security of the inheritance that is ours in him (Ps. 16:6, Eph. 1:11). This provides deep confidence that it is not ultimately up to me to maintain the care of my own soul but rather it is found in Christ; if I belong to him, I am hidden in him. This should naturally lead to repentance.
Secondly, a practice of regular repentance is part of what it means to care for our own souls. We often play “savior,” even unconsciously by carrying around the burdens of others as well as the burdens of our own hearts. Personally, I see this in my struggle to maintain control over my time, my schedule or priorities to the exclusion of letting God take charge and care for my soul in this particular area. God’s Word has joyfully informed me that “apart from me (the Father) you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). The promise of Isaiah 30:15 is clear, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Repentance is the key to understanding the heart of the gospel; Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, not to lead them to find the answer on their own but to actually complete the entire thing for them. As one writer has put it, “Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other…” Repentance leads us into this dependence on Jesus and this dependence leads to rest.
We must rest in the Word of Christ for us. It is through God’s Word and prayer that rest comes. He is the promised Rest and the source of all other forms of rest that he gives us for this life. We remember who he is for us in worship. In repentance, we are telling ourselves that we are embracing his rest, that we embrace all that Jesus is for us. Through this ongoing and often painful path comes freedom (Psalm 51: 6-7, 12-13).
If you are a follower of Jesus, he is more committed to your good than you or anyone else could ever be and he will complete what he has started in each of us. This is his promise. As with any intimate human relationship, our relationship with Jesus requires an even deeper level of regular attention, attentive listening as he speaks to us from his Word, as well as physical presence in order to maintain intimacy with him. I’m challenged by these thoughts as I seek Jesus in the care of my own soul through a pattern of worship, repentance and rest.
Amy Hudson currently serves as Campus Staff with RUF at Meredith College in North Carolina.