This message from Zach is the beginning of our fall 2020 flip flop series. Where we’re going today: God gives us authority to care for our souls so that we live truly free, healthy, and full lives. What does it look like to actually care for your soul?
Truly being able to care for our souls might require redefining what health is in faith. Is it getting everything right on the outside? Or is it an internal reality that makes its way out of us and we bear fruit over and over because of the roots?
The bible doesn’t say a lot about gardening necessarily, but the picture of the garden is there from the beginning and weaves its way through scripture.
In the beginning, Adam walked with God in the cool of the morning in the garden. God had given him authority and dominion over everything in the garden. Gardening is hard though. It requires a lot of care for growth to take place. You can take shortcuts but you’re not going to get the best results. Or the best fruit.
We often view the process of faith as one of just getting to fruit as quickly as possible. It permeates how we see ourselves as followers of Jesus. Maybe it’s a lot more about the growth process.
We could define ourselves by all kinds of things but what is the core? What are the most baseline things that we are?
Who are you? Not what do you do. Who are you?
What makes up the core of who you are?
I can have a hard time answering it because I often equate who I am with the things I’m doing in life.
We can’t remove what we do from ourselves but it isn’t who we are. Our worst and best moments of action are not who we are.
As we get into this conversation on caring for our souls we have to realize that our mind, body, and soul are all connected but separate. Caring for my soul is much different than eating well and working out, but they benefit each other. Body, soul, and spirit.
Proper care for myself requires a correct definition of who I believe I am.
Whatever I believe about my core and about my worth will drive my actions. If I believe I’m worthless my actions will come from a place of worthlessness. If I believe I’m worthwhile my actions will come from a place of worth. This is simple but I need to revisit it often.
Do we believe things about ourselves that are untrue? Take some time and think through and write down all of the things you believe about yourself. Don’t evaluate whether it’s “right or wrong”, you can do that later. Just put on paper everything you believe about yourself. Not based on what you do, but who you really are.
What do you believe about who you are?
Which of those beliefs are actually true?
Which of those beliefs are actually untrue?
How do we even determine which things are true and which are untrue?
Who I am feels like it’s often what I believe I am which is often based on how good or bad I’m doing at something. That seems like a pretty untrustworthy way for me to define who I am. I need a better source for my definitions.
What does God say about who I am?
Truly caring for ourselves requires that we know who God says we are and we know who we are and that we believe it to be true.
How does God see you? Do you know who you are? We might quickly respond by saying yes, but really ask yourself. Do I know who I am? Who does God say I am?
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Reconciled. Without blemish. Free from accusation. Made perfect. New creation. The righteousness of God. These are things God says you are. That I am. Even when I don’t believe it. It doesn’t change that this is how God sees me.
But a HUGE part of these definitions is me choosing to believe them. I have to choose. If I don’t believe them they’re useless.
How can I move from unbelief to belief?
Unfortunately, no one can do it for you. And belief should be your own, not something pressured from someone else or because of someone else, though you can see things in other people that in turn affect your beliefs.
I love this moment in Jesus’ interaction with this man that shows the complexity of belief:
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Maybe belief and unbelief can exist together on a spectrum, and maybe the process of belief is a process of growth that includes many moments of struggling with belief.
So what does this all have to do with caring for my soul?
Everything. This is the foundation. We get this foundation right and it enables us to rest and to give proper care. If we don’t have this foundation we’ll strive after rest and our care will often be only a fraction of what it could. Back to the gardening analogy. If I get the soil right it makes gardening so much easier. There’s still a lot of hard work involved but I’ve got the most crucial foundation. If I don’t get the soil right I could work harder than anyone else and still not get things to grow the way they were intended to.
I’ve been learning to disc golf. It’s so much fun but there’s so much learning. When you’re going to “tee off” how you stand, how you move your arm, how you release the disc, it all goes into the shot. If you get those things off, you’ll still throw it, but it will probably dive left or right or not get as far as you want it to. If you nail the foundations, even wind can’t keep your shot from being amazing.
Caring for my soul is something that was never talked about growing up. No one ever taught me what it was or how to do it so I feel like I’m an infant in it. I’m just learning some new things now that have been life altering.
One of the things I’ve realized is that in light of everything I hold to be true I have to be willing to let God speak outside of the box of what is familiar and what is comfortable. We are in a very answer driven society. Find the right answer and you’ve got the problem solved.
As we talk about this I encourage you to invite God into your thoughts and your process and your conversation. Our souls are quite a mystery. One of the first steps in caring for my soul is beginning to understand what it is. And it’s different from self-help.
In Hebrew, the word for soul is “Nephesh” - soul doesn’t even begin to capture what this word means.
At its base it means “throat” - everything that you depend on for life goes in and out of the throat. It means our entire conscious being. Genesis shows this picture that God didn’t give Adam a Nephesh. It says Adam became a living Nephesh. It’s all-encompassing. It’s the inner being.
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
We see the Shema throughout scripture. Offering your entire being to God in the efforts of loving God and loving neighbor as yourself. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Your thoughts, your attitudes, your actions, your body. Love God and love people with everything in you that makes you alive.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
In the process of pursuing growth and trying to get good fruit, I quickly turn it into results and I forget how intimately God knows me and longs for a continued relationship with me. Longs to connect with me as a whole person. That He’s probably not very concerned at all with results. He’s all about the process. Just see these pictures from Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.
In light of all of this, can you see whether or not you’re healthy and in turn care for your soul? Internalize this.
Are you aware of your own health/unhealth?
How do you respond to moments or periods of your unhealth?
Read any of the gospels and you can see Jesus’ examples of caring for his soul. Spoiler alert: they weren’t all just spiritual or churchy things.
He intentionally set aside solitary time with God. (In the desert for 40 days, in the dark of the morning before anyone else was up, in the garden right before he’s betrayed.)
He ate meals with people. He could be found reclining and relaxing.
He spent a lot of time in nature.
He withdrew at points with just a small group/his disciples.
He slept and napped, sometimes in the middle of a storm.
He entrusted other people to help him and didn’t take everything on as his responsibility.
He invited children to be around him.
He sat and made connections with people even when there were chores to be done.
He asked God for help when things were hard. He didn’t ignore pain or problems.
Jesus never burned out. He was able to minister effectively because he did these things, AND he didn’t do these things from a place of willpowering his way through them.
You might think of caring for your soul in terms of the self-care gurus you’ve heard tout their message of just do these 10 things and everything you’ve ever wanted will finally become available to you. Self-care is a 10 billion dollars a year industry. But caring for your soul is not self-care. It’s not for selfishness. It’s self-awareness that leads to caring for yourself. It’s for freedom. So you can truly live fully alive. So you can fully show up to relationships. So you can be free from everything that hinders you.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
This is where redefining health is crucial. Oftentimes in faith, we define something by the outcome instead of the work it took to get there. For instance, a church plant. We can define success by a church that has X number of people by the day of their launch. But how did they get there? Was it healthy? Was it unhealthy? What about deeper issues like sin and addiction? Someone who is finally sober from alcohol use. But how did they get there? Are they living in real freedom or are they obsessed or terrified or still dealing with the same internal state they were when they abused alcohol and now they just don’t abuse alcohol?
The pattern we often follow is being able to recognize these things in others but being completely unable to recognize them in ourselves. When we do recognize them we push quickly into “how can I make my unhealth look like the health of that person over there?”
There’s a better way. Self-awareness leading to care for our souls is part of that.
Sabbath is the day created from the beginning for rest. Resting from work. God, the creator of the universe, who needs no sleep, who needs no rest, chose to rest after creating the universe. Jesus came and provided a way for us to enter that rest every single day. And remember, he did things that holistically cared for himself. Caring for your soul is living in a place of rest and trust. And not because of the external circumstances. Because of internal realities. It’s a really healthy thing to get an entire day of rest each week. What’s even more healthy is living from a place of internal rest.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
What truth do you need to be reminded of today so that you can care deeply for and have rest for your soul?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Psalm 42. What does it mean for your soul to thirst for something?
Are you better at seeing health/unhealth in others or yourself? Why?
What’s something you’ve believed for a long time that isn’t true?
What’s something that you know to be true but have a really hard time believing?
What things make you feel most alive?