As with your car, if you regularly service your soul you are far less likely to experience burnout, breakdown, or a crash. So let me take you to the Soul Care Garage and show you round the seven service bays, starting with the first two today: Routine and Relaxation.
And if you’ve failed to service your soul, if you’ve already hit the wall, crashed, and burned, you need to visit the same seven service bays. You just need to spend longer in each of them.
Service Bay 1: Routine
Regular routine is one of the first things to fall by the wayside when we become too busy. We respond to increasing demands by increasing our accessibility and availability. Our regular daily routine is squeezed, then disrupted, and then displaced.
We end up feeling like passive victims waiting for things to happen – emails to arrive, phones to ring, and requests for help to knock on the door. We are knocked from pillar to post, running from one crisis to another.
Even when we get some quiet, uninterrupted time, we are so tired and wrung out that we lack the will and discipline to use that time wisely and well. We end up doing only what we feel like doing – which is not very much – as our wills and decisiveness are so weakened.
The first question I ask burn-outs is: “Tell me your daily routine.” Usually the answer is “I don’t have one…Every day is different.” I press further, “Is there nothing constant from one day to another?” Again, usually the answer is “No.”
The first thing I do is to get them to draw up a basic routine of sleeping, worshipping, eating, working, studying, etc., that they then commit to. God is a God of order, not of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), and as His created image-bearers we glorify Him when we live regular, orderly lives. He has made our bodies so that they flourish
when they have a rhythm and regularity.
Now, of course, there are elements of life, and especially of ministry, that we cannot predict or regulate, but we can usually do a lot more than we presently are. Start with regular bed times and rise times. Read and pray in the same place at the same time each day, preferably in privacy, and before you see or speak to anyone else. Set family meal times and stick to them. The more regularity you can build into your day and your week, the more your body, mind, and soul will flourish.
Service Bay 2: Relaxation
We need to incorporate times of relaxation into our lives. This may involve finding a quiet spot at regular times throughout the day to simply pause for 5-10 minutes, calm down, and seek the peace of God in our lives. Unstretch the band, let the tension go, breathe deeply, pray and remember God.
Jesus recognized His disciples need for relaxation when He took them “apart into a desert place, and rested a while” (Mark 6:31).
Learning to relaxe
You’ll find lots of websites and books that outline many varied relaxation techniques. These are usually effective and easy to learn. Once you try some of these you’ll soon learn straight how tense you actually are. Many of us are living like a flexed muscle, coiled tight from tip to toe. Is it any wonder that we’re exhausted and feel aches and pains all over!
Many of us actually need to learn how to breathe properly again. When we are stressed, anxious, and tense, our breathing becomes shallow, starving our body and brain of oxygen, increasing the difficulty of physical and intellectual work. Again, websites abound with helpful exercises that will help you to become conscious of your breathing habits and re-train them if you’ve learned bad habits.
Computer or communion sermons?
As I mentioned before, many creative breakthroughs are made in quiet downtimes. I believe many preachers could do with working less on their sermons. What I mean by that is getting away from scanning commentaries and hammering away on the computer, and communing with God in quiet reflective walks. There are computer sermons, and there are communion sermons! There are sermons that collate others thoughts and there are sermons that flow out of communion with God in His Word.
Tomorrow we’ll visit another two service bays in the Soul Care Garage.
This is an edited version of an article that was first published at Gospel Centered Discipleship.