The theme I’ve chosen to guide me in 2017 is ‘Soul Care.’ I’ve found the benefit of choosing a yearly theme instead of making resolutions or setting goals is the delightful process of discovery. I’ve been asked by a couple friends to define ‘soul care.’ Truly, I don’t know how to define ‘it.’ I do, however, know
I desire to hunt for additional doses of ‘it.’
I believe God is pleased to help me discover ‘it.’
Though a mystery, I’m convinced unearthing more of ‘it’ is possible.
I’m certain in my lifetime, I’ll never achieve ‘it’ completely.
I’m confident one day in Heaven, I’ll know exactly what ‘it’ is.
In the last two blog posts, I’ve looked at the story of Elijah (1 Kings 17, 18 & 19) in relationship to cumulative stress. Block upon block of stress finally took a toll on the great prophet. The tending of Elijah by an angel illustrates that one important aspect of ‘soul care’ is managing stress in practical, physical ways like exercise, good nutrition, hydration and rest, and that often, this needs to be the first line of defense.
Today, I want to explore 1 Kings 19:11 and 12, which describes how the Lord appeared and spoke to Elijah. These two verses are some of my favorite in the Bible. They tell us God’s voice was not heard in the fierce, mighty wind, an earthquake or the fire, but rather, it came in a “still small voice,” or, as another translation describes, “a gentle whisper.”
The Mediterranean at twilight
Last Sunday, Ron and I spent all day with our 16-month-old grandson while his dad, mom and ‘big’ sister skied and attended a concert. We had a great day with Reeve. By the way, the day ended with a new appreciation for moms of toddlers. My Fitbit steps goal was exceeded long before bedtime—even without going to the gym!
Reeve, typical of a little boy, likes “loud!” He and grandpa read a book explaining, “L is for Lion,” followed by a great time growling loudly at one another. Later, I sat on the floor playing trucks with my little man, perfecting a robust, Vroom-vroom!
When it was time for bed, though, I rocked Reeve, singing gently, “Rock a bye, Baby” and “Jesus Loves Me.” My voice was soft as we read about the teddy bear going “night-night.” Grandma’s ‘still small voice’ calmed our rambunctious grandson who fell asleep soon after I laid him in his crib.
I think one of the reasons I love the description of the Lord’s encounter with Elijah is because I’ve never liked yelling. As a child, I learned best when my teachers spoke calmly. I’ve never responded well to dogmatic or harsh rhetoric in relationships, from the pulpit or at a podium. I resist change when I’m scolded harshly or lectured. I balk when someone dictates what I ‘should’ do or ‘should not’ do. Shame has never been a motivator leading me to positive change.
On the flip side, though, I’m anxious to please when I feel respected. I’ll work my hardest if I feel I’m trusted. And, on those occasions when I’ve felt like the ‘still small voice’ of the Lord has spoken to me personally, behavioral changes always seem easier. Instead of feeling the obligation of “I have to,” or “I should,” the voice of the Spirit reframes my motivation to “I want to.”
This, I believe, is the difference between “behavior modification” and “spiritual transformation.” Behavior modification is an external process that often creates stress. Transformation, a Divine process, occurs from the inside out and results in feelings of freedom, peace and purpose.
Since I’m focusing on ’Soul Care’ in 2017, I ask myself, “Okay, in terms of ‘soul care,’ what’s your takeaway from Elijah’s encounter with the Lord?” I believe this story is a challenge to carve out time to listen—not only with my ears but with my spirit as well. The noise in my life is often created by my own busyness. Instead of quieting my mind, I tend to bustle about, seeing how much I can accomplish. Then, feeling like I deserve a break from busy, too often I veg out, watching non-edifying entertainment or needless news.
I believe my current awareness will help me set some specific ‘action steps.’ ‘Soul care,’ is about ‘being that leads to doing,’ rather than ‘doing’ alone or ‘doing with the assumption of being.’ Though the ‘how?’ still remains cloudy, my past experience has shown that when I’m willing to say, “yes!” to the ‘still small voice, the ‘how to’ emerges.
In the next post, I’ll look at a next important step as revealed in Elijah’s story for dealing with the effects of cumulative stress. Until then…
Blessings on your journey of ‘soul care’…