You are a spiritual leader. You probably provide spiritual leadership in multiple areas of your world. So do I.
I find that serving as a spiritual leader is an indescribable privilege; to have received permission to be a shepherd serving under that great Shepherd of his sheep still astounds me every day: I, Syd Hielema, a cracked jar of clay, am a vessel for “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Cor. 4: 6). Unbelievable.
But I also find that the exercise of this privilege frequently beats up my soul. Maybe you find that too.
Here are some of the ways my soul gets beat up:
- My role regularly brings me into situations of conflict and confrontation. I find these situations emotionally and spiritually draining.
- Often there is not a perfect match between what I am called to do, what I am expected to do, and what I have capacity to do. I don’t need a perfect match, but when the mismatches become too great, I become quite anxious.
- Finding wise balance between my work life, my family life, my personal life, and all other dimensions of life varies from week to week. When the balance is way off, my soul feels like it is being pulled by six horses in six different directions. That’s painful!
- At times I pour my heart into the life of a struggling companion, only to see his or her life deteriorate even further, and I am left praying, “Why, O Lord, and how long must trouble have its way?”
- I regularly experience the temptation to allow the sin in my life to lead me to exercise power in ungodly ways.
- With all the demands of always being “on” while on the dance floor of ministry, I find it difficult to get away to the balcony for Sabbath reflection.
- I am in my sixties, and the ministry landscape has changed significantly during the course of my lifetime. On the one hand, I love being a lifelong learner. On the other hand, at times I don’t know where to find the learning I need to navigate unfamiliar terrain, and that’s stressful.
One of the most comforting sentences for me in the entire Scriptures is tucked into the middle of Psalm 23: “He restores my soul.”
And I’m grateful for the recently prepared “Pastors’ Spiritual Vitality Toolkit” (see below) that comes to us courtesy of Pastor Church Resources and Faith Formation Ministries.
The toolkit is filled with ideas and guidelines for restoring the souls of spiritual leaders, ideas that are practical and achievable. The toolkit uses the “menu” approach, suggesting many different options in such a way that everyone can find one or two that will be soul-restoring for him or her. Many of the ideas are supported by testimonies from pastors and other spiritual leaders describing how a specific practice was personally restorative. In other words, these practices have been tried and tested by our companions on the journey of soul-restoration.
I myself am currently engaged in seven of the practices the toolkit recommends (yes, I am a high needs person!), and I am being blessed by all seven. In addition, in the last half year I’ve led several workshops for spiritual leaders to help them engage with this toolkit, and have found the response overwhelmingly encouraging.
What about you? How goes it with your soul, spiritual leader? Is the Lord restoring your soul?
I’d encourage you to spend an hour on the toolkit website, pondering and praying over how one or two of its ideas might be used by the good Shepherd to restore your soul.