There are certain seasons in my life when ministry and other responsibilities are so difficult and my schedule so demanding that I feel like I am doing violence to my soul. (It’s as if I were taking a knife and intentionally sticking it into my body.)
As I analyze what I do and how I feel during these seasons, I have come up with several ways I have done violence to my soul. (Whether or not these seasons can always be avoided is not the point of this article.)
The following are ways I do violence to my soul. (By “soul” I am referring primarily to my emotions.)
1. When I don’t properly process my pain
Being responsible for a family, a church, and a network of churches often brings me into situations of conflict with people and circumstances. In the midst of all this I sometimes hurt emotionally and experience pain due to relational conflicts or rejection. When I move on too quickly from a painful event in my life due to my busy schedule I am setting up myself for having to confront those emotions at a future date—when my pain spills over unexpectedly and disrupts my harmony.
2. When activities fill my calendar and I live on fumes instead of a full tank
As an introvert/extrovert (omnivert) I need to have time alone to recharge my battery. When I have a full schedule from morning to evening without adequate time to study and refresh my soul, then I find myself functioning only on commitment instead of out of an overflow of God’s power and grace. Doing this on a continual basis will cause me to lose my intimate connection with the Lord and will also cheapen the impact I have on others when I minister.
3. When I don’t adequately reflect on the happenings in my life, family, and ministry
There are so many opportunities, interactions, crises, relational dynamics, and other things too numerous to count that occur in the life of a typical leader that, if we don’t regularly carve out time for reflection, we can miss what God is saying to us or we can miss what our soul is trying to communicate. I find that most practitioners (like me) are action-oriented people and don’t take adequate time to reflect on what is going on—both in their interior lives and regarding divine appointments God is setting up for them. Consequently, when I am not regularly taking time to reflect I am bypassing opportunity for spiritual, relational, and ministerial growth.
4. When I am grounded in my false self
Every person has been born into original sin. Hence we all have a false self we strive to disempower through the cross of Christ. When we are insensitive to God in certain areas of our lives we empower our false self. (Our “false self” is our sinful nature expressed in the personality and actions of our self-life.) When we stop allowing God’s dealings within us we are resting and/or grounding our lives in our false self. When we enable our false self to live through us we live a lie, waste time, hurt others, and do violence to our souls because we are not allowing our spirit-empowered authentic self to manifest. This also results in self-deception which leads to unnecessary pain, fear, disappointment and the wasting of precious time. We can be saved, going to heaven, and attend church regularly, but still live most of our lives through the prism of our false self.
5. When I hold grudges instead of confronting people
When someone offends me, the temptation is to avoid the person instead of confront them since no one enjoys confrontation. But when I succumb to that temptation I do violence to my soul because I carry resentment, bitterness, and grudges which in turn torture my soul. As hard as it is, it is actually for the benefit of the offender and the offended to confront issues instead of holding onto them.
6. When I don’t honor the sabbath
The Bible teaches us to take one day in seven for personal rest and worship of the living God. When I don’t do this it hurts my soul because my soul is not made to work day after day, week after week, month after month without a break. Not taking adequate sabbath rest eventually results in burnout in which God forces us to rest because of a physical sickness, or emotional or mental breakdown.
There have been several instances in the past few years in which I had to leave my office and go home because my brain hit a wall and refused to think about work-related things anymore! (Those were scary times!) We are tempted not to take off from work one day in seven because we think that we will not have enough time to do all the work on our plate. But the truth of the matter is, when we honor the sabbath we are recharged spiritually and have God’s blessings upon us, which will eventuate in us getting even more work done!
7. When I don’t allow other people to minister to me
Often, those in leadership positions are so used to being in the place of ministering to others that we don’t know how to receive grace and help from others when we are in need.
Sometimes God allows me to be stuck in regards to strategy, finances, faith, and personal challenges because He wants me to reach out for help so I can receive ministry from other parts of His body. When I feel awkward and refuse to do this I do violence to my soul because I prolong the pain or the process by refusing to receive immediate help from those God has put in my life that have gifts, abilities and wisdom in certain areas that I don’t have.
8. When I don’t prioritize creative endeavors
God gave each of us creative abilities. We need to regularly utilize them in order for the full image of God to shine through us. When we only use our mind to analyze things and think logically we are only utilizing our “left brain” and are wasting the other half of our brain.
Years ago the Lord dealt with me to start playing the guitar again for His pleasure. He told me to start playing again because He gave me that talent as a gift; part of the image and creativity of God is lying dormant inside of me when I don’t use my musical ability. Thus, part of the way I am called to glorify God is not being manifested when I don’t play my guitar. When I don’t exercise my talent I am doing violence to my soul! (It would be as if I stopped using my right hand. After several months I would lose the use of that hand because the muscles would deteriorate and lose agility.)
9. When I allow the demands of others to replace the will of God in my life
The more responsibility you have as a leader the more people expect from you. The older I get, it seems the more demands are placed upon me from my family, my church, political and community leaders, and friends. If I was to attend every meeting I am invited to, return every email, Facebook message, text, and phone call I receive every day then I would not have time to do anything else! When I acquiesce and cave in to the demands of every person then I do violence to myself and actually lose touch with my soul!
Everyone has their own agenda. Only a few really follow God’s agenda. And fewer than that even care about God’s assignment and agenda for you. I have learned there are certain priorities in my life: my walk with God, my family, my local church, the network I oversee, and some other responsibilities for my community and city. I have enough on my plate that I already know is God’s will that, if I didn’t meet another new person or have another opportunity the rest of my life, my plate would still be full! I have learned that as long as I am pleasing God then everyone I am supposed to please will be pleased automatically!
10. When future concerns rob me of enjoying the present
Sometimes I am so focused or anxious about the future that I cannot enjoy precious and important moments in my immediate present. Unfortunately, there have been numerous times when I have had to look back on my life and rely on distant memories in attempts to appreciate significant things that have happened to me. This is because, while those things were happening, I was not fully present in my mind and emotions.
When this happens I do violence to my soul because I am robbed of pleasure, joy, happiness and other things God sends my way as a gift of His providence. I am continually trying to train myself to enjoy life and be thankful for the precious things I have right in front of me instead of always striving to reach a goal in the distant future.