Soul care helps us draw near to the heart of God, which is to say, it creates an environment where we can experience more of God’s love and learn how to love well. Jesus tells us to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves: So there are three aspects here: loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves (if we don't love ourselves well, we won't be loving others well either!). Drawing near to God not only allows to experience God's love, but also understand God's love for others and even us! When we understand how deeply we are loved and how deeply God loves each and every person, that love spills out into our words and actions.
Anytime is a great time to choose to take the next step with soul care, but right now, soul care is truly essential. This world needs us to be people who can embody God's love because we have experienced it so deeply ourselves.
So, if you're interested in taking the next step with soul care but you're not sure what that should look like, I want to share a few ideas with you.
If you’re just starting out, there are two practices that I highly recommend, both of which are ancient practices that centuries of Christians have engaged. Breath Prayer is a simple way to pray. Create a personalized sentence-prayer that's attached to your inhale and exhale. As you breathe in, you'll pray a name of God, and as you exhale, you'll pray your desire. Two examples I've been using lately: Lord Jesus, bring me peace. Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see. You can pray this once or repeat it to yourself as you breathe in and out. This can actually help you feel calm and grounded as you breathe in and out. The other practice I recommend is Scripture Meditation which is simply sitting with a single verse or very short passage of Scripture and turning it over in your mind, seeing it from multiple angles, and letting it sink down deep into your soul. I highly recommend listening to our guided Scripture meditations to get started.
If you’re looking to feel more centered and grounded in your faith, I recommend contemplative practices like journaling, Prayer of Examen, lectio divina, or centering prayer. These practices focus on contemplating, or turning inward and reflecting. The Prayer of Examen is essentially an exercise to reflect on the day or week, asking ourselves when we saw God at work in our lives and how we joined him, and also when we may have missed how God was inviting us to join him in the work he's doing in the world. I like to journal around a few different areas: my spiritual life, my mental health, my physical health, my relationships, my home life, and my work life. Lectio divina is a slow, thoughtful way to read a short passage of Scripture where we read it through 3 times. The first reading we want to pay attention to any word or phrase that seems to stand out to us. The second time we read, we want to consider what that word or phrase may mean or speak to in our lives. The third time we read, we want to consider how God might be inviting us to respond to this reading or time. Centering Prayer is a way of simply being with God and enjoying God's presence.
If your spiritual practices usually focus on mental activities, I want to encourage you to engage your physical body. Get 5 minutes of exercise, do some stretches, or get your hands dirty by gardening. Allow yourself to get more sleep. Eat delicious and nutritious food that nourishes your body and delights your taste buds. Honor and connect with the physical body God has given you.
If your spiritual practices usually center on learning and intellectual activities, I want to encourage you to get out of your head and experience God's love with your emotions and senses. Go outside and feel the breeze and reflect on the beauty of creation. Listen to music and let it fall over you and move your heart. Doodle, paint, or draw. Create a beautiful corner in your home. Anytime we create or make something beautiful, we are near to the heart of God who is the creator of all things.
If your spiritual practices are usually done alone, I want to challenge you to draw near to the heart of God by drawing near to others. Commit to intentional community, serve a neighbor or a stranger, engage in acts of justice and mercy. Perhaps it’s time to see a counselor or a spiritual director to talk about your insights and questions with a trained listening ear. One soul care practice we can all do right now: Learn from someone who is different from you. Listen to their story to understand. Resist being defensive and ask God to give you ears to hear, to have compassion.
If your life is marked by people and serving and noise and busyness and action, grant yourself permission to focus on the internal side of soul care. Take a retreat. Sit in silence and solitude. Listen for God’s still, small voice. Spend time exploring who you are and who God created you to be. Focus on gaining self-awareness and seeing yourself through God’s eyes. Explore the Enneagram or another tool to understand how you’re wired.
I pray that you will answer God's invitation and step boldly into your next step with soul care. When we do, we'll spend more time experiencing God's deep, beautiful love, and that love will transform us from the inside out.
Amy Jackson is the founder and director of The Perch.