What are the top three things women leaders need to know about soul care?
On thing is they just need to decide what they want. That may sound a little too simplistic, but a lot of times we think that spiritual formation, or living from a place of soul health, is going to require some radical change. And in some people's lives maybe it would, but often the more radical change is inside us, declaring, I don't want to live this way anymore. When we decide what we want, that unleashes all kinds of spiritual resources to help us solve it. It requires desire and vision well within reach of a woman leader.
The second thing is that it's their responsibility. They're not victims of their environment. I stayed in a victim place way too long, and I blamed everybody else for my pace of life, what was not working, etc. Some of us feel like everything is outside of our control or outside our power.
The third thing is that it changes constantly, at least in my life. There is not some fixed solution or prescription. For example, just the other day, something came up that made me think, Wow, that's the kind of thing that I might devote some fasting to. I don't think I've fasted in six years, whereas it was huge in some seasons of my life. So some things come and go as needed. Sometimes silence is a huge part of our life and then other times it's very much about study or meditation, any number of things.
Can I add a fourth? I believe it has to involve community. I don't know that we know who we are outside of that.
We sometimes actually contribute to one another's decline rather than help one another care for our souls. How do women drain one another sometimes, and how can we turn that around and be life-giving to each other instead?
My friendships with women are how I stay the course. We can give life to one another in a variety of ways. What drains me is people who have no hope in God. Now, we all lose hope at times so it's not like I want little bubbly-miss-whatever awkward person to constantly be in my face. What I mean by that is the sisterhood of those who have the kingdom perspective, whether it's in hard and aching times or in awesome times. It's really fun doing life with these women and I'm very blessed to have so many of them. We drain one another when we look to each other to be God instead of looking together to God. That'll suck the life out of any relationship, man or woman. I mean, you don't actually sit down with coffee and tell somebody, "I'd really prefer for you to be God for me today," but when we act that way toward someone, that's draining.
Now, how do we give life to one another? Just being for somebody else, celebrating their victories. Another way is if somebody's being quite shallow, when you can't lift a conversation higher than an earthly perspective, sometimes our gift to one another is to help lift each other's sights to what's actually going on, where God is at work.
Another way to give life to one another is to really pray for someone else. Pray for her ministry, for her leadership, for God's anointing over her life, God's favor over her work. Most of my deep friendships are marked by what I think of as a culture of prayer, which is how it becomes clear that God is really the third party any friendship. I find it life-giving when I'm at a speaking engagement and an hour before I'm ready to start, one of these women just sends me a text. She's a huge leader in her own right and she's sending, "Hey, just praying for God's power to work through you tonight."
Recognize that others need you. I've disappointed people, and probably missed opportunities because I was so stuck in my "Who am I to help her?" attitude. I certainly don't advise anyone to inflict yourself on others, but see yourself as a minister, especially to the other women leaders around you. How can you put wind underneath her wings? How do you help draw her back to God? How do you help lift her sights?
Is there one practice of soul care that you would recommend to every woman in ministry?
There's a Quaker writer named Thomas Kelly who wrote a book called A Testament of Devotion, and in it he describes what he calls "inward prayer." It's kind of a similar thing to the idea of practicing the presence of God, the brother Lawrence mentality.
Kelly wrote, "There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings."
I think as women we are good at that. Good at multi-tasking, good at being present in the moment, but at a deeper level also usually processing something. How can we take that deeper level and more routinely reconnect with God in the moment? So as we are in a meeting, as we are making a decision, as we are crafting a hard email, as we are teaching, as we are doing what we are doing, how do we cultivate our soul's ability to stay present to God, connected with God, aware of whatever God might be speaking into that moment, trusting that his will will be done. I say that to every leader, but I think for women in particular, it's a wonderful discipline to be able to just tune that interior conversation quite directly to God and turn over to him the questions, the concerns, the gratitude, the worship.
That's the one practice I would recommend. In a sense it doesn't take any time but it takes all your time.