Caring for Your Soul in 2017

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I’m a bit of a hotel snob at times. I don’t mean to be. I just happen to appreciate cleanliness, tranquility, and a good night’s sleep—and some hotels are less conducive to that than others. I’ve been known to change hotels at midnight because the bed was too uncomfortable and the bathtub was stained. My wife Chelsea just rolls her eyes, but this is real to me.

I think my snobbery stems from my well-documented issue with germs, stains, and dirt. I’ve always been a bit OCD about that sort of thing, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting worse with age, not better. Awhile back I saw a news story about how many microbes are in the average hotel room, and it scarred me for life. If I’m going to sleep in a bed that a thousand strangers have slept in before me, I want to know that’s it been thoroughly cleansed, disinfected, and sanitized. That’s reasonable, right? And it’s also reasonable to have carpet that was installed in the current decade. And blackout curtains. And soundproof doors. And cool art hanging on the walls. And a gorgeous view, preferably of a beach or mountain. And freshly cleaned robes, again because of germs. And an adjoining room—with a locking door—for my kids, who are also not conducive to tranquility and a good night’s sleep.

We’re talking bare essentials, right? Can you fault me? Don’t answer that question.

I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been a hotel snob as well. Okay, that might be stretching it. But there is biblical proof that he valued getting away and resting. Chelsea pointed this out to me recently, and I think it’s brilliant. Actually, Jesus’ approach toward rest reveals an important key to a healthy soul, one that I think we should keep in mind in the coming year.

Mark 3:7 says, “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea” (NLT). To paraphrase, he hit the beach with his friends. Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (NLT). In another instance, when Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s death, he “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 4:13, NIV).

That word “withdrew” is fascinating to me. Time after time, the Gospels record Jesus leaving behind the crush of the crowds to find a solitary place. Sometimes he went alone. Sometimes he went with friends. Sometimes he went to relax. Sometimes he went to grieve. Sometimes he went to pray. Jesus knew when and how and why to withdraw.

As we consider the coming year and the conditions of our souls, I think it would be helpful to keep Jesus’ example in mind. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we think of the pressures, plans, and projections for 2017. Even positive expectations create their share of stress. In the middle of so much activity, there is a lot to be said for learning to strategically withdraw. It is healthy for our souls.

Withdrawing doesn’t mean moving to Tibet and becoming a hermit. Nor does it mean stomping into your room and slamming the door. Withdrawing might include a physical change of location, but mostly it is an attitude of the soul. It’s a decision to separate yourself from the busyness and chaos of day-to-day existence in order to refresh your soul.

You can withdraw on many levels and in many ways. The story is told of Susanna Wesley, mother of revivalist preachers John and Charles Wesley (and seventeen other children!), who used to put her apron over her head when she wanted to pray. That was the only way she could find the peace and privacy her soul needed.

Jesus withdrew regularly and intentionally. And if Jesus—the eternal, perfect, and miracle-working Son of God—needed to withdraw, it’s worth asking the question, “Why should we withdraw?”

  1. Withdraw to reconnect

    Jesus seems to have used his times alone to reconnect. He reconnected with God in prayer, he reconnected with himself through reflection, and he reconnected with his disciples by spending time together. Who do you need to reconnect to? God? Yourself? Others? Sometimes we can get so distracted doing things—even good things—that we lose the connections that matter the most. In the coming year, evaluate the connections that keep your soul healthy, and do what it takes to reconnect.

  1. Withdraw to recharge

    Jesus faced the same physical limitations we do. His body needed food, water, and sleep; and his soul needed rest as well. He had an incredible capacity to heal and give, yet he still found it necessary to take time off and refill what had been depleted.  Even his humanness had its limitations.Maybe for you, hanging out with friends is the ultimate source of energy. You come away refreshed and refilled, ready to face the daily demands of life. Maybe you prefer complete solitude or time alone with your spouse and kids. Personally, I like to watch SportsCenter. My wife loves an uninterrupted day at the house, which usually results in totally rearranged furniture. I have a friend who reads astronomy and physics magazines to unwind, which is complete lunacy to me. We all recharge differently, but the point is we all need to recharge.What recharges you? What fills you with joy, passion, and peace? What are your hobbies? I think a good goal for 2017 would be to find a few things that recharge you and determine to carve out the time and resources to pursue them.

  1. Withdraw to reengage

    Jesus withdrew for a time, but he didn’t build a hut and live in the wilderness. He always returned to “real life.” He was on this planet with a purpose, and he fulfilled that purpose with all his heart.We withdraw in order to reenter life with new vision, new ideas, and new strength. Don’t be surprised if your withdrawing does more than rest and recharge your soul. Most likely, it will spawn creative ideas. It will give your soul breathing room, your head new space, and that will propel you to new heights and greater adventures.

So let us not just enjoy this practice of re-engaging, reconnecting, and recharging as something we do once this season as we enter the new year but instead what choose as a pace for our lives to keep our souls healthy.  Remember, there is nothing selfish about taking time for yourself. It’s therapeutic. It’s natural. It’s spiritual. It’s above all necessary.  Just as you refuel your body by eating and breathing, you should find ways to refuel your soul. Don’t waste your time off feeling guilty for not doing what you “should be doing.” Withdrawing and focusing on your soul is exactly what you should be doing, because you need to continue to function correctly in the future.

A connected, charged, and engaged soul is the best gift you could give yourself and those around you this year. It really is a gift that keeps on giving.  Determine to take time to withdraw as needed, then face the future with boldness and faith. God is with you and for you. Your best days are still to come!

An original post by Judah Smith for FaithGateway.

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Your Turn

How and where do you like to withdraw? What activities leave you feeling refreshed and ready for what’s next? Think of some practical ways you can create space in the new year to allow yourself to recharge, reconnect and re-engage. We’ve love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How's Your Soul?

How's Your Soul?
Judah Smith
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Judah Smith

Judah Smith and his wife, Chelsea, are the lead pastors of The City Church in Seattle, Washington. Judah is the author of the New York Times bestseller Jesus Is ____. Judah and his wife were youth ministry pastors for ten years-- ranked as one of the top five "most dynamic" youth groups in the country by Ministry Today-- before stepping into their new role in 2009. Judah is in high demand as speaker, both in the U.S. and abroad. He and Chelsea have three children: Zion, Eliott, and Grace.

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