Why My Soul Needs Rest as Much as My Body Does
I am one of the 42 percent of Microsoft customers who use Windows 10. Apparently the rest are doggedly holding onto Windows 7 or XP. I distrust Windows 10 as much as the next guy— I hate the fact that they insist on shutting down and updating my computer, which they always seem to do at the worst possible time, such as when I have a deadline and really need to work. I feel the same about my phone—those requests to update seem to be getting more frequent all the time. Operating systems: the bane of digital life in the modern age.
Operating systems are a lot like our souls. Working quietly in the background to organize every aspect of our lives, our souls determine what we think and feel, how we relate and the choices we make, our connection to God and the entire spiritual world. In other words, our soul’s job is to keep our whole being functioning—mind, spirit and body.
Jesus asked two fascinating questions about our souls: What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? and, Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mark 8:36-37). We tend to interpret these questions in light of our eternal destiny, but the word lose here means to suffer loss, or to sustain damage. From what Jesus says here, we face the danger of losing our souls every single day.
What can damage our souls? The chaotic, driven pace of life. The distractions and addictions that are fueled by our ubiquitous digital devices. The rising anxiety we experience with the transience of our jobs or the anger that erupts on the freeway or the fears that fill our sleepless nights. At some point, our operating system may just break down, and when it does, we will have lost the essence of our being--which, in God’s eyes, is worth more than anything else.
What are we to do? How do we live in such a way that our souls remain healthy? What does it take to restore the damage inflicted upon them on any given day? Just as our bodies cannot function without rest, our souls too need time for everything to stop so we can care for them properly.
God has had a very specific plan for our souls to rest: experiencing his presence. From the Old Testament in which God promises Moses, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14), to the New Testament where Jesus invites us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), it is clear that the God who made us wants our souls to rest.
Like computers that will eventually crash without those system updates, rest for our souls requires time. On a practical level, this means we are going to have to plan for soul-rest, something our busy schedules defy, our culture wars against and our digital devices make nigh impossible. To that end, let me offer a few simple suggestions:
Set an intention .Intentions are powerful tools—they signal to our brains that we mean business and make it easier to follow through. Be realistic: If you have young kids, your time will likely be short and hopefully sweet. Write down a specific intention, place it in a prominent location (bathroom mirror, computer screen, etc.), and tell a trusted friend. Here is an example of a clear intention: Starting next Monday, I am going to set aside ten minutes every morning before breakfast to spend time with God and care for my soul.
Establish a plan. Gather your things—journal, pen, notebook, Bible, etc.—and put them in the best spot for quietness. Decide ahead how you will spend the time. My book The Soul at Rest: A Forty Day Journey into a Life of Prayer is one good tool, and there are many others.
Never give up. Soul care is the most important thing we can ever do—for ourselves, our families and the people we engage with throughout the day, but it never comes easy. When you fail, don’t beat yourself up or throw in the towel, but determine to try again. Just as you don’t decide to stop sleeping when you’ve had a bad night, don’t ever stop trying to establish the good habit of caring for your soul.
Remember it’s about rest. When Jesus invites us to come to him, he tells us to come as we are—bringing our weariness and the burdens of life. We don’t have to accomplish anything or perform to some standard, but instead to train our souls to rest. For me, this often means reminding myself that I have no agenda but to just be with God.
Is anything worth more than your soul? Not to the One who created you to enjoy his presence and experience life to its fullest. He is passionate about giving you rest! There is nothing that will improve your overall sense of being than to join him in caring for your soul.
Tricia McCary Rhodes is the author of several books, including The Wired Soul and Sacred Chaos. She and her husband founded New Hope Church in San Diego; she is currently an adjunct professor of practical theology at Fuller Seminary.