Caring for Your Soul: What’s the Foundation for your Life?

by Stephen W. Smith

These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.”

“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” These are the very words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24 ff, the Message.

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In this powerful metaphor, Jesus offers us a picture of two different ways to build one’s life.  That’s what we’re doing, you know—we are building our lives every single day by the actions we take, the decisions we make, and the people and values that influence us.  One way or the other, each one of us is building our life.  The real question is this: What is your life being built upon?

In the past 40 years, Gwen and I have worked with hundreds of leaders  on how to live out their life in the arena of business and the arena of ministry.  One of the glaring dangers  we have witnessed is how many of these leaders start out leading by building a church or a business, with absolutely no idea of their internal foundation.

Sadly, this is my story. I was educated, trained, and released to begin building my life and the work of the church before I ever knew anything about my internal world. I had never excavated my heart out; I had never dug deep to ask myself the hard questions about my own family of origin or the health of my own family system-I just started building. I built and built and built. Until, like so many people we know, my house began to collapse.  I had not dug a deep foundation. I had not found the bedrock upon which to build my own life or help others. I built churches, but I did not build my soul.

Richard Foster has said that “superficiality is the curse of our age.”  He continues. “The world does not need busy people. The world needs deep people.”  Foster was anchoring his own thoughts on this very important warning from Jesus. 

I know—I know. What I am saying sounds so foreign…. and it actually is, my friends. But sometimes, if we are building a house of cards, we will come to our senses only AFTER our houses of our reputation, power, and search for significance collapses  leaves us jarred. Then—and only then— can we  awaken to our senses.

I pray that our awakening may happen before our houses collapse.  I believe this is the heart of Jesus for us—a dire warning of how we are living and building our lives; through our marriages, our families, and our churches.

Do you know the “foundational words” that Jesus is referring to, and how they apply to you?

How are you “working these words into your own life?”

Soul care is the art of consistent work on our foundation, as well as building our marriages, our children, and our spheres of work and ministry.  Here are three ways to begin to “work these words” into you life; to find the bedrock of truth and to build your life from the inside out, not the outside in as I did and the many others like me.

1.      Get a “red-letter” edition of the New Testament. Read the “red letters”—the very, and the only, words of Jesus. When my life and house collapsed and my own success could not be held up any more by my gifts, charisma, and ego-power, Dallas Willard encouraged me to get a red letter edition of the Bible. For one solid year, I read only the words of Jesus.  I found the bedrock, and I believe you can also.

2.      Slow your life down.  The cult of speed is dangerous, intoxicating us to go faster.  A young man recently told me that he only listens to podcast’s on 2x speed—twice the speed. He said, “If I can’t listen to it in twice the speed of ’real time‘ then I won’t listen to it.” I smiled as I asked him for feedback on our new Potter’s Inn podcast—where our stated goal is to help us all slow down. Resist the cult and culture of speed. Be gentle with yourself and others who intentionally chose to no longer “multi-task” and have efficiency as their god of the 21st century. Walk slowly. Read slowly. Talk slowly. Listen slowly. Read the Bible slowly. Slow is the new cadence to cultivate a resilient life.

3.      Embrace a rhythm where you that will sustain you, not harass you. At Potter’s Inn, we say: “Live in a 6:1 rhythm.” Work six days but take one whole, complete, and total day off. This is God’s design for our human dilemma, and rhythm is God’s idea to sustain us. So, why not?

Soul care is both excavation— the digging down deep and the building of a solid life that is healthy. A life that lives well and leads well… all built upon a solid foundation.