Soul Care and Changing our Direction in Life

by Stephen W. Smith


Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”  Mark 1:14, the Message

Some of us are old enough to have heard the word “repent” and actually saw men and women do it.  But in today’s world, the word “repent” seems out of step.  We don’t talk about repentance much anymore.  Perhaps, one reason is that in today’s world, everything is tolerated, permissible and none of us want to be accused of being closed minded to the point that we might actually have to repent of something.  We may have wrongly surmised, “Hey…let’s be tolerant. Different strokes for different folks.” 

I’ve come to believe that this single word, “repent” is at the heart and core of soul care.  Let me explain.

The term, “to repent”, as used by Jesus in his very opening words in Mark 1:14 literally means, “to change direction.”  To repent, was to change the direction one was heading in life.  To repent means that you literally turn around and head in an opposite direction.

With this foundational meaning, it’s easy to see how the term, “to repent” is so fitting and so needed in our day in age.

We repent in our lives when:

               -We want to change the direction of how we looked for happiness.

               -We want to change the way we look for peace.

               -We want to change the way we experience intimacy.

               -We want to change the way we regard our bodies.

               -We want to change the way we relate to people—even those who are different from us.

Soul Care is actually a message and a mandate that calls for change at the deepest level of our hearts. Soul Care is not practicing some new, yet ancient spiritual disciplines.  It’s far more than just that.  Soul Care is not creating space to breathe in one’s busy calendar. That’s a band aid. Soul Care is deeper.  Soul Care is not having a Sabbath.  It is not merely obeying a commandment for fear of what might happen to us.

Soul Care is a “whole other way of living.”  It is a clarion call to live in a different way; to be different in an age of chaos and confusion and to live in the courage and conviction that the way you are living is actually the very way that the prophets described and the way that was lived out by the early church.

Soul Care when best understood is not tips or techniques to help improve your inner life. It is not a way to maintain sanity. It is not a check list so that you can feel as if you are finally living right.  Soul Care is deep and goes after the very DNA of our hearts to change us into living in a way that is often counter intuitive and counter cultural.

Soul Care is thinking different. Living different and being different and accepting the fact that soul care is the heart of the Gospel. It’s core and central to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

For twenty years, Gwen and I have pioneered the soul care message. WE are not the only ones, of course that have set our course and lives to march to the beat of a different drummer.  In the beginning of our work, there was tremendous opposition within certain Christian circles. We were looked at with suspicion and suspect because of this message. Yet, little by little and step by step, we are witnessing a much wider acceptance to this message. Why? We think it is because people are waking up to the fact that the way they have been trying to live… white knuckling to survive and abandoning any notion of “thriving” that people are ready to “repent” and wade into the refreshing waters of change.

Now, I am finding, at this state of my life and work that I am “still” having to repent to care for my soul. Often, my repenting is a daily act of opening up my hands and heart and relinquishing much that I want to cling to: my reputation, my life’s work, what others think of me, and more.

I am having to let go rather than to cling and hold onto places, people, and things.

I am learning to relinquish control and to trust.

I am learning to surrender and to find freedom in the act of each mini thing I surrender.

I am learning to live freely and lightly.

As Jesus opened up his ministry saying the words, “Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand!”  I find these words a deep invitation to live better than I have been living and to be the person God made me to be—regardless of so many things.