By Sue Magrath | Sacred Mountain Ministries
It’s been a long, hot summer. Even the western side of the state has had little or no rain in several months. Rivers are lower than they’ve been in years, and farmers are scrambling to get a share of the dwindling water available for irrigation. Salmon runs have been profoundly affected, and tinder-dry conditions have led to another summer of raging wildfires. We are all desperate for rain.
This seems like an apt metaphor for the spiritual lives of clergy. Many clergy have so little time to water their souls that they end up feeling dry and depleted. The demands of their profession—the endless meetings, visitations, and sermon prep—leave little room for their own soul care, making them vulnerable to a spiritual withering or even burn-out. Certainly, personal growth is compromised in such a dry spiritual environment. Unfortunately, the watering that is needed isn’t something clergy can just wait for, in hopes of an unexpected rain storm; nor can they do a rain dance and expect that the spiritual nourishment will occur magically. No, tending to the soul is something that must be practiced intentionally and regularly.
In my work with clergy, I have often found that their attempts at regular spiritual practice are limited by their own narrow definitions of what it means to be spiritual. Yet I have found that the only thing that differentiates the sacred from the secular is our intention. Even a game of golf can be sacred if it is approached with a prayerful awareness of the gift of your beautiful surroundings, your companions, and the wonderful workings of your own body. Following are some ideas for those of you who are experiencing a spiritual drought and are in need of sacred waters:
- Take a few minutes in the middle of your day to wander into the sanctuary of your church. Sit in the dark stillness and breathe in the presence of God. Let go of the to-do lists and the worries, and just be present to this moment.
- If you walk or ride a bicycle to work, use this as an opportunity for mindfulness practice. Be aware of your surroundings, and be grateful for the gifts you notice.
- Think of your car as a “rolling monastery.” Listen to music that draws you into a spiritual space. Imagine that God is your traveling companion, and engage in a dialogue, listening for God’s encouragement, comfort, dreams and new directions for you. Pray for loved ones, congregants, even the drivers around you. Think of a breath prayer to repeat to yourself.
- Consider seeking out a spiritual director. This person will help you address any spiritual struggles you have and explore spiritual practices that are in harmony with your personality and your lifestyle. You may also be drawn into an increased awareness of the ways in which God is working in your life.
Of course, there are many, many more ways in which you might seek the holy. I hope you will share the things you have discovered that work for you in watering your soul and keeping it healthy and green. In that way, all our souls might be fed. Please send your thoughts, ideas, column suggestions or questions to Sue Magrath at firstname.lastname@example.org.