Ever heard of spiritual self-care goals? It might surprise you to learn we should take care of ourselves spiritually with intention. Here’s why.
What if you could adapt one of the most successful methods of achievement for groups to your personal life? This month for Self-Care Sundays we’ll explore the after-action review (AAR) and how we can apply it to the different areas of our lives where we need to focus our self-care efforts.
Christians are All Hypocrites
“Christians are all a bunch of hypocrites,” she blurted out in the middle of a conversation about something else during one of our rare meet-ups for coffee.
“What do you mean?” I asked, bewildered by her accusation.
“Have you seen the members of the Westboro Baptist Church?” she asked. “Showing up at people’s funerals to protest and waving signs of hate. What’s loving or Christian about that?”
“You have a point,” I agreed, “their behavior doesn’t represent Christ very well.”
“And what about those anti-abortion Christians who say it’s wrong to kill babies but think nothing of blowing up adults who work at abortion clinics?”
“Another good question.”
“Or even worse, the Christians who won’t admit our country has a racial injustice problem.”
“I understand where you’re coming from,” I said quietly. “I know I act with hypocrisy more times than I’d care to admit.”
“Oh, no!” she exclaimed, horrified, “I wasn’t trying to say YOU’RE a hypocrite!”
“Sadly, I think I am,” I confessed. “If a hypocrite is someone who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs, I’m guilty as charged.”
“But you don’t do any of those things I’ve been railing about,” she assured me.
“Maybe not,” I told her, “but I certainly fail to love like Jesus. all. the. time.”
She glanced at her watch, “I’m a little embarrassed that our coffee date degenerated into me railing on Christian hypocrites. And now I have to go.”
“It’s fine,” I assured her as I stood to give her a hug, “let me know when you can meet up again. You know I love catching up with you.”
Her phone rang and she nodded and waved as she hurried out the door. I sank back into my seat and stared at my now-cold latte.
Hypocrites Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Jim Jones. Jim Baker. Ted Haggard. Bill Gothard. Doug Phillips. Jimmy Swaggart. King David. While each of these men did mighty things for God at one point in their lives, they all share something in common. Meteoric falls from their high positions when someone uncovered their hypocrisy.
Some fell alone, and other took hundreds of innocent people with them. Hypocrisy happens on small scales, too. The way I get tired of telling kids what time it is when they ask for the five-thousandth time while I’m supervising the playground. And so I tell them I don’t know.
Or the way I thought I didn’t struggle with white privilege just because I grew up poorer than most people I knew and didn’t have a ‘problem’ with people of other races. And so I minimalized people’s feelings of unfairness and inequality.
Or the way I grew up vegetarian and felt superior because I didn’t eat meat. But I struggled with eating too many sweets and using food to numb my pain (but heaven forbid I use alcohol or drugs).
Maybe you can relate to some of these hypocrisies, too. We give Christ a bad name when we call ourselves Christian and don’t make any attempt to keep growing more Christlike. The process will take our lifetime, but we can’t let ourselves stagnate along the way.
When we make a public stand to become a Christ-follower, we often adopt a religious creed and join a church. After all, the Bible urges us to meet together. But we stop there. Instead of outlining a plan for spiritual self-care and growth, we follow our church’s recipe for ‘success.’ We exchange investigation for indoctrination. Don’t get me wrong indoctrination happens with any organization—whether secular or religious.
How to Set Spiritual Self-Care Goals and Keep Growing More Like Jesus
Everyone knows a pond without input and output will stagnate. But we forget how this applies to our spiritual lives. It’s easy to ride the ‘go-to-church-twice-a-week-and-I’m-saved wave.’ But God doesn’t save churches, he saves individual sinners.
Applying the after-action review structure to your spiritual self-care goals will help you get off the wave and deepen your walk with God. Or, in my case, help me learn to enjoy meeting with other believers.
According to the Army in Training Circular 25-20, the four steps in an AAR seem pretty simple
- Step 1. Planning
- Step 2. Preparing
- Step 3. Conducting
- Step 4. Following up (using AAR results)
1. Planning to Improve Your Spiritual Life
For many of us, churches form the center of our spiritual life. Bible studies, Wednesday night prayer meetings, weekend services, community outreach, and fellowship with other believers can all play a huge role in our spiritual self-care.
But have you ever considered how each of these activities nourishes your spirituality? I look at the list of possible churchy activities and cringe. So. many. opportunities. to. spend. time. with. people. I like people in small quantities and small doses. For years I thought I wasn’t much of a Christian because I couldn’t get excited about all the opportunities to serve or attend all the things.
But church doesn’t make us spiritual. A relationship with God makes us spiritual. And I’ve retreated from church attendance as much as possible (and COVID-19 has helped me get away with it). But the longer I avoid worshipping with other believers, the more I realize I need balance. My spiritual self-care routine falls heavily on the side of individual Bible study (not a bad thing). But Hebrews 10:25 urges us to not give up on meeting together.
For spiritual self-care, I’ll use the example of having a healthy relationship with church. I know I have felt resentful in the past because I feel as if I’m expected to go to ALL the things and for me, that’s too much peopling.
The Army starts their planning with a before-action review (aka BAR—the government loves acronyms).
- Task (what actions to take)
- Purpose (why it’s important)
- Intent (statement of goals)
- End state (what the desired result is)
Task—fellowship with my church family once a week.
Purpose—to give and receive encouragement from fellow believers.
Intent—I will find ways I am comfortable worshipping with other believers in order to give and receive encouragement as well as study the Bible.
End state—By June I will have participated in 16 church events, small groups, meetings, or services and decided which ones help me the most with my spiritual self-care.
2. Careful Preparation Makes it Real
As a homebody, dragging myself out the door to a church event will require a lot of forethought and planning. For a small community and church, we actually have a wide variety of options. On Friday nights, the women usually fellowship together for several hours. I enjoy these events when I attend, but I struggle to stay up that late. Getting enough sleep the night before will help me. I could also attend a small group Bible study on Wednesday nights, a Bible study on Saturday morning, or the regular weekly church service.
Once I see all of my options, I will select the ones I want to attend each week and schedule them in my planner.
3. Conducting the After-Action Review
Decide ahead of time when you will conduct the AAR. The army uses both informal and formal AARs, but the magic lies in when they take place—immediately after the training exercise.
For an individual wanting to adopt the after-action review concept, you’ll need to decide how often you want to conduct a review. Daily? Weekly? Quarterly? Monthly?
When I set goals, I review my progress weekly, quarterly, and annually. I’ll check my progress once a week. I’ll try an event and analyze what I like and dislike about it; how it makes me feel; and whether or not I feel spiritually nourished by participating. At the end of the month, I’ll decide which one (or ones) I want to make a regular part of my life.
4. Following Up
At the end of four months, I will have a clearer picture of what nourishes me spiritually as far as meeting together with other believers goes. If I feel that nothing really meets my needs, I will consider starting something that does—because surely, I’m not the only one with ambiguous feelings about church.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”Proverbs 27:17
We need community and diversity of ideas in order to keep growing spiritually. It may take some searching to find the right small group or activity, though. But if we don’t try and experiment, we’ll never know.
Need Spiritual Self-Care Ideas?
Maybe you’re one of those people who loves all things churchy and you tend to avoid individual Bible study in favor of attending all the programs your church has to offer. Or perhaps you struggle with your church’s way of worshipping or doing things. Spiritual self-care means we take notice of these trends and work to enrich our spirituality in whatever way it seems lacking.
Spend some time in prayer thinking about how God might want you to grow spiritually this year. These ideas may help you.
- Bible Studies (many free Bible studies are available online)
- Study different worship styles
- Read A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
- Join a Bible Study Fellowship group
- Commit to reading through the Bible in one year
- Journal daily as part of your gratitude, response to the Bible, prayer time.
- Start a prayer journal
- Select a variety of books from different authors that will help you understand the Bible better.
- Analyze your motivation for going to church and attending church events.
- Learn to say, ‘No!’ when someone from church asks you to do something (sometimes we confuse busyness with closeness to God).
Whatever you choose to do, remember that spiritual self-care requires intention and a plan to help us make progress.