A couple I deeply respect have served for a decade on the other side of the world, helping poor entrepreneurs to better their lives. But a few months ago, they threw in the towel. Quitting wasn’t failure. The good fruit of their work is evident; it will continue to rise for years yet to come. But I suspect even greater good could have come had they not grown so weary, run so dry.
Our souls quickly wither when we stop watering them.
I’m not sure any of us can completely avoid seasons like that. Just about every co-worker I know in the field of orphan care, adoption and foster care have experienced such times. I’ve wandered in thirsty wastelands, too. Looking back, God used these times for much good – to humble and refine and, in time, to draw me nearer to His heart.
But I also see clearly that, just like my garden soon wilts when I fail to water it, our souls quickly wither when we stop watering them. There is no formula, of course. But saints across the centuries have discovered that certain practices and rhythms of life do irrigate the soul. These habits may not prevent season of weariness and thirst completely; but they do sustain us through them.
There are practices and rhythms of life that can irrigate the soul.
As the CAFO community, we’re working together to learn how to prioritize these habits. We want to grow down – both as individuals and as organizations. We want deep roots that draw life from God, sustaining even when the world’s brokenness breaks against us like scorching winds.
An article I wrote for this month’s Christianity Today argues, “The Fight for Social Justice Starts Within.” It claims that the stakes are very high:
Christians never look more like Jesus than when humbly serving amidst the world’s hurt—caring for orphans, battling trafficking, promoting urban renewal. But this good will inevitably be short-lived when rooted in zeal for justice alone. If it is to be sustained, our commitment to justice and mercy must be paired with an even stronger commitment to cultivating a vibrant inner life rooted deep in Christ.
Alongside this article, on Friday CAFO released the latest episode of the Justice and the Inner Life podcast. This one is an interview with Gary Haugen, the founder and CEO of the International Justice Mission. Gary shares how IJM’s commitment to shared practices of spiritual formation have profoundly impacted him and the entire IJM staff. He also explains very practical ideas for how any organization can do the same. (Listen to the podcast HERE.)
“The victims of injustice and abuse in this world do not need our spasms of passion – they need our long obedience in the same direction.” — Gary Haugen
The needs of our world are immense. No doubt many are knocking at your door right now. But if we hope to continue answering that knock with bright eyes and joy in our hearts, there is nothing more critical than to form and keep habits that water our souls. What Gary shares can help us in that — a great deal, I believe. And what we do with it may transform our ministry to its very roots.