Tending the Sanctuary of the Soul

One summer between my first and second years of college, I was a camp counselor at a local Christian camp. Honestly, I took the job because I was desperate. I had tried getting jobs, but this was during the recession of the 70’s and short-term jobs were not easy to find. Not only was I distressed at this, but my mother was annoyed and no one wanted to live with that.

The experience turned out to be amazing.

I am not a kid person, but I found the time spent with the younger children fun and I found I enjoyed the role of nurturer. I particularly loved working with the older girls, who could do more for themselves and were more interesting to talk with. But one of the most useful things I learned that summer and one that has stayed with me is: I learned to build a fire.

It’s not as easy as it seems. My partner struggled with it, finally learning the last week of camp. One must start with easily flammable material and then tent stronger material around this pile in a way that air can flow through. Once you have created a flame of sorts, then you begin to add the bigger and not as flammable material around the small coals. But you are not done once the fire catches. You must continuously tend the fire, feeding it at the right times, but not so much that you smother it. And if possible, you need to protect it from outside influences, like rain, which threatens to put it out.

Recently, I was reading The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith. In the last chapter, he writes of Thomas Kelly’s book: A Testament of Devotion. Smith used the comparison of what Kelly wrote to tending a fire. Kelly writes that, “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center…”, and “It is a Light Within which illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men.”

The Light Within is obviously Jesus.

He lives in all of us who call him Lord. Kelly calls “the sanctuary of the soul” the place where the Light Within dwells.

Smith shows that just as tending a fire requires constant maintenance, so must this “sanctuary of our soul”, where the Light dwells, require continual attention.

How do we attend to the needs of the sanctuary of our soul? By intentionally nurturing the relationship with Christ through a variety of means: Bible reading and studying, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and generally, spending time with Christ alone.

After all, our Christianity is marked by a relationship with Christ, and relationships need regular effort to continue in intimacy.

In friendships, one of the best and important things we can do to achieve this intimate relationship is being quiet with another person. Time, stillness, and listening are some of the best gifts of ourselves that we can give to one another.

Our relationship with Christ is no different.

Jesus modeled this with his Father:

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. ~Matthew 14:23

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. ~Luke 6:12

After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. ~Mark 6:46

Was he chatting away the whole time? I find that hard to believe. There must have been some silent times, where Jesus simply sat with his Father or times when he listened to God. Perhaps he even dozed in the safety of the arms of the One who loved him most. I imagine him sitting comfortably on the top of those mountains, enjoying the fellowship with God and not wanting to leave, but when he left, it was with the complete confidence of God’s joy in him.

I believe how he felt is much like how I feel after spending time with friends and family; that feeling of acceptance that I am loved and conviction that I can do anything because of it.

These moments Jesus spent with his Father are what he needed in order to live a life of peace, joy, and the antidote for the loneliness he must have felt living in this world as a misunderstood person. He also attributed his power to heal, preach, and love those around him with the time spent alone in communion with God.

In essence, Jesus continuously tended the place within to maintain his relationship with God.

Dallas Willard has stated about silence and solitude, all descriptors of being still:

Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation, and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. Your will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways. Silence also brings Sabbath to you. It completes solitude, for without it you cannot be alone. Far from being a mere absence, silence allows the reality of God to stand in the midst of your life. God does not ordinarily compete for our attention. In silence we come to attend.

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship

How do you tend the sanctuary of your soul?

What would it look like for you to add the practice of stillness to your life?

I encourage you to try it for one week and see what happens.

Just Like Jesus


Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Rebecca Montie Preston
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  1. Jen on February 16, 2018 at 9:07 AM

    There is something so peaceful about this post. It brings to mind the hymn, “I Come To The Garden Alone”, which for me always creates a picture of a beautiful English garden and being with Jesus, just me and him. That’s the relationship I want.

    Beautiful post, Becky. Thank you.

    • Rebecca Preston on February 20, 2018 at 7:29 AM

      One of my favorite stories is centered on that song…I’ll tell you about it someday. Very glad to be the catalyst for you to be able to experience peace. Praise God.

  2. Cole// Cole Smith Writes on February 16, 2018 at 11:27 AM

    Yes! I remember this when I feel too swamped. If Jesus needed to get away and be still–how much more do I!

    • Rebecca Preston on February 20, 2018 at 7:27 AM

      That’s what the church is for – to help us remember. Thanks, Cole!

  3. Christine Falcone on February 17, 2018 at 8:01 AM

    Thank you for this beautiful post. It was sent from God , I think just to me!!! I am in need of a quiet, still time with Him and this was just the reminder I needed.

    • Rebecca Preston on February 20, 2018 at 7:25 AM

      I’m hoping to sponser a silent retreat in April…do you want an invite?

  4. Diane on February 19, 2018 at 10:08 AM

    Whoosh! Your writing always brings me an exhale. And you rarely omit a reference to your Dallas, which I am always inspired by. Thanks, Becky, for bringing us your peace once again. It’s so very lovely.
    My fave lines…
    “Perhaps he even dozed in the safety of the arms of the One who loved him most. I imagine him sitting comfortably on the top of those mountains, enjoying the fellowship with God and not wanting to leave, but when he left, it was with the complete confidence of God’s joy in him.”

  5. Rebecca Preston on February 20, 2018 at 7:31 AM

    Ah, well, you know me too well. It is a lovely picture of Jesus and his time with the Father. I’d like to take credit, but it was a gift from Him.

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