Wellbeing is such a buzz word isn’t it? Everyone is talking about it but I’m not convinced we are all speaking the same language.  My husband works for a city council as an I.T manager and every Wednesday they are reminded by email that it’s Wellbeing Wednesday. When I asked Mark what that meant, he said ”Absolutely nothing…we just get an email!”

With all the hype around the word I am keen the church don’t just join in with the noise about a word without digging deeper into what it means and the opportunity for the life and connection it offers us.  For those who have met me you will know , I am obsessed with the word and talk about little else!

This obsession started when I felt my own lack of wellbeing pull the rug from under me. A long year of mental ill health watching re runs of “Dallas“ in bed, unable to face life, was pretty much the opposite of wellbeing, or so I thought.

I have since come to realise that the roots of all I am beginning to understand about wholeness, wellbeing, shalom, as the Hebrew puts it, were growing deep in that very low season. I had grown up around the idea that as Christians we should experience “Wholeness in Christ” and so to be so low felt like a failure, a shameful secret of a broken Christian leader. My inner monologue went like this: “Help I have lost my wholeness, I must try harder to pray more, be more resilient, be strong in the Lord, be joyful always.“

But the whisper of God in that season and ever since has not been the “pull yourself together and get out there and serve a dying world “ gospel of my younger years . NO, the God I met when I was doing nothing, helping no one, going nowhere…He is kind and patient and full of compassion. He seems happy just to be with me. His agenda is not as busy and frantic as mine. His expectations much gentler.

In short, He accepts me as I am, with all my failings, with all my fears, still does, always will. That’s the gospel of wellbeing. That is shalom.

So when I came to write a book about what wellbeing meant to me, I couldn’t come up with one definition…it means too much. It is the whole of the gospel of God’s love and grace in which there is room for all of me, for all of us. There is room for my fullness and my emptiness, my joy and my pain, my strengths and my weakness. This is shalom; that God sees, knows and loves me…He accepts me.

So that was where I started…with the word acceptance. And it became a whole alphabet of wellbeing, a full-on language of wholeness. I began at acceptance and realised that is where I always need to begin. As a Christian leader in need of wellbeing, wholeness, shalom in my life I need to start each day reminding myself I am accepted.

I have a habit that helps me remember this each day. The “Cup” thing…if you haven’t met me you might wonder what that is…if you’ve ever spent 5 minutes with me you will know…Oh that cup thing again!

The thing is, I believe wellbeing, wholeness, shalom…these are not just words, but they are the way we live, the whole of the gospel, the language of the Christian community and wellbeing needs to look like real habits and practices into which we can invite others.

You see the beauty of my obsession with wellbeing and my passion to see the church living , breathing and sharing wellbeing is that that it is exactly what everyone out there is looking for. They may not have realised it has a name and a face and arms of love attached yet. The God of wellbeing is waiting to welcome us…all of us…to his magnificent table spread with shalom. If only the church would tuck in, take their place at the wellbeing table, live lives that show we know we are accepted always. If only leaders would slow down, breathe deeply, get some practices of shalom in their lives and lead from that, I truly believe the church could be , should be at the heart of a wild move of wellbeing that sweeps a nation.

Want to join the wellbeing wave? Learn how to set up a Renew Wellbeing space at www.renewwellbeing.org.uk

Read the story of how to set up wellbeing spaces in “Slow down ,Show up and Pray“ by R. Rice

What is your language of wellbeing ? Take a look at Ruth’s “The A-Z of Wellbeing” (resources on Big Church Read – out in October to help you deepen wellbeing in your life and  church)

Ruth Rice

Ruth set up the first Renew centre, whilst leading New Life Baptist Church and now works full time for Renew Wellbeing, delivering training and supporting sustainability. Ruth has a background in teaching and Baptist church Ministry and is passionate about seeing churches turn themselves and their great habits of welcome, care and prayer inside out to reduce isolation and increase wellbeing in every community.