I’ve recently taken a kind of hiatus. I haven’t posted much here. I limited my interaction on Twitter and Facebook. I suppose there are many things that contributed to my feeling of soul weariness. There’s the ongoing tiresomeness of partisan politics that’s like the bad car accident you just can’t look away from. There’s the mean-spirited nature of a lot of the arguing back and forth that’s a part of the current American Church that too easily leaves me feeling my hope fading away. There are the normal challenges in life of family and friends facing painful circumstances. Then Brennan Manning and Dallas Willard died within days of each other. There were all kinds of things written to honour both of these men. My life and my understanding of who I am as a human being was profoundly changed when I discovered Brennan’s writings. Dallas Willard is someone I’ve discovered more recently, but, again, his writings are freeing for me in deep ways. All of that to say, I’ve felt the need to spend some time soaking up the thoughts and ideas of some of the people I respect to restore, replenish, and re-energize my soul.
I realized I’ve fallen out of the habit of tending my soul well. When the thought occurred to me, I would consciously notice the beauty around me or spend a minute or two fully inhabiting the present moment. But I haven’t been intentional/purposeful/choosing to do the things I know to do that tend and nurture my soul. No wonder my soul was feeling a bit weak. I know better. I’ve been to the dark places where my soul felt like someone had broken me in two and poured out my heart on the ground in front of me. It’s been the Brennan Manning’s, the Dallas Willard’s, and the Henri Nouwen’s who have shared from their own dark places of the soul the practices and perspectives that bring light and fresh air.
So for the last month I’ve been reacquainting myself with some of my favourite authors and introducing myself to some new ones.
Eugene Cho is a wonderful advocate for justice for the “least of these.” He pastors a church in the Seattle area and started a non-profit called One Day’s Wages, based on the idea that if we all give the equivalent of just one day of our wages, we can wipe out poverty in our lifetime. I came across this quote of his:
Nothing grows by itself. If something matters to you, be intentional about growing it over time: Plant. Water. Nurture.
Others can help but no one can replace your role in self-care. That’s why it’s called self-care. Don’t play the victim and blame others. Invest in yourself: Rest. Play. Sabbath. Study. Pray. Exercise. Read. Create.
Nurturing my soul is my responsibility. I can’t blame someone else when I burn out, or become brittle, or my soul’s needs aren’t being met. These things are my responsibility. Just like I do my best to eat healthy food (and, yes, chocolate is a healthy food, just in case there was any question in your mind), I need to do my best to give my soul the healthy input it needs to function well. So I’ve been reminding myself of what I need to do to tend my soul, and I’m starting an occasional series of posts to explore those things. I’ll be looking at things like practicing gratitude, living a well-examined life, engaging in what I think of as mindful contemplation, and treating myself and others with gentleness. I’m betting that others will occur to me as I work through these, so the list will be expanding as I go along.
Being a living soul is a thankfulness-worthy gift. Our souls are the luminous center of our beings, the place where we are truly and completely ourselves, with all our quirks, our broken places and our capacity for relationship. Whether you believe our appearance in the universe was spontaneous or that our spark of life is God-breathed, our souls are our greatest gift and worth tending well. I hope some of my soul-tending experiences will inspire you to explore the state of your soul and find new ways to strengthen and expand the life within.
Does the idea of tending your soul make you uncomfortable? Are you someone with long experience in the ways of soul tending? What do you do when you realize your soul is becoming brittle?