Day 84 of 100: Soul Keeping

How is your soul doing?

I believe this question is deeper than “how are you doing?” or “how are you feeling?”, partially because I don’t think you can answer “fine, how are you?” to this question.

This week I finished reading Soul Keeping by John Ortberg, who asks us to consider this question.

I like to gauge how my soul is doing by my sense of “connection vs. disconnection”: am I finding meaning and peace in my relationships, work, rest, hobbies, and ministry?

I measure the health of my soul by my thoughts. Am I anxious about my life and feel like I have to “make something happen”? Am I afraid that nothing is going to get any better unless I do something? Am I imagining possible bad outcomes and preparing myself for the worst? Do I avoid making decisions or committing to something in fear that it’ll fall through? Do I mindlessly scroll through the Internet because there’s a task I’m avoiding?

The health of my soul comes out in how I treat people. Do I avoid people at work and even church because I’m afraid they think I’m annoying or a burden? Is my demeanor just a little too detached and polite? Am I trying to guess how deep they’re willing to go instead of openly sharing myself? Do I get annoyed at how I feel like I’m being treated? Do I get frustrated when others disappoint me? Do I assume that someone else is at fault when something doesn’t go right in my life?

Here’s what a healthy soul looks like to me, many of these are from a list in Ortberg’s book:

  • Saying “yes” or “no” when someone asks me to do something without anxiety, obligation, or wavering
  • Speaking and sharing what’s in my heart with confidence and honesty
  • Seeing myself and others as God sees us
  • Honestly owning up to what I’ve done wrong without being overcome by guilt or shame
  • Giving credit where credit is due
  • Knowing God’s presence and the movement of the Holy Spirit in my daily life
  • Willing to take risks in leadership
  • Going the extra mile
  • Not making assumptions about another’s character based on what I see
  • Believing the best of everyone and striving for mutual understanding
  • Working to bring out the best in others
  • Using my talents and possessions to bless others and bring glory to God
  • Developing a conversational relationship with God

This list is overwhelming to me. As much as I’d like to strive for each of these things, I know that I’ll always mess up and get down on myself about it.

Here’s my theory: Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. I can only effectively live and love wholeheartedly when in relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of all things and when I seek him first.

I’ve been testing out this theory, first by identifying the things in my life that cause me to feel disconnected from God, myself, and others and removing or limiting them (Hebrews 12:1 – …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…) and identifying habits that help me feel “connected” to my self, others, and God and bringing them into my routine. This allows my category-loving brain to separate things into “helpful” and “not helpful.” The question I like to ask myself is, “in light of the person I want to become, is this a wise thing for me to do?”

Having a conversation with someone at work every day: energizing. Video gaming: restful, in moderation. Cooking: freeing. Deep, real talk: connecting with others. Mindless scrolling on Facebook and Pinterest: depressing. Journaling: clarifying. Reading: relaxing. Reading the Bible and applying it to my life, listening to sermons and reading books from wise Christ-loving people: engaging. Watching violent TV/movies/video games: nerve-wracking. Listening to storytelling podcasts: empathy-inducing. Prayer with people and alone: life-giving. Dwelling on a problem but avoiding confrontation: disconnecting from others. Working to reconcile a problem with another: restoring. Completing an experiment and asking for help: empowering. Trying to do work alone or in a hurry, or sitting in anxiety: draining. This isn’t to say that I think entertainment is wrong, but I believe some discernment is required to find out what entertainment and in what dosage is life-giving for you.

The soul longs for connection with self, others, and God. I believe that Jesus’ mission was and is to fill this longing for reconciliation, and that by getting to know, understand, trust, and follow Jesus that I find the connection I’m looking for. So far, it’s going pretty well. I feel more confident, more expressive, more energetic, and I’m experiencing deeper connections with people and a deeper sense of seeing God’s hand in everything. So I’m running with it. Change is happening, slowly, and it’s very exciting.

So, how is your soul doing?

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