Yesterday I listened to a great podcast by John Eldridge on the soul. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Eldridge said that our soul is that unique part of ourselves that contains our abilities and characteristics. It can also be called our “heart.” It is our inmost being.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” We need to protect our souls.
Because, Eldridge pointed out, the Bible says we can lose our soul, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 6:26) And he went on to say that losing our soul isn’t just a matter of going to hell. We begin to lose our soul long before death. The world steals it away until we are just a pale shadow of what we were.
Thinking about these things has been very good for me, because I realize that I’ve been too much focused on getting my self esteem from what I do, and not enough from who I am. I keep thinking that I need to be productive to prove I am worthy. Instead, I need to realize that I already have worth. God created me to have a very special blend of positive attributes.
Several years ago I wrote down a summary of who I am: I am someone who loves poetry, music, the majesty of God, truth, creativity, intellectual stimulation, celebrating life, and the infinite importance of each individual person. I am someone who dreams and believes that there is hope.
I wrote that because it’s so hard to remember who I am. It really is true that the world steals our soul and we forget who we are. I start focusing on being the way I think I should be, doing all kinds of good things, keeping a nice house, saying the right things. And after awhile, I’m lost in the “shoulds.”
I get focused on my shortcomings. I forget that with each gift of character God gives me, there is a propensity for weakness. I tend to be a perfectionist. That helps me to achieve, but it also can make me controlling. I have deep emotions, but they can lead me into depression and anger. The things I dislike about myself are actually a result of the GOOD way God made me. It doesn’t mean I am flawed.
One of my new favorite songs is “She Used to be Mine” by Sara Bareilles. Look at some of the lyrics and see how the character in the song feels like she is losing herself:
It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and it’s patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl
She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine
One thing I like about this song is that the woman in it loved herself, even though she saw she was broken. And it helps me to appreciate myself and the mess I can be. Yes, I want to keep growing in the good parts of my character and not give into the weaknesses. But sometimes I am going to be a mess as I grow. And that’s okay, because I still have the person who is me inside, my soul. It’s better to be an imperfect mess, than try to be perfect and lose who I am.
So how do we restore our souls when the world has been like a vampire sucking them dry? The podcast didn’t say, it was just Part I, and Part II wasn’t on the web site. Bummer!! Eldridge did a great job of pointing out that we go to all of the wrong things to restore our souls — we have an alcoholic drink, we zone out watching television. But I didn’t get to hear what he thought were the right things.
However, we can get some ideas from the Bible. If you have some thoughts, please share them with me!
Ps 23 reads, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” I think that if we will SEE how God is meeting our needs, giving us green pastures and water to drink, it is restorative to our souls.
“He guides me along the right paths.” There is such a sense of peace in trusting that God is leading us in the best way.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” God gives us gifts in our days, signs of his abundance, that will refresh us.
Trust, gratitude — these things replenish us.
Another thing I would like to mention here is the benefit of just being out in nature. I think we can feel so close to God and restored if we will spend some time in the beautiful outdoors. Perhaps it is no mistake that David was inspired by verdant pastures and pristine waters.
My husband mentioned that he feels it is restorative to the soul to serve and give to others. I have to agree! Even though it takes my energy, I feel so much better when I do something meaningful. I volunteer for hospise, and I confess, sometimes before I go to visit someone, my heart isn’t in it. But then once I look into the patient’s eyes and interact with them, such a deep sense of value comes over me. THIS is what is really important. It’s funny, because Ken and I went to Japan and exhausted ourselves serving all day every day, but we came back so energized!
A couple of other ideas — any time I spend a longer span of time on my knees in prayer, I feel restored. Singing praises fills my heart. Fasting almost always leaves me feeling restored.
Okay, I am out of time. But think about this and vow to appreciate more the soul God created within you. Let’s guard our hearts and find good ways to be restored!
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Ps 36:7-9