My friend, the warm-hearted and generous author and pastor, Steve Wiens, invited me over to his place to share about my practices of soul-care. You can read this post in its entirety there, or get started here. Steve is releasing his first book, Beginnings, on January 1st next year. This book is full of his kind and welcoming voice inviting us to be made new, to let God’s love and mercy begin again and again to refresh us. I am on his launch team so you’ll hear more about it, but if you want to get started reading the book for free, you can download the first two chapters right here.
Okay, here are my thoughts on really, truly taking care of your invisible parts. Love to you.
Sometimes I yell. It’s one of my least favorite things about myself, especially considering I am not yelling at a football game or a narcissistic political tyrant, which would be appropriate and reasonable. No, sometimes I yell at my children.
Now, it’s not like the little darlings are without fault, mind you. I only yell when their ears are broken, which is the only logical explanation why they are still not wearing pants after I politely asked them five times to get dressed.
Nevertheless, the yelling is a version of me I don’t like. It’s the strung out mom who prefers to use rage and shame over boundaries and creativity, or at least consistency. I don’t know which is worse: the pained look in their eyes when I am shrieking in frustration or the disgust I feel with myself afterward, which only fuels a new round of alienating outbursts.
Fortunately, my responses are not at the mercy of my children’s behavior. In the last year, after months in the dim darkness of postpartum anxiety, I discovered a part of myself I’d mostly neglected for most of a decade. The good news was, when I tended to this part of myself, things went remarkably better. This little known part was my soul.
The soul is a funny thing, an ubiquitous church word we all use to describe the part of us that lives forever. We say souls are lost when we see folks behaving badly, and when they find their way to church, get that glow of wholeness in their eyes, we say they’re found. But if we’re honest, we don’t even know what a soul is.
In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg recalls that he had been a pastor for several years before he learned from his friend and mentor, Dallas Willard, that the soul is “the tiny, fragile, vulnerable, precious thing about you”. Dallas elaborated to John that our souls are what make us who we are. The soul is what Jesus died for, the thing that gives each of us our intrinsic worth.
If our souls are truly tiny, fragile and vulnerable, then it’s easy to see why they are overlooked, like an introverted, wide-eyed child. And if our souls are precious, if they are the the core of our value as humans, then we can see why God is invested in this invisible part of us.
We can also see that if we neglect our souls, delicate as they are, we will have no ability to be anything but a version of ourselves that we dislike. We may behave in ways we regret, or worse, become a person we regret allowing ourselves to become.
The nurture of my soul is not simply for me though. Soul care touches every relationship in my life. Whether it is control of my temper with my children, compassion toward my patients at work, or empathy for my husband, I can only be a woman I am proud of when my soul is cared for first.
But if the soul is invisible, how can it be cared for? We can’t hold it or feed it, can we? In Soul Keeping, John Ortberg tells us that because the soul is made by God, it is also made for God. It is God who feeds our soul. Our souls, like children, are dependent on Father God for wholeness and sustenance.
When I first read John’s words, I thought it sounded right, but I didn’t know how to let God nourish me. It wasn’t until the worst days of the postpartum anxiety when, mercifully, I remembered Psalm 131 where David refers to the soul with God as a child with his mother. He said, “I do not concern with matters too complicated for me, but I calm and quiet my soul like a child with his mother.”