What good does it do for us if we gain outward success and accolades, but our soul (interior life) is falling apart, broken down and trapped in useless and painful emotions?
Answer: Very little! Here’s another question. How are you going?
Do you answer that question with how your outward world is? My kids, my work, my appearance, my study, my football team (FYI the Dockers), my pile of washing (always affects my soul!), my _______ (enter your word). Your outward life is mostly about what you have and what other people see and know about you (as opposed to what you see and know about you – there is a vast difference).
How about your interior life? Our souls are the real us. They are our private world, where there are no accolades and success is immeasurable. It’s hard to gauge how well we are doing at life in our souls. Is my soul well? Or, is my soul unwell? How do I know?
Maya Angelou once said, ‘people will never remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel’. You could even say, people won’t remember what you had externally, but they’ll remember who you were.
While on holidays in Denmark recently, we spent some time at the scenic Greens Pool. There was a family who I enjoyed observing and listening to. I listened for clues, and found they were a married couple from Mandurah with two lovely girls. The man wore his elastic waisted boardies ‘too high’ on his particularly hairy torso and he talked in strong ocker slang. His wife was in trackies and flannels at the beach on a beautiful warm day. And there they were, kindly and enthusiastically engaging with a family on holidays from Singapore. The conversations ensued for around an hour – the Mandurah family so warm and friendly sharing about Australia and holidays and comparing lives with the Singaporean family. And it was awkward… and so genuine. There was nothing about this family that would point to external success, and yet their souls were rich. It moved me.
I want a soul that screams to me, and everyone I meet that I. Am. WELL! On my life journey, I’ve experienced both soul health and illness. Here’s a few thoughts about a soul that is unwell…
There is little peace. If the soul has no centre, no home, nowhere to settle after a long day, or a long season there is limited peace. This soul battles over the moments in the day when things weren’t ok. It searches and searches things over, looking for different solutions but it’s unable to rest in much. If things have been done that the soul is ashamed of, it won’t rest until it’s justified it’s behaviour, so the soul can feel like it’s a good person again. It has trouble making decisions. It looks to external circumstances for happiness. And happiness comes and then it goes and that’s a problem for the soul with no home. The soul was made to have a centre in Peace. The soul was made to need rest. The soul was made to cast it’s cares on the One who is able to bring solutions.
There is little self control. A sick soul lets it’s appetites rule. We ALL have appetites to control – but when the soul is sick, it feeds on momentary pleasures. Feelings rarely represent truth. It tries to fill itself with things that will make it feel full and better. More things, more fun, more holidays, more sex, more money, more muscles (less fat), more success, more food, more alcohol, more clothes, more ________ (enter your word here – you’re getting good at this!). Mental emotion and mental energy runs high, often leading to anxiety. Scenarios are rehashed, stress levels rise, grudges are carried for too long, offence sets in and the soul is just not able to get out of the trap – even though it feels like poison. Stop. Just stop. Let go… Freedom is found in boundaries. We are not at our best when we allow ourselves to do whatever we feel. The soul was made to bring order for the good of the whole person. It was made to work within safe boundaries. The soul was made to find strength in the Mighty One. The soul was made to forgive.
There is little courage. A sick soul is vulnerable. It’s thrown around – tossed to and fro by the waves of the sea. If the sea is calm, the sick soul can keep level. If the sea is tumultuous, the sick soul is threatened with going under the waves of insecurity, hopelessness and FEAR. It fears that if it was truly known, it’d be rejected. Why? The sick soul doesn’t believe it’s worth much. As a consequence, dreams don’t get lived out, risks aren’t taken, life becomes; a mundane, daily ritual of breathing in and out, eating and sleeping. And this breeds comparison. And competition. And in these things, there is certain soul sickness, even unto death. The soul was made to have an anchor. It was made to be courageous in hope, faith and love. The soul was made to be loved, and is designed to be capable of great dreams and wonders.
There is a lot of self. Self fulfilment, self exploration, self expression, self harm, self belief, self love, be yourself, self care, selfies, surely all leads to self centredness? But what if your self is up the creek without a paddle? What if your self doesn’t have the strength to lift itself up? The more ‘self’ we try to stuff into our souls, the sicker they become. Self: A tiny little being, revolving around and relying on it’s own self-ability to find meaning and health. If we are trying to find meaning and health in self, surely we are going to be limited by, well, ourselves? I do believe this is one of the reasons depression is so rampant in our era. We are looking inside to find peace and joy on the inside of self, when self is empty. Self is sick. And that feels hopeless. The soul was not made only for itself. It finds great health in loving and serving others. Peace and joy are found in the experience of the One who abounds in it. The soul was made to have meaningful, enriching and giving fellowship with God and people. The soul was made to have God in the centre of it’s world, not self in the centre of it’s world.
Our souls were made to experience and find pleasure in life – thrive not just survive. We were made for peace and joy. Although, peace and joy don’t start outside then in, they start inside then out. When the harsh light of day shines and reveals our desperate flaws (it will also reveal our remarkable strengths!), we have two choices. We can be self-defensive, put up our walls, turn a blind eye to our soul illness, tell people to stop judging us and watch the sickness get worse. Or, we can be brave, and recognise when we come up short, and do something to change. We can all get better, right? There’s freedom in seeing the sickness in our souls – it gives us the ability to have a fresh start, make new decisions and get on our way to health. Yep, I could find peace and joy in my soul by not trying to pretend, but by owning all of me and having another go at life. After all, I have my soul for eternity.