“Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. Therefore we are in harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large.” Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart
I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to camp out in John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping, but it is turning out to be one of the best ways to begin a new year.
If you asked me if I’ve ever prioritized my soul, I think I’d say no. I’m naturally a deep feeler and thinker, but awareness of the health of my soul? Not so much. I think because it is more challenging to determine or clearly see. Tangible habits like devotional reading, journaling, prayer, exercise, worship, eating well and rest are easier to quantify and prioritize than the state of my soul. Why? Because it takes more discipline, because it isn’t seen by the masses, and because it takes a lot more honesty.
Below are a few of my favorite passages thus far:
Quoting Dallas Willard: “You’re a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God, which means you were not made to be self-sufficient…. What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”
The salvation of your soul is not just about where you go when you die. The word salvation means healing or deliverance at the deepest level of who we are in the care of God through the presence of Jesus. Sooner or later, your world will fall apart. What will matter then is the soul you have constructed.
Somebody said a long time ago that if the Devil can’t make you sin, he will make you busy, because either way your soul will shrivel. Our world will divert your soul’s attention because it is a cluttered world.
We all commit idolatry every day. It is the sin of the soul meeting its needs with anything that distances it from God.
Another word from Dallas: “I didn’t say you should experience total contentment, joy, and confidence in the remarkable adequacy of your competence or the amazingly successful circumstances of your life. It’s total contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday experience of God. This alone is what makes a soul healthy. This is not your wife’s job. It’s not your elder’s job. It’s not your children’s job. It’s not your friend’s job. It’s your job.”
When the soul is with God it doesn’t matter if you are a dishwasher or a president. The soul thrives not through our accomplishments but through simply being with God.
That’s the whole point of tending to the soul — to fill us so completely with his presence that the brilliance of his love shines through us. Many Christians expend so much energy and worry trying not to sin. The goal is not to try to sin less. In all your efforts to keep from sinning, what are you focusing on? Sin. God wants you to focus on him. To be with him. “Abide in me.” Just relax and learn to enjoy his presence. Every day is a collection of moments, 86,400 seconds in a day. How many of them can you live with God? Start where you are and grow from there. God wants to be with you every moment.
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