Care for Your Creative Soul
A thriving spiritual life requires care for your creative soul. If you don’t care for your soul, no one else will. Wait, did you get that? No one else will… According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, for people who lived in the twentieth century, each generation was three times more likely to experience depression than folks in the generation before them.
We are all busy, constantly barraged by media and distracted from the quiet, thoughtful care for our soul. We have to do lists longer than our days. How can we avoid “living lives of quiet desperation” as Thoreau is oft quoted, instead of living a life of creative and spiritual vibrancy?
It’s not easy. AND it requires time and focused effort.
We NEED to:
1. Stop the daily noise
2. Savor the beauty in our daily journey
3. Listen to our hearts
4. Speak to our hearts the hope of the gospel
5. Adapt our imagination to echo the truths of Scripture
As Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones challenged the men and women in Westminster Chapel, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” A great model of this is King David in Psalm 42 where David asks his soul, “Why are you downcast? Put your hope in God.” When you find yourself listening to discouraging thoughts in your own heart, take a breath, pause and consider how David spoke to his own heart in Psalm 42.
Church attendance is a cheap substitute for soul care. You should go! Just don’t assume it produces complete soul care. As a child we may fall for this fallacy, but as we become adults we must put away such childish notions. We all need the fellowship, the encouragement of corporate worship with other saints, and time to hear the word preached. Yet, you cannot rely on the intellectual download from your Presbyterian minister, or the emotional fill-up from worship in your charismatic church to nurture your soul.
You were never meant to wander a spiritual desert from Sunday to Sunday. You were designed to walk with God, to meditate on His Word day and night, and to cherish his promises. In this era where society is failing to call men and women to adulting, the church is failing to call its members to spiritual adulting. Oh, and don’t wait for your church to disciple you. Most pastors I know, sadly, do not have a discipleship plan for their members. It is not because they don’t care, and I can address that in another blog. Have compassion on all that falls on your pastor’s desk to address. If you care for your soul, you must take up the high call of nurturing your own soul. Church is essential, but not sufficient.
Inspiration junkies and faux intellectuals are everywhere. Blaise Pascal (paid link) famously wrote, “Men often mistake their imagination for their heart, and they believe they are converted as soon as they think of being converted.” Of course this problem exists in every area. We think we are spiritually growing as soon as we read a profound devotional, and assume we are growing intellectually as soon as we hear a deeply thoughtful TED talk. Do not be fooled by your imagination. Just as faith without works is dead, an inspired imagination without application and integration is self-deception. We need ideas and inspiration; but guard your minds from becoming inspiration junkies or intellectual sound bite addicts. Watching TED talks will not make you an intellectual any more than reading Scripture will make you a spiritual giant. Ideas are there to inspire us to change. If we fail to grow, learn, and make intentional changes in our heart, mind and soul because of those ideas, we have wasted the gift of God present in that idea.
Beyond Physical Health
Your heart needs healthy food and a workout. But it needs much more. Eat well, exercise, get sleep, take a walk to enjoy creation, and fast once in a while (for your spiritual and physical health). That’s all good, but you can get addicted to the high of working out just like any other addiction. The goal of physical health is to enable your body to serve God in your relationships and your creative work. The goal is not getting a 6-pack or the right curves.
Our culture obsesses over exercise and health. Especially where we live in Los Angeles. Get thin and stay thin, look young and stay young. Rinse and repeat. People spend over $80 billion dollars per year just in gym memberships. At the same time we have eating disorders, steroids used by athletes, and even growth hormones to keep men like Sylvester Stallone in great shape late in their life. Staying in good health is important for mental health, avoiding injuries and remaining active in friendships and recreation. We ought to pursue physical health so we have resources and the ability to pursue friendships and our spiritual health. Just remember it is not substitute for caring for your creative soul.
Beyond Self Help
As John Ortberg stated it in his book Soul Keeping,(paid link)
“Our world has replaced the word soul with the word self, and they are not the same thing. The more we focus on ourselves, the more we neglect our souls.”
Focusing on the self will limit the effectiveness in ministering to your heart, and it will fall short of feeding your soul. Your soul is what integrates the rest of what is important – your will, your mind, and your body. It is the deepest part of you, and it is the anchor of your whole person. It cannot be ministered to only by a diet, a 10 week program or pill. Your soul aches for tender care. Dallas Willard spoke of unhealthy souls as one that feels a sense of dis-integration. Sin, not a missed workout, or a bad diet, is always the cause of that dis-integration. Remember the words of our Savior, “ What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
We must care for our souls. It is our job, and part of our calling. We must seek to integrate our soul by bringing our will, our body and our mind into alignment with the way God designed us to live. We must savor the beauty God has given us. And we must tend to our hearts, and speak truth to our own fears. We cannot afford the high cost of a soul dis-integrated. God longs to help us re-integrate our souls as we seek to become more like Christ.
Get Serious about your soul. Stop the endless race through the week and listen to your heart. Examine your soul. Use your curiosity to probe the pain and aching rooms in your soul, and be honest with yourself. Write down your thoughts and start to ask God to help you understand where those aches and pains originate. Get real in your talks with God and your closest friends (you cannot do this alone).
Then preach to your heart. Remind your own soul that you are loved by a good God. Tell your soul it is not alone. Step away from the passive introspection, and now put on the mindset of one who cares for your heart, your career, your loves and your dreams. With that mindset, preach to your heart – bring the love of Christ, the providential care of the Father, and the tender comfort of the Holy Spirit to bear upon your very soul. And then listen to those words of love. Receive the challenge to be what God has designed you to be, and begin learning to walk with God daily. Christ died to give us a hope and a future.
Remember, You are worth it. So . . .
1. Take the time
2. Do the work
3. Preach to your soul
4. Receive the love of God
5. Embrace the hope Christ died to give you
6. Rejoice in His love for you
May God draw you to himself, make you more in the likeness of his Son, and may you find joy, peace, and purpose in God’s design for your life! Below I have listed a few books that will encourage you along the way. God Bless.
(Each recommended book has a paid link to Amazon)
New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp.
Paul is a man who gets the gospel in a profound way, struggles earnestly with his own heart, his own soul dis-integration, and shows us how to find hope and healing in a healthy, and hopeful way.
God’s Wisdom for Navigating Your Life, By Tim Keller
Tim Keller is one of the most healthy people, thoughtful leaders, and insightful ministers of the last century. Having been in Presbytery with him when I was in New York, I can tell you his humility and honesty is genuine. I would recommend anything by Tim Keller, but this book is a good start in an accessible manner.
The Knowledge of the Holy, by Tozer
The Knowledge of the Holy is a classic. It is not what you might ordinarily call a devotional. It is more of an exploration of God’s character. I first read this book in high school and found it quite helpful in better understanding who God is and how his character traits can give us comfort and hope. On a side note, sometimes books that push us to think deeper can be the best ‘devotional’ book even if we don’t call them devotionals.
Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg
John Ortberg’s book on Soul Keeping blew me away. It is where I found the quotes in the blog above. This book is really a personal journey of a successful pastor (Ortberg) realizing he was not caring for his soul. The immense depth of thought comes from his relationship with the late great author, thinker and USC philosophy professor, Dallas Willard. (I would also recommend anything by Dallas Willard ).
This is a great book to read and process in a small group with a few thoughtful friends.
Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross
This is a book I first read while struggling with depression during Seminary. It is not light reading, but it is simply profound. He addresses those moments or seasons where you feel dry, and do not feel God’s presence. It is a real antidote to the health and wealth authors out there. The real point: There is hope, and this journey will provide fruit in your life that cannot be achieved any other way.
Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A Kempis
Imitation of Christ is one of the highest selling devotionals of all time. It has profound snippets easy to consume in a few minutes. It is broken into 4 books, with the last book focusing on the Church as your Mother. This is because he is Catholic. I simply don’t find that chapter helpful for me, however the first 3 books are a real gift.
Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
Pilgrim’s Progress is the highest selling protestant devotional of all time. People have made children’s books and movies from this little book. It is an allegory with very clear and powerful illustrations that mirror your daily walk as a believer. Very accessible and great to read along with someone. Every Christian should read this at least once.
Copyright © 2019 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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