"Once we clearly acknowledge the soul, we can learn to hear its cries."
~ Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart
What has your soul been crying for lately? Have you heard its cries?
Most of us don't sense our soul's cries. We're busy with the more tangible elements of life, and our soul's cries get ignored. Or our soul's cries are too painful, and we avoid them entirely.
The voice of our soul can be difficult to hear because it generally comes out in symptoms, rather than direct cries. Wouldn't it be simpler if your soul spoke to you directly, like "Hey, I'm hurting here. Please pay attention to me and meet my needs today." Instead, our soul speaks to us indirectly through our emotions, our choices, our thoughts, our bodies. In order to listen to our soul, we must learn to hear its voice.
We can develop the skill of listening to our soul.
One helpful way to learn to listen to your soul is by asking these questions:
When my soul is neglected, what tends to happen? When my soul is needing something, what tends to emerge in my feelings, choices, thoughts, body, and relationships?
When my soul is healthy, what flows out of me? When I am deeply aware of my connection with God, and living out of my identity as his beloved child, what emerges from me through my feelings, thoughts, and actions?
I'll use my own reflections as an example. Here are the symptoms of my soul:
Symptoms of soul neglect: shame, fear that my needs aren't getting met, overworking, emotional disengagement, insecurity, comparing myself to others, frustration toward my kids, bitterness, projecting other people's expectations of me, lack of intimacy with people, restlessness, isolation, a critical attitude.
Symptoms of soul health: joy, compassion, peace, trust in God's goodness, creativity, a sense of humor, generosity toward others, clear sense of vision, intimacy with others, energy for work and play, a desire to connect with God.
Focus on the causes, not the symptoms.
We can spend so much time and energy trying to decrease the symptoms of soul neglect. But when we focus on the symptoms rather than the causes, we always end up in the same cycles. The results are short-lived and sometimes counterproductive. Instead, focus your attention on the soul neglect in your life.
"Fundamental aspects of life such as art, sleep, sex, ritual, family, parenting, community, health, and meaningful work are all in fact soul functions, and they fail and fall apart to the degree that the soul diminishes."
~ Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart
In order to have true and lasting health, we must tend to our soul's needs. Everything about our lives and identity is in some way a function of our soul.
So what makes a soul healthy? It's not related to our external circumstances.
A soul is healthy to the extent that it has a connection and receptivity to God.
That's it. The health of your soul depends on your connection and receptivity to God. When you are connected to God and receptive to him, your soul comes alive. Your soul experiences deep joy and peace, no matter your external circumstances.
Psalm 23 says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul."
Take a good look at your soul today, so that you can experience God in restorative ways.
ACTION & PRACTICE
Ask yourself the question: What has your soul been crying for lately? Spend some time reflecting and journaling about that. Ask God to meet the needs of your soul. Ask him, "God, what is your invitation to my soul today? What do you want to say to or do with my soul right now?"
What has your soul been crying for lately? What does your want from God today? Please share in the comments.
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Larissa Marks is a spiritual director, ministry planter, writer, and Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Bluewater Mission Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her mission in life is to know God, and help others know him. She enjoys hanging out with her husband Steve and their three kids, drinking red wine, and hoarding books.