Have you had moments in your life when you’ve felt really connected to your soul? My moments often come when I’m outside in nature, awestruck at the beauty of the ocean, the enormity of the mountains, or the intricate design of a flower. It can also happen when I have a surprising connection with someone in an unexpected way. When I stopped one day to listen to my son whisper in my ear, he told me something significant, something I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t being present to him in that moment. Or the time when I met a new mom who shared her struggles with infertility and we shared our heartbreak over babies lost.
When those moments happen, I am humbled at the depth of feeling and connectedness I have with the world. I can feel it resonating in my soul.
The word soul can evoke deep emotions within us. I suspect that the depth of the emotions correlates to the worth we place on our souls. Even so, I’m not sure I could accurately describe what a soul is. The word soul permeates our culture—soul music, soul food, soul mate—communicating a real depth in each of those phrases. Although we attach great significance to the word, it is still hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. What I do know is this: the soul was made to connect us with creation and other people. It needs to be fed with such moments.
Usually my life is filled instead with non-soul-connected moments, like when I’m waiting in the checkout line, or doing the laundry, or listening to my kids fight. During those times, I often distract myself with a quick check of e-mail, Facebook, or online news. It satisfies me in the moment. But I wonder what it does to my soul?
My guess is that it takes me away from the moment and distracts me enough to give me a little bit of pleasure. I love seeing a cute picture of a friend’s kid or an interesting article on food allergies. I can even get sucked into the Facebook lists: “32 Ridiculously Happy Animals Celebrating Their Birthday,” “Have You Ever Wondered What a Porcupine Sounds Like,” etc., etc.
But at what cost does my distraction come? Sometimes very little, and sometimes a lot. There are many missed opportunities to connect with my kids, share a laugh with the person behind me in line, or notice something beautiful in the sky. Missed opportunities to connect with others and my soul.
An even greater cost comes when I check the news. Almost every article I read sends little shock waves into my heart and mind with new information on the state of the world or previously unknown dangers my family now faces. Each day I discover some new danger to be wary of. It can make me more paranoid, scared, and suspicious. It makes me not want to travel abroad, not talk to strangers, and not let my children learn to ride their bikes around the block by themselves.
Our church recently completed a thirty-day fast together, during which we turned off all electronic media two hours before went to bed. The purpose of the fast was to challenge us to practice spending our time differently, in ways that feed your soul.
During that time, I spent more time talking with my husband about the mundane and the significant, which really connected us. We also used that time to look more deeply at our financial priorities and shift our practices of how we spend our money. I had more time to do the multitude of little tasks around the house that never seem to get done. I also went on a late-night walk with a girlfriend one night and had friends over for dinner another night. All these things have satisfied my soul more than the time I would have normally spent in front of a screen.
Our souls are a significant part of us that need special care. Learning how to do that is a worthwhile endeavor for ourselves, and those we love. Instead of admiring my kids’ pictures on Facebook, I want to admire the real ones in front of me. And if I practice patience through my moments of irritation, I often am rewarded with sweet moments too. My seven-year-old son can unexpectedly hug me, and my two-year-old daughter has started whispering “I yuv you” in my ear. I don’t want to miss these moments since I’m not sure how long they’ll last.
As Dallas Willard reminds me, “What matters is not the accomplishments you achieve; what matters is the person you become.”
To explore more about the soul and how to care for it, please check out Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg.
When do you feel connected to your soul? How do you care for your soul? Do you have soul moments you’d like to share?