“How’s your soul doing?”
I feel that this is the question that God has been asking me over and over again in all different ways over the last month or two. The question has appeared in the form of conversations with friends, moments of connecting with Him in worship, podcasts and sermons, conferences and worship nights, and times alone with my journal and a pen.
For the most part I tend to focus my life on whatever is in front of me. What is God calling me to do today? What’s the next thing to center my attention on? What needs done. I am thankful though that God has repeatedly shown me over my life the value in stopping from the tasks here and there to check in. Sometimes these “state of the soul” reflections come at normal, logical moments like the beginning of a new ministry year or after a big trip or event. Other times, God simply whispers “Don’t you think it might be time to sneak away a little and check in?” As a brother in Christ recently called it, this is “the dance between doing and being.”
A couple months ago, I had one of these heart checks and it wasn’t a pretty picture. It wasn’t all “bad,” but it was definitely messy. Like an overgrown garden I was starting to have a hard time distinguishing between the flowers and the weeds. My lack of attention had also caused some of the weeds to grow up and start choking out the joy in parts of my life and creating conflict in relationships.
Thankfully, the Master Gardener was glad to come in and do a little cleaning up. Not even a month later another opportunity presented itself to evaluate the state of my soul. As I did, I found myself somewhat baffled at the miraculous change that had occurred in such a short period of time. I knew God was at work… trust me… He had me working right alongside Him the whole time too, but to visually see the difference on a journal page that one month had made caught me off guard in the best of ways. The hymn writer Horatio Spafford said it best:
“It is well with my soul.”
When Horatio wrote these words the circumstances of life were anything but great. He was actually on a boat passing the very place that another ship had crashed days before, a crash that claimed the lives of all his children. No, circumstances have nothing to do with a soul that is well. Instead, it has everything to do with Jesus.
Many of the tough situations that caused those “weeds” in my life are still present. Just like all of us, I look around at all the disasters and tragedy and injustice in our world right now and it can be overwhelming. God still calls me to do things for which I don’t have the skills or abilities or strength on my own to complete. None of that has changed, what has changed is the state of my soul.
“But the more I read the Bible and the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that this life–even with all its quirks and turns and tragedies–is meant to be amazing. Not because circumstances are always perfect, but because our souls have found their homes in God. Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul and… our souls stay healthy when they regularly return home.” ~ Judah Smith, How’s Your Soul?
And I wonder: perhaps the reason I have seen so much change in the state of my soul lately is simply because I’ve regularly been “returning home”. I’ve climbed up into the lap of my Heavenly Father again and again and let HIM tell me the state of my soul, let Him do some gardening work, let Him pour out His love and grace in the middle of the mess. As Judah Smith says later in that book, “Maybe the reason we feel restless on the inside is because we haven’t been home in a long time.”
Let’s lean in. Let’s listen. Let’s return home today so we may truly be able to say,
It IS well with my soul!