Soul Care #2: Nurturing the Inner Person

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want... He restores my soul." ~Psalm 23:1

In the last post about soul care, I shared about what led Mr. Smith (the author of Embracing Soul Care) to the point of realizing his own need to nurture his soul.

Now I admit, this can sound a little unorthodox or even new agey. If you think of this in terms of "taking time for ME", this idea of "soul care" will seem incorrect or unbiblical; but if you understand that nurturing your soul actually means renewing your strength in the LORD, it all comes into proper perspective. In reality (when you take the long view of Christian history), this method of practicing spiritual disciplines, making time to be quiet before the Lord, and focusing on the simple things in life is quite orthodox.

And it's biblical:
  • "We urge you, brothers, aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs." ~1 Thessalonians 4:10-11
  • "Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." ~1 Peter 3:4
  • "Take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life." ~Deut. 4:9
  • "O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge." ~Psalm 57:1
  • "O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised to high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul." ~Psalm 131: 1-2
  • "For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.' " ~Isaiah 30:15
  • "The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD." ~Lamentations 3:25-26

One idea that has been transformative for me lately has been to realize that "I" am not a brunette who is about 5'7", still carrying leftover baby weight, with size 8 feet, who wears glasses. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." While it is possible for me to have a twin who is completely identical on the outside, my soul is the unique inner part that can be turned Godward or selfward... it's the part that the bulk of Scripture is concerned with.

The person who gripes when dirty clothes don't get picked up... the person who loves to learn new things and take on new projects... the person who yells when frustrated... the person who goes deep and wants to understand and know my friends... the person who loves to snuggle and giggle with my kiddos... the person who has a tendency to be cynical and causticly sarcastic... the person who really does, in her inmost parts, want to be like Jesus... that is me.

My soul is the part of me that can RUN TO or run away from God.

I am not "the things I do", but the things I do contribute more to me than the things I wear. "I" am the gal on the inside... it's what makes me me.

It's not that it's bad to take time to look nice. But we can all too easily confuse these external things -- the clothes or makeup we wear, the car we drive, the kind of house we select, the way we decorate it-- with who we really are. While it is possible to have these things reflect who we are, our soul IS who we really are. And it's the part of us that is eternal.

We spend so much time and money on external, temporary things, and yet we often neglect the one thing that will be ours for eternity-- our souls. God wants to sanctify our souls, and we partner with Him through prayer and obedience in order to submit to that process of sanctification.

Is this challenging for you too? Maybe it's just me... that could totally be the case. :) But maybe this shifts some things in your head like it did for me... does it change anything for you to remember & focus in on the eternal and significant nature of your soul?

Any thoughts you'd like to share?


Anonymous said...

Love this post. Yesterday, during my Bible study, what struck me (on a similar note) was the idea of cultivating good seed in my heart. Now, I "knew" this, but for whatever reason, it hit home yesterday.

If I input garbage, garbage will be output.

If I watch bad tv/internet, or read trashy novels, or go along with crude conversations, how are those things impacting my soul?

"Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life." Proverbs 4:23

In other versions, it says "guard your heart". I think we tend (or at least I do) to rationalize certain programs or activities that are on the edge of crudeness, well because they're funny or whatever, and what's the harm, right? I'm still a Christian, I know not all of that is good, but some of it is...or something.

I also studied Isiah 30:15 that you quoted tonight (coincidence?), and my devotional made this very goody point:

When the enemy can't make you sin, he tries to make you busy. Satan wants to distract you from hearing the Lord, and he knows that excessive busyness will exhaust your soul. But if you focus your mind upon the Lord, you will enjoy His perfect peace. (Isa. 26:3)

It goes on to mention Jesus understanding the importance of finding rest for our souls. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:29-30, KJV).

When a young ox is yoked with a more experienced ox, the young one learns to follow the lead ox and get the job done. Jesus is inviting us to follow His lead and to learn meekness from Him so that we can find rest and peace for our souls.

And the kicker for me is pondering this thought -- pursuing your own will leads to a burdened life. Pursuing God's will leads to a blessed life.

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." 3 John 2 (KJV)

This just makes me happy to think about. I don't have to do it all alone. Jesus is in the boat with me. :)

Missus Wookie said...

I've been reading this blog in conjunction with a book that was recommended to me. I've returned my copy to the library but think I'm going to have to buy one.

The idea that 'loving one's neighbour as you love yourself' means you should love yourself and by doing so become more authentically all that you were designed to be is startling to a 'self sacrificing/nurturing lifestyle'. Thanks for the biblical links.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,

I am a new reader to your blog, but have thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved your series on deciding to stay home. I just recently made that decision too- August 11th! I am excited (and nervous) about the new journey.

Related to this post, YES I struggle with this. Just this evening, I was grumbling in my heart about a grass fungus we have that has eaten away 1/3 of our front yard. I want our yard to look pretty and it drives me nuts that it doesn't. I have spent time with fungus killers, watering, fertilizing, etc and prayer for green grass. How much more important is the care and maintenance of my soul! Why do I not mourn more over sickly spots in it? Thank you for this reminder that we must tend to it and that it is so much more important than external things that pass away. The grass withers and the flower fades... :)

In Christ,
Rachel B

krankemommy said...

Another timely post. I was just complaining this very morning after dropping my children off at school that this new school (in a better neighborhood than we can afford to live in) has caused me to feel less valuable. I drive a beater of a used car, my husband and three children live with my mom in a horrible area of a not so great city, my weight is not going down despite working out for the last three months, and I'm not as stylish or modern as the other moms when they drop off their children.

But so what? Those things aren't me. Nor are the positive and negative circumstances that led to those things. I must remember that Christ is in the boat with me and I had better stop wasting my time rowing the wrong direction. But that is a whole lot harder to do than to say.

I think the idea of focusing on a gentle and quiet spirit is awesome and I think that my soul needs a little tender loving care right now. Wonderful post, Jess!