Nurturing Your Soul
By Cathy McIlvoy
A jelly-filled Krispy Kreme doughnut (or two) and a double vanilla latte’ may be a tempting breakfast, but I know from experience I’ll function much better if I begin my day with two pieces of toast, an orange, a hard-boiled egg and a cup of tea. Eating right is just one way I care for my body. In fact, I do quite a lot to nurture and cherish my body. I exercise regularly and complete routine medical exams. I bathe, brush my teeth, make getting enough sleep a priority, eat a balanced diet, and take my vitamins. But I am more than a body…and so are you.
Remember the soul? Our soul is our essence—the very core of our being. The soul shapes our character. How carefully do we nurture it? How much positive attention does our soul receive in the course of a day? Let’s look at three nutrients in feeding our souls and keeping us spiritually healthy.
Truth. (Dwell on it.)
We need to be purposeful about keeping the truth in us because, throughout the day, that which is untrue is set before us in large portions: “You will be satisfied when you make more money;” “Plastic surgery is the answer to your low self-esteem;” “Keep busy, busy, busy with ministry so God will be pleased with you;” etc. In Phil. 4:8 Paul exhorts us to think about “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…”
In her popular book, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, Anne Ortlund offers a practical formula. “Eliminate and concentrate” is her method of obtaining an efficient, clean closet, a productive schedule and more. Her theory is that by eliminating what is unnecessary, we can see what is truly needed and use our time and possessions wisely for the Lord. Sometimes I find it helpful to reverse the formula. I don’t always recognize the lies that are bogging me down. Deception can be subtle. We begin to lose our joy. Peace is replaced with anxiety and irritability. We must first step back and take a good look. Concentrate. Examine. Pray. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts…” (Psa. 139). Listen to the Holy Spirit and godly people you trust. Read and study God’s Word. Memorize Scripture. Then we can better recognize when deception is being dished up. Once identified, we can go through steps to eliminate it and get it off our plates.
Fellowship. (Commit to it.)
This Rock, a heartfelt song by singer/songwriter, Brandon Heath, says it well: “Hey, did you know that you fed my soul the day that you opened up to me?” Fellowship is not attending a church potluck or chatting about the weather while we sip coffee and wait for Bible study to begin. Whether you are by nature an extravert or an introvert, there is an ingredient essential in life to keeping your soul supported ¾ a true friend. We need to be vulnerable with someone. We need a friend who will be vulnerable with us.
Over five years ago my husband and I and our four boys answered the call to minister in Germany. Before we left for our overseas assignment, we went through two weeks of pre-field orientation. The seasoned missionary who spoke one afternoon informed us that most missionaries who leave the field do so because of other missionaries. At the time, the statement surprised me. Later, however, we worked overseas with many amazing people, some of who will be lifelong friends. What we did find during our years overseas was that the missionaries who were difficult to work with, were the ones who weren’t willing to be vulnerable and open. In fact, frequently what they’d bring to the table wasn’t genuine.
People in leadership and ministry often do not want to appear weak. We think that if we keep our shortcomings and struggles to ourselves, others will believe that we are truly worthy of our position. The truth is, none of us is worthy. God uses us in spite of ourselves. We all need regular, true fellowship to keep our soul nurtured with encouragement, exhortation, and companionship. We need to be that safe place for others as well; we need to feed each other’s souls.
Pleasure. (Do what you love to do.)
In the movie Chariots of Fire, Olympic athlete and missionary to China Eric Liddell, is quoted as saying, “…when I run, I feel His pleasure!” You may not think there is anything spiritually nourishing about running. But Liddell knew from whom his ability came, so he ran his fastest and believed it pleased the Lord. I do not enjoy running, but God has given me an appetite for other activities. He has given all of us abilities, talents, and desires for different types of activities. By making the time to partake in what we enjoy doing, we refresh our soul and therefore nurture it.
My sister found it almost impossible to spend regular time on her creative outlet of quilt making. She was busy with her five kids and active in ministry. She began to feel burned out and frustrated. Finally she put “quilt time” into her schedule. Two hours a week surrounded by colorful fabrics and patterns, and a chance to create, truly gave her a lift. Like a vitamin supplement, it gave her what she was lacking. Years later, she is now a skilled quilt-maker. Many of us have been blessed by her gifts of beautiful quilts.
Maybe you need to spend time gardening, playing a musical instrument, or going to the art supply store to buy some watercolors and brushes. Fix a special meal and invite others to enjoy it with you. We serve a creative God who makes unique and creative people. Commit to experiencing an activity that brings you relaxation and gratification. God will meet you there. You will lose track of time, appreciate the Lord more, feel His pleasure, and bring nourishment to your soul. Ken Gire, author of Windows of the Soul, writes: “We reach for God in many ways. Through our sculptures and our Scriptures. Through our pictures and our prayers. Through our writing and our worship. And through them, He reaches for us.”