Keep your soul well.
That has been my word, or phrase, rather, of 2015. God led me to it through a plant.
A year ago, I bought a mint plant. I’m not even sure why because I never use it, but I’m sure Pinterest played a part. I brought it home and placed it outside on our front porch and then promptly forgot about it.
Sometimes I would open my front door, see that it was wilting, and throw some water on it. It would perk up, but it never thrived the way it did in the beginning. The leaves weren’t big. Some branches started to turn brown, then black. It began to resemble a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
After a quick internet search, I discovered that my mint plant was not in an environment suited to it. It needed morning sun, not evening, regular watering, not sporadic. It needed to be fed. It needed tending.
Around the time my plant was struggling, I began reading Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. As I read about what the soul needs, God spoke to me. He told me I was treating my soul like I had been treating my mint plant, with complete disregard to the environment it needed to do well.
Determined to save this plant, I trimmed it down to the nubs, put it on our back porch where I could see it daily, feed it, and set a timer on my phone to remind me to water it regularly. Then I waited, with the thought, “Please come back to life little plant, because now you kind of represent my soul.”
Within a few weeks, life appeared, and I danced around our porch like a mad scientist, “It’s alive!!” It became a daily reminder to be attentive to the condition of my soul.
Hence, my phrase of the year, “Keep your soul well.” I have wanted, this year, to be diligent in keeping my soul – intentional, mindful, careful, purposeful. I have discovered that my soul thrives most when it has several conditions:
First, rest. I am not naturally inclined toward rest. More toward pushing every limitation I have. Throughout this year, keeping my soul well has led me to put down the next task and give myself space to breathe, to be, to take in what is around me. It has led me to take more quiet walks, do more of what refreshes me and less of what slowly chips away life.
But rest for my soul has been more than time; perhaps more necessary even has been the rest that comes from grace. In those solitary spaces, I have become more conscious of the demands I place on my soul. My thoughts are not always seasoned with gentleness, tenderness, grace, and kindness; in other words, I don’t speak to my soul the way God does. Soul rest this year has looked like changing how I speak to my own heart, trying to imitate the words of my Father, giving myself grace in failure, grace to slow down, grace to acknowledge my humanness.
We went through a tough season this fall, when I could not help but fall on His grace. He met me, absolutely, in ways beyond my comprehension. Yet still, by the end of the month, I was spent. I questioned God about this – why, when I was experiencing such dependence on Him, was I still so tired?
The answer was that while I was asking Him for help, my eyes were still on my circumstances, instead of His character. Here, I learned how much my soul needs the practice of worship to turn my eyes to the Lord. The next month I spent time every day looking at a different aspect of His character, pondering how I observed it at work in our lives, reveling in its truth. These traits began to permeate my thinking and my prayers, turning my heart away from the world and onto Him.
Hand in hand with this practice of worship has been the habit of gratitude. When my soul dwells on the richness of God, I cannot help but see how He is working personally in my life. I’ve realized there is never a day when I cannot thank Him for something – the fact that I have breath in my lungs today is a gift. I have hands to type, eyes to see, a mind to create words – and that’s just sitting here. Worship and gratitude have become like a balm to my soul, a refuge, a never-ending source of joy and peace, abiding in Him who walks with me faithfully.
Ultimately, to keep my soul well comes down to humility, seeing myself rightly. I must own my humanity. I must recognize my limitations, my desperate need for Him.
But while I embrace my humanity, I equally embrace His divinity, His everything for my nothing. His divinity covering my humanity is what keeps my soul well, in every situation, on any given day.
My mint plant thrived this year. So has my soul, through a conscious choice daily to be mindful of it, to give it space and grace, to turn its focus on the fullness of God and His goodness to me. This is where my soul thrives.