“How’s Your Soul?”
It’s not a question we ask each other very often. But I’m not sure there is a more important question we should be talking about.
In his book by that same title, Judah Smith shares about how our soul health is a barometer for everything else in our lives. It’s a great read and a timely reminder that despite our modern advancements, we still haven’t found a way to automate or expedite the process of caring for our souls.
Smith shares from his own experience and conversations with others the not-so-shocking revelation that many leaders (and I would say many others period) are living with souls that aren’t well at all.
While I read the book last year, I was recently reminded that reading a book doesn’t mean you perfectly live out the message.
A couple weeks ago, I realized that my soul wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I noticed that I was being more easily annoyed by my children. I wasn’t showing my wife the patience and grace I aspire to exude. And I felt tired. Not the kind of tired which comes from staying up too late and getting up too early. But the kind of tired which comes from a deeper level.
In this instance, it wasn’t someone who asked me “How’s Your Soul?”. I asked myself the question, “Soul, how are you?”
We Are Skilled at Ignoring Our Souls
Many of us are extremely talented at ignoring notifications on a daily basis. We can ignore a call without pulling our phone out of our pockets. I hit the “decline” button and tell a friend “It’s okay, I’ll call them back later.” We make sure to leave a message unopened, so we don’t accidentally send a read receipt. (No need for them to know we’re ignoring them!)
While it’s one thing to ignore notifications on our phone or computer, it’s another thing to ignore the notifications which come from our souls. I wish my soul sent notification as clearly as Facebook! The soul’s signs are more subtle and easier to avoid.
There are lots of ways to ignore our souls.
-Work too much
-Numb out (with Netflix, a drink…or four)
-Waste time online
-Be around people constantly and avoid being alone
-Keep music or TV on and avoid being quiet
The longer you ignore your soul, the rougher it will be when you finally learn the answer to “How’s Your Soul?”
I Should Have Known Better
When I learned recently that my soul wasn’t as good as I could be, I felt really dumb.
I should have known better. On multiple occasions, I’ve told the staff I lead that I expect them to use all of their vacation time each year (unless they’re carrying time over from year to year for a specific purpose).
Well, I failed to take my own advice and I’ve let myself get deep into this year without extended time off. About five weeks before I was due to take a week off, I realized I could have used that week a couple weeks ago.
The question, “How’s Your Soul?”, isn’t a way to separate the super-spiritual and hyper self-aware from the rest of us “normal humans.” It’s a reminder that our soul is not some accessory to our lives. It is the very source of our lives and when our soul is not well, nothing else can be either.
How Do We Monitor Our Souls?
It’s tough to know how your soul is exactly doing from moment to moment. But it is easier to monitor the things which increase the health of our souls.
I have a personal dashboard I use to monitor my health (both physically and on a soul-level). Now, I just shared above how I ignored one of the gauges recently, but I do have a list of things I’ve discovered are good indicators for me to watch.
My personal dashboard includes…
-hours of sleep per night
-level of engagement at home
-number of workouts per week
-reading material and engagement
-vacation time used
-quality of friendships outside of work
-nature of hobbies unrelated to work
-the regularity of laughter (when I’m good, I’m laughing. when I’m not good, I’m not.)
A quick review of this list gives me a pretty good idea of how my soul is doing. None of these is a monitor on my soul, but if I’m attending to these, I’m creating an environment for my soul to thrive.
What Could Your Dashboard Include?
After seeing what my dashboard includes, I wonder what yours could include. What 3-5 things could you monitor on a regular basis? If you identify these and share them with others you trust, not only can you ask your soul, “How’s Your Soul?”, but they can ask you as well.
Before you read any further, stop and consider what your dashboard could include. Make a list on your phone or a grab a pen and scribble some ideas. There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all dashboard for all of us, but I encourage you to experiment and explore on your way to one which works.
Each of Us Renew in Unique Ways
As a pastor, I walk a fine line. I’m speaking to large groups about challenges which are common for many, but I never want to force everyone into the same box.
I’ve been challenged by the words of Oswald Chambers, whose sermons compose the popular devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. Chambers once said, “Allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.”
Just as I believe your dashboard should look unique, so should your renewal process – both as you’re seeking to sustain the health of your soul and when you’re trying to restore your soul to a healthy place.
A Resource to Explore Your Paths to Renewal
When I stumble on a resource which embraces this ideal of Chambers, I’m excited to share it.
In his book, Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, Gary Thomas suggests that each of us have a unique way of relating to God, which corresponds to our wiring and personality. He outlines nine temperaments through which we connect with God. This list includes naturalists, senates, traditionalists, ascetics, activists, caregivers, enthusiasts, contemplatives and intellectuals.
Naturalists seek to leave formal, indoor spiritual environments for the divinely-constructed “cathedral” of nature.
Using all five of their senses, Sensates experience God in the visible, the tangible, and palpable.
Traditionalists leverage rituals, symbols, and self-discipline to connect with God.
According to Thomas, “Ascetics gravitate toward solitude, austerity, simplicity, and deep commitment.”
Activists express their love for God by standing against injustice, fighting for righteousness and justice.
Caregivers love God by loving others.
Enthusiasts encounter God through moments of awe, excitement, wonder, and worship.
Contemplatives adore God through silence, privacy, and intense reflection.
Intellectuals embrace the words of Jesus who called us to “love God with our minds”, challenging themselves with a cognitive pursuit of greater knowledge.
Thomas notes that most of us are a combination of two or three temperaments. While his writing has no scientific research to back it up, his simple acknowledgment of nuance and texture to this previously over-simplified conversation reminds us we have the freedom to begin experimenting to find what worked for me.
The One Role Only You Can Fulfill
Caring for your soul is a role you cannot delegate, outsource or entrust to someone else. It’s the one only you can fulfill. Sure, others can ask “how’s your soul?” But only you can truly answer that question and only you can do what’s necessary to change that answer.
I hope my mistakes and hard-earned lessons can be a guide for you.
If you have some wisdom from your experience in this arena, please share it in the comments below.
And like Judah Smith, maybe the next time you’re tempted to ask someone “how are you?”, shake things up and ask “How’s your soul?” instead.