Ask yourself if you believe that. God knows you. Do you know the “you-ness” of you? Have you spent time learning and caring about the spirit, the soul which dwells deep within you? Let’s explore some ways you might encounter the “you-ness” of you. Ways you might get in deeper touch with your soul. Ways you might consider to heal the weariness which can pervade it.
What does your soul look like? Ever thought about that? My soul is round and dusky colored, in my mind’s eye. It moves a bit like an amoeba under a microscope. It dwells near my heart, I’ve decided. The first time I learned about my soul was in grammar school. I was told it needed to be kept clean and pure. Okay, so do I bathe it or something? How does it get dirty. Can it break? Is it just mine? These were the questions of a child. Obvious and honest. Today as an adult I could ask myself the same questions about my soul and not be far off. The fact is that our souls need tending as much as our bodies.
When I was in graduate school I had a professor who gave assignments for lengthy readings. When she would be giving us instructions, she would say “In your reading, “attend” to the section on thus and such.” “Attend to the manner in which the author makes her point.” “Attend to the tone of this theologian.” It took me a bit to figure out what she was meaning with this “attend to” business. “Attend” means to take heed, listen, observe and take to heart. I offer that we must “attend” to our souls in a special manner. That there is untapped connection with the Lord for us if we take loving care with our souls. I am not just talking about the “things” we do as Catholics, the outward pieties, attendance at Mass and reception of the other sacraments, etc. I am talking about actively cultivating the deep soul-ness of our beings. The soul-ness which emanates from us every day.
The soul is a place for profound conversation with the Lord. It is the place for meeting the Lord, one on one, to reflect on life. The soul is the place you evaluate your work as a disciple of the Lord. The soul is where you take the scriptures into your being. If you are not attending to the health of the soul it will not stand you in good stead for any of the things I just mentioned. If all of your life in the Lord takes place on the outside, in the form of a list of things to be accomplished in order to be saved we miss the boat. We miss a most beautiful opportunity to be in union with our God. Please understand I am not asking all of us to take to a life of total contemplation in a monastery. I am asking us to consider a life of balancing the action with interiorization of the “why” and the “how” and ‘aha’ moments we all experience. So that we become more whole with the Lord. We become who the Lord intends us to be. There is an ancient story: “A holy one said to a merchant, “As a fish perishes on dry land, so you perish when you get entangled in the world. The fish must return to the water and you must return to the spiritual.” The merchant was aghast. “Are you saying that I must give up my business and enter a monastery?” And the holy one said, “Oh no, never. I am saying hold on to your business and go into your heart.”
Sr. Joan Chittister in her book, Welcome to the World of Wisdom, presents some attributes for a healthy soul. The first is equilibrium. That is, Sr. Joan observes, “the ability to know when to quit”. Because “Something is drying up inside and will surely come back to haunt you.” So as the holy one said in the story of the merchant, “go into your heart”, look to your soul. St. Anselm leaves us this instruction: ‘Escape from your everyday business for a short while…make a little time for God and rest a little while in Him. Enter into your minds inner chamber. Your soul. Shut out everything but God…Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire.’ Once we can do this…take a break…we can find God in the quiet of our souls. Once we do that… we can integrate that understanding into the rest of our discipleship. And we become renewed in the spirit.
Another on Sr. Joan’s list is self-awareness. Self-awareness is the monitor of the heart and soul that tells us when fatigue is setting in. It is vital to be “soul-fully”self aware so that we do not get the idea that we have to be all things to all people all the time. It’s good to remind ourselves that the sun will rise and set without our help. To keep our souls tended we have to remember to invite the Lord in for our rest and respite.
The final attribute on Sr. Joan’s list: appreciation of the value of imperfection. This is the gift, she says, that saves us from destroying ourselves in the name of some concept or idea of excellence that exists only in our own minds.”
Somehow, somewhere along the spiritual journey we all began in baptism we got the impression that we had to be perfect to be loved by God. And even more than that…we got the impression that we had to be perfect in all things to be worthy of anyone’s love at all. We somehow came to believe that God would accept nothing less. We somehow connected perfection with holiness. Of course we all want to be holy. To be holy is to be on the journey towards…towards wholeness, towards the Lord, towards that which is of God. Holiness is a virtue we take on the journey. Here’s the “breaking news” for today. Holiness is not perfection. Holiness is our best attempt to do the Lord’s work. It’s not perfection. Once you jump the hurdle that those two ideas are connected you can begin to feed and attend to your soul with much less guilt. Your soul will thank you for removing the burden of perfection and you can get on with the business at hand, that is, building a strong, “soul-ful” relationship with the Lord.
As my professor used to say: “Attend” to this. Heed this. Pay notice. Observe. Your soul awaits an airing out. A breathing in of the Christ who waits to be invited for a chat. Psalm 62 tells us: In God alone there is rest for my soul, from God alone comes my safety; with God alone for my rock, my safety, my fortress, I can never fail.
Make sure you are, as best you can, “attending” to the matters of the soul. Make sure you are where God is. You got this and God has you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son….
Be safe. Be Well