Ruth Haley Barton says your soul is … “the very essence of you that God knew before he brought you forth in physical form, the part that will exist after your body goes into the ground.”
Pretty important to know how your soul is doing, don’t you think?
As I headed into this new year, I began talking to my soul and I couldn’t hear it talking back. I was doing all the right things – reading the Word, praying, listening, waiting, sharing with spiritual friends, visiting my counselor – but something was blocking the connection between what I understand about myself and the deep places only God understands about me.
Allow me to use a farming example.
Most of the activity in a farmer’s field occurs in the top 20 inches.
- Planting digs the seed beneath the surface.
- Fertilizing may disturb the soil a bit deeper.
- At the end of the growing season, a farmer may till the soil again.
While the topsoil stays loose and stirred up, the lower layers of soil can get compacted and pressed together. That’s called hardpan.
If hardpan forms in the soil – 20-30 inches deep – what do you think happens to the plants on top?
- Roots can’t grow deep to find water when it’s dry.
- Water pools on the pan and suffocates the roots when it’s wet.
- Nutrients don’t move through the soil.
In short, the soil is stagnant even though the farmer is doing everything right in the topsoil.
So, the farmer gets a Ripper – long, curved, metal spikes that cut through the hardpan layer to allow water and nutrients to flow freely. Unless that hard soil is ripped apart, plants will not thrive in that field.
You’ve probably guessed by now that my soul had a hardpan layer!
Months, even years of stress-filled life had packed and pressed my soul. Though I was doing some good things on the surface, I needed to take a deeper action to loosen that hardness.
I had been reading about rediscovering the Wonder of God (Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg) and was challenged at the end of the book to pursue 30 Days of Wonder.
I took the challenge. My hope was that each day I could see God at work in ways I’d never taken notice of before. I invited God to give me new eyes and a softened heart. I allowed the Spirit to rip apart some of the hard places in my soul.
Day 1 started with a deep cut by asking the pointed question, “what hinders you from living a life in awe of God?” I noticed two distinct hinderances:
Panic: stress & anxiety in life had made me numb, but wonder stirs the senses
Practicality: I want answers to the “whys,” but wonder is mysterious.
Another day on my quest for wonder invited me to share a Wonder of Kindness. Of course, this was the day I met up with incredibly slow service at the local hardware store. Yep, I had to be kind. It was a wonder!
During many of my wonder-filled days, I noticed people who lived Jesus and gratitude grew in my life.
On day 23, God brought a snow day. With the boys home from school and my schedule wiped clean, we decided to watch an old movie – Joe Versus the Volcano.
It’s a modern fairy tale of Joe (played by Tom Hanks) who loses his soul in the routine of a mundane life and makes a deal with the Devil to go out in a “blaze of glory.” Along the way, Joe’s soul begins to stir. As he sails to the volcanic island, Joe’s ship goes down in a storm. Afloat for days on a raft of suitcases, his body barely alive, Joe is stirred in the night. Take a look for yourself :
Watching that scene cut a deep groove through the hard pan of my soul that day. I heard my soul resonate with the prayer of Joe on his raft,
“Oh God, I forgot how BIG You are! Thank You for my life.”
It’s time to praise the Lord, soul. Remember He is good.
Can I pray for us? ~
God of Wonder, hear our souls praise your goodness. Forgive us when we fail to wonder. Meet us in every day places, on loving faces and with unexpected graces. How we need Your gentle hand to dig deep and open our souls packed tight with too much of this life. May we never forget your BIGness and the blessing of LIFE. Amen.