I began this post before the election results for the President of the United States had officially been called. Whichever candidate got elected, the practices of soul care matter deeply after a long, harrowing, and divisive campaign cycle. This morning, whether you are a supporter of President-elect Trump, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, a supporter of an independent candidate, or none of the above, there are some practices, reminders, and gentle exhortations that are important to soul health after what I have sometimes termed as the “collective trauma” of this past year.
We have, in general, indoor minds. We lives inside of boxes, eat inside of boxes, and find our entertainment inside of boxes. Much of this past year was dominated by screens. Getting outside in God’s creation not only reminds us of cycles and seasons, but it removes the walls and ceilings around our souls, leading to a more expansive experience of the world, our God, and the Good News. It helps us gain God’s perspective and bring rest.
Getting outside brings our noisy, busy selves to a place of silence. Spend time in that silence and see how nature continues to sing to God. If you can, leave your technology and social media behind. Having an unmediated experience of the book of creation brings us back to God’s heart. It helps us to develop outdoor minds.
Lament (or Celebrate)
Lament is a legitimate response to world events, national events, local events, or personal events. Weeping and mourning, ashes and sackcloth, are Scriptural ways to react. Lament doesn’t begin with pointing the finger or denigration of the other, however, it starts with personal responsibility and sorrow. It starts with repentance, and it moves toward an understanding of larger themes and needs. Lament moves toward an understanding of God’s movement, care, and goodness in the world, most often through our own actions of care.
Celebration is a legitimate response to world events, national events, local events, or personal events. Singing and dancing, waving the flag of victory, and generally finding gladness in a hoped for result is a Scriptural way to react. Christian celebration, however, doesn’t involved denigration of those who are not celebrating, or stating superiority because of your glad news. Christian celebration invites all into the party—and acknowledges the pain, fear, and sadness of those who don’t want to respond.
Find Yourself In The Word
God’s story is always our story. If you feel disoriented, afraid, or unsure of what is to come, turn to the Word. In it, you will find hope, guidance, and a sense of the future. In it, you will find conviction, questions, and an understanding of what your particular role and call is in bringing God’s light into the world. Read the story with fresh eyes. Ask questions of the text you never dared ask before—the Word is asking questions of you.
Spend Time With A Child
Spending time with a child is spending time with the future. Laugh and play. Cry when things are disappointing. Don’t hold grudges. Remember we are taken care of in the same way that children are (or should be) and that our God is a kind and responsible parent. We can ask for what we want without fear, just as a child is unashamedly needy. We can be afraid. We can be happy. We can be sad. Spending time with children isn’t about forgetting everything, but remembering that we, too, are dependent, needy, and loved.
Poetry doesn’t lecture. It helps us to see, to question, and to awaken to beauty. As predictions are made, as dire things are said, as rhetoric is simplified into marketing, choose to read poetry (or listen to great music or view beautiful art). Let yourself be awakened to perspectives that aren’t your own, to see things you never saw before, and to be comforted by the reality that there are poets and prophets in the world who help us to see more clearly, to see as God sees, and to respond accordingly.
Do Something Creative
Create something—a cake, a painting, an essay, a lesson plan. Bring beauty into the world. This season has been divisive and, at times, downright nasty. Bring redemption into the world by creating something that wasn’t there before. It doesn’t have to be happy or sad or anything you feel it “should” be. Just create. Your soul will necessarily be turned toward the One who created you.
Speak The Psalms Aloud
The psalms are an important prayer book, not just something to be studied. Whether your soul needs reassurance, wrath, repentance, solace, or celebration, the psalms can be your prayers. The psalms give permission for a wide range of emotion and experience, and reading them aloud helps you to hear them twice—inside yourself and outside yourself as they are spoken into the world as living, active words. Not only that, but reading the psalms aloud changes and forms us, bringing us more fully into the heart of God and moving us toward the suffering and saving Christ. The psalms were His prayer book, too, and your voice and His will be in concert as you read them out loud.
Love Your Neighbor
There are people who are scared, angry, and upset. There are people who are hopeful, celebratory, and content. There are people with every emotion in between. Choose humility and engage in acts of love with your neighbor—literally first, with those who live on your street, on the same hall in your apartment building, in your dorms. If there are those who are hurting, bandage their wounds. If there are those who feel you inflicted the pain, listen to their hurt without defending yourself. Serve one another in ways larger and small. Bake cakes, rake lawns, start fundraising campaigns, help teach ESL classes, plant community gardens, play with children in the street, let other people go first in line, drive the speed limit, look at your servers (grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.) in the eyes. Give people dignity. The person looking at you—whoever they are—bears the image of God.
Remember That Good Takes a Long Time To Appear
In Genesis, the word for “good” is the Hebrew word tov. A dear rabbi friend of mine defines tov as the actualization of the potential for life embedded in the creation by God, when the creation brings it forth with the seeds of future life already in it. Good is when the fruit of a tree produces seeds that are planted in the ground and brings forth another tree with fruit and seeds in that fruit.
This means “good” in the Hebrew sense takes a long time to appear. Good may come of apparently bad circumstances. Bad can come of apparently good circumstances. We are the living tov of our grandparents. Our responsibility is to bring forth what God has placed inside of us, and to wait with God for that potential to produce the life that God has intended. This may take a very long time.
Run To Meet The Father Who Is Running To Meet You (Or Join The Party)
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father runs across the field to embrace his son. This is our God. He is running to meet you, He is running to meet me. He loves us wildly and scandalously. This is deeply true. Meditate on this parable. Spend time with our God. We may be the prodigal son or we may be the older brother, refusing to join the party. In Luke 15:31, the Father says something surprising, something that I pray reassures and brings life to all of our souls today: “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” We are always with God. Always.
I pray today for you, and for me, and for us all:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:9-13, NIV)
And, if you want to talk, if spiritual direction would be helpful, please feel free to reach out to me, here.