I am responsible for my own soul.

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“The health of your soul is a choice.  It is not determined by someone else.”

This statement recently challenged me when posed by my department chair.  It is tempting to blame circumstances, vocation, or other people for the state of my soul.  However, these explanations are simply excuses to take responsibility away from the primary caretaker of my soul – myself.

Spiritual health is a choice.  I choose whether a crisis causes restlessness and anxiety.  I choose if a person’s comment leads to frustration or relational tension.  I choose if unexpected health problems or vocational discontent cause depression.  I choose if financial stress results in panic and hopelessness.  Circumstances are largely out of my control; spiritual health is not.

This truth is liberating because if spiritual health is dictated by external factors, the health of my soul is uncertain and unstable.  Yet, God has provided the necessary resources within me to anchor the contentment – redemption, justification, adoption.  Position in Christ transcends any person or situation that attempts to erode my spiritual health.  I can choose spiritual health because I am a child of God.  In those moments where other factors attempt to determine the health of my soul, I have the power to choose joy and peace through my identity in Christ.  Circumstances change; my identity does not.

As leaders, we are confronted with countless pressures that chip away at our identity.  The expectations of those around us whisper for us to live for other people.  Vocational pressures attempt to trap us under the false notion that we are not realizing our potential, or worse yet, that our job is at stake because we are not performing up to par as the next person.  In other cases, our own ambition boxes us into the myth that somehow we might attain perfect – I fail today but tomorrow I will not.  Each of these false narratives are fully under our control.  We determine if they guide our daily lives, or if we will rest in the surpassing truth that the abundant life is available to us regardless of the circumstances that swirl around us.

To accomplish this, certain disciplines are necessary…

  • It is necessary to myopically embrace the truth that our new identity is already fully defined. Whether through reminders or self-talk, even post-it notes, we must constantly push through the lies that state otherwise.
  • It requires guarding that perspective amid those situations or circumstances that attempt to reframe our outlook. Spiritual health is not a volitional task, it requires God’s grace.  Thus, Paul’s appeal to “pray continually” becomes a necessity – robust, reflective prayer, if we are to rely on the Holy Spirit to “remind” us of the things of Christ.
  • In dramatic moments, where our spiritual health is assaulted, it necessitates purposeful breaks where we pull back from the irritants of life and unravel the identity attacks that want to propel us towards an emotional tailspin. In other words, we should stop the spiraling before it happens by pausing life, confronting the issue, and resetting our perspective.
  • Lastly, it is critical that we speak it out to someone, namely a person who is wise and trusting. Issues that are not communicated oftentimes trick us into believing something that we know is not true.  It rattles in our mind to the point where we begin to cave to its pressure.  Audibly affirming it allows for falsehood to be identified and truth to be spoken.

Ok, this is not a recipe.  But, it does serve to provide some tangible reminders of disciplines we can implement to safeguard our spiritual health – to place our souls within the domain of our choice rather than at the mercy of other persons or situations.

Yes, the health of our soul is a choice – it is our choice.

 

The cross – intimate, safe, and hopeful.

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Certain experiences in your life change your perspective.  Life is normal until you receive some unexpected news.  It causes you to reorient your outlook and priorities.  I had one of these days recently.  These moments cause you to reevaluate life, reconsider priorities, and embrace life more closely.  It is interesting that this moment occurred just prior to Easter week.  The confluence has caused me to see the cross through fresh eyes.

The cross is deeply intimate.  I oftentimes see the cross as an event.  It is the moment salvation became available to mankind.  God’s incarnate son crucified for us, ushering in redemption and hope.  It is historical.  It is cosmic.  It is agonizing – the weight of sin placed on Christ.  Yet, it is also intimate.  It is the moment my sin became absorbed in his righteousness.  The experience on the cross is my experience through faith.  Yet, more so, it is intimate because it opens the door for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, which enables me to rest in those unexpected moments because my God can fully comfort me, hold me, with the peace of Christ.  Intimacy is defined as “close familiarity or friendship.”  I don’t believe this definition captures the beauty made available through Calvary.  In dark moments, Christ isn’t simply familiar with me; He is residing in my emotions, my thoughts, my soul – providing rest and affirmation, even when my thoughts are scattered and confused.  True intimacy cuts through the façade and externals to connect at my very core.

The cross is deeply safe.  Everyone wants to be safe.  Yet, sadly, it is more natural to be guarded.  Children are naturally trusting.  Yet, as we experience pain and hardship, our hearts become guarded.  Fences are erected protecting our vulnerabilities.  Guarding our true selves safeguards us against an unwelcome comment or unmet expectations.  Internally, we long for the relationship where our souls can be naked, accepted and loved as is.  God knows us intimately and still loves us.  But, it is a love not simply of relationship but one where we are invited to rest at his feet with all our brokenness laid bare and find acceptance.  Christ is safe because we do not have to pretend in his presence.  Christ is safe because space is provided for us to be and to be honest without rebuke or shame.

The cross is deeply hopeful.  The problem with authenticity is that it desires complacency.  I want to be real without any expectation of change.  Christ is intimate and safe while pushing us towards hope.  Calvary was a horrific day.  The ugliness of sin – its brutality and condemnation, was poured on Christ.  He died.  He bore the wrath of God.  He experienced the rejection of friends.  He cried out at the abandonment of the Father.  It was a horrific day.  However, it was not the last day.  Easter morning gave rise to hope.  Salvation was birthed through death but ended in life.  Comfort is found in being open with someone about our pain; hope is experienced as we move past the pain.  Christ invites us to radical openness about our dark moments while graciously, tenderly walking us to a new reality of abundant life, not absent from pain but present in sufficient grace.  Grace to live not bound by our facades, insecurities or brokenness but rather in companionship with a loving Savior who points us to the summit of eternal promise.

The cross reminds me that life can be lived intimately, safely, and hopefully with Christ.  As a leader, I am challenged.  Am I moving towards hope or simply comfortability in my brokenness?  In the shadow of Calvary, do I truly thank Christ for the gift of intimacy and safety or has it become convenient and expected?  I am called to reflect Christ.  Am I fostering distance and insecurity with those around me or am I cultivating the qualities that I adore in Christ?

Certain experiences in your life change your perspective.  The cross is most certainly one of those experiences.