What Feeds Your Soul?

I was talking with a group of graduate school students the other day about how important it is to take a break and intentionally care for ourselves. Why is it so difficult to do this? For example, I used to play guitar. Now it has been months–if not years–since I have picked one up and just enjoyed playing it. How did I get away from it? It’s something I used to love, and now it just sits there in my closet, begging to be played. It used to feed my soul, and now it’s just taking up space.
You know why this happens just as well as I do. We get busy when we become adults. Our days become filled with the monotony of doing everything it takes to survive. When we were kids, we didn’t work ourselves to the bone like we do now, and we sure didn’t feel guilty about self-care. Somehow as adults it seems we’ve swung that pendulum too far in the opposite direction. We’ve become good at managing and enduring life rather than actually living it. Maybe it’s time to reclaim some of our youthful zest for enjoying the lives we’ve been given.
When I was a kid, my dad traveled for business. He had a light blue Ford Crown Victoria, and because he’s such a cool dad he let my sister and I pick out the color. That thing was the baddest, most spacious ride I had ever seen, and I’m sure it went from 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds. It was the kind of car that you had to wear shades in, and I felt like a police officer just climbing into the passenger seat.
One summer my dad invited me to go along with him on one of his weekly business trips. It took me about half a second to say “yes,” and we climbed into the finest vehicle yet invented. As I put on my shades, I certainly didn’t feel like I was on business. I was on an adventure with my dad on the open road. Every now and then (he would say it was only when we had to merge into traffic or maybe pass a semi truck) my dad would hit the gas and “clean out the engine.” At least that’s what he called it… I called it the sheer essence of awesome. There we were, probably somewhere in the middle of Louisiana with the windows rolled down “hard top” style, truly living life. We might have been just traveling for business, but I didn’t care. I felt alive. That adventure with my dad fed my soul.
Where does that kind of joy go? I think it can get lost in a couple of ways. First, the beauty in life often gets drowned out by the way we strive to manage, build, shape, and direct our paths too tightly. We get so focused on making it to the next exit that we forget to enjoy the open road. We no longer see the excitement that exists in whatever we’re doing here-and-now. What we used to love gets boring, and eventually we’re just passing semis rather than cleaning out the engine.
Secondly, we can become so engrossed in the business of life that we drop all efforts to care for our souls. We get a mortgage, a credit card bill, and a job, so we decide to invest our energy in whatever it takes to make it. We start working six or seven days a week. We get bogged down in the daily grind. The guitar stays in the closet, and we simply stop doing the things that feed our souls.
Now, hear me out on this. I’m not advocating that we absolve ourselves of all responsibilities, drop everything, and sing Kumbaya. That would be overcorrecting the pendulum’s swing. If you know me, you know how much I believe we need goals, structure, and routines. What I’m talking about here is not letting those goals, structures, and routines lull us to sleep. We need a break in order to recharge. We need a Sabbath rest. We need to be able to take a step back and regularly reflect on our lives as a painter steps back to assess the progress on his canvas. We need to zoom-out and enjoy the view.
I invite you to ask yourself these questions: What feeds your soul? Have you gotten so busy that you no longer enjoy this one life you’ve been given? Then make yourself take a Sabbath rest. Schedule time to enjoy yourself, or simply to reflect. You’re designed to need this, so you’ll function better if you have it.
You may even find that when you make yourself regularly unplug and unwind, the boring and mundane things of everyday life suddenly become fun again. Your Crown Vic becomes the greatest vehicle ever built. You might be doing the same tasks, but with a renewed perspective. Even though you’re still busy, you’re not just trying to survive anymore–you’re living. And isn’t that the point?
–From Matt Thames

Comments are closed.