“You are not your thoughts and emotion.” When I first began to deal with that reality, I found that I was very resistant. After all, my thoughts and emotions seem to be what is most personal about me. Besides, I needed to be in control and have some understanding of what is going on inside of me. But I didn’t want to move beyond my thoughts and emotions. For years, I avoided being exposed to my soul life. I feared the “fire in the belly.” Like many men I tried to avoid or even deny the fire. But Proverbs 4:23 warns against ignoring our inner life. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
There comes a time in a man’s life when he needs to take “the inward journey.” I would like to purpose that men think of themselves as being “soulful.” Soulful men are truly alive and deeply human. Why? They are aware of their soul life. In Genesis 2:7 we read, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Or as some translations say, “a living soul.” Soul is the most personal term we have to describe ourselves. It refers to the totality of a person created in the image of God. It speaks to depth, wholeness and inwardness. We don’t just have a soul, we are a soul. We are embodied souls. Our soul life, that fire in the belly, greatly influence our life. So we need to aware of the fire and befriend its presence.
I believe the forces in our culture promote a superficial life of personal peace and freedom, staying on the surface of life. The dominant media and the spread of all the communications devices in our culture, keep us all in our heads, manipulating us intellectually and emotionally. How will our lives be formed in this kind of spiritual wasteland. Men are going to have to do their “inner” soul work as never before. If not they will loss their true identity in Christ and drift in a kind of spiritual desert, searching for meaning and purpose in all the wrong places. All our “spiritual improvement projects” will be in vain, if we don’t know ourselves as God knows us.
So my encouragement to men is to “listen” to their souls. Paul tells us that “your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:4). Augustine expressed a vital truth when he said “Let me know thee, O God, let me know myself, that is all.” While Spirit takes us up and out in our relationship with God, soul takes us down and into the reality of our every day life. The soul thrives on what is real; the truth of our everyday experience. Again, men that means to good, bad and ugly. To not pay attention to our soul, that is, the truth about who we are, is to live with an illusion. The more we live with illusion the more we live a lie, knowing less of who we really are.
The soul call us to face reality. My great burden in this post is to help each man see that the inner journey into the life of our soul is both necessary and freeing. You are much more then your thoughts and emotions. At one point in my journey I was both frightened and theologically unsure of getting in touch with my soul life. You might think what I am about to suggest is simplistic. But in a nutshell this is what I have learned. 1) I know God loves me in my stink; he is already there loving me. 2) Jesus goes with me on my journey into my soul life; he takes me by the hand so I can learn from him what is actually there 3) Nothing surprises him; it was always there 4) The inner light of his presence overcomes all my darkness; it helps when I am fearful and unsure 5) He give me the grace to hang in there; I can’t run away from who I am – this is reality 6) I need brothers to help me be truthful; I am good at lying to myself 7) Best of all, there is freedom, authenticity and joy as a result of the journey. I become more of who I was meant to be.