Farmers in the Midwest used to run a rope from their house to the barn when a blizzard was coming, knowing that in a whiteout they might not find their way back to the house. Parker Palmer refers to the “blizzard of the world” that can separates us from our souls. What we need is a rope from the back door to the barn so we can find our way home again. “When we catch sight of the soul, we can survive the blizzard without losing our hope or our way” (Palmer). Leonard Cohen notes, “The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold, and it has overturn the order of the soul.” Jesus warns us, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matt 16:26) Men are you in danger of losing your soul in the blizzard of life?
Dallas Willard maintains that, “The soul is the capacity to integrate all the parts into a single whole life. It is something like a program that runs a computer, you don’t usually notice it unless it messes up.” In his view an unhealthy or ruined soul is a lost soul. To lose my soul implies that I no longer have a healthy center that organizes and guides my life. Another way of view the soul is to see it as the conductor of our lives, helping make our life a symphony. Neglect produces a cacophony.
Ronald Rolheiser, a catholic spiritual writer, prompted me to write this blog when he pointed out the soul as being both the principle of life and energy inside us as well as the principle of integration. “Since the soul is double principle doing two things for us,” Rolheiser points out, “there are two corresponding ways of losing our souls. We can have no vitality and energy and go dead or we can become unglued and fall apart.” We can weaken the God-given life inside us by either petrification or dissipation. We are in danger of losing our soul by not having enough fire or we can lose our soul by not having enough glue.
The soul is built on awareness and attentiveness. Pay attention to what your soul is telling you. The soul is shy and waits to be heard. We can easily neglect or deny the life of the soul. When we think of soul, we are not visualizing a substance or a place, but rather a “reflective space” (Benner) that is at the center of our personality. “Soul is,” in the words of Eugene Peterson, “the most personal term we have for who we are….[It] is an assertion of wholeness, the totality of what it means to be a human being.” So my cry again is for the readers of this blog to be “soulful men,” who do not lose their fire or become unglued in the midst of the blizzards of life.
Here are so tips on attentiveness. First, know that soul will take you down into the realities of your life, the good, the bad and the ugly. The soul withers when we live with illusion; on the surface. The soul thrives in reality, the way life really comes to us. Secondly, don’t let fear keep you from your reality, because Jesus meets you at the center, not in the place of our own preference. Thirdly, spend time listening to your soul. That means being quiet and accepting of what “bubbles up” into your awareness. Fourthly, find a “soul friend” or a group of guys that are comfortable with soul talk. Too many evangelical men are afraid of their own “evangelical, religious shadow.”