Years ago one of my good friends, Howard Baker (who is now the professor of Christian Formation at Denver Seminary), led me through what he called an “Adventure in Prayer.” It was a time of spiritual direction to slow me down and experience Jesus’ love for me in a time, as a leader, that I was being tempted a lot by performance and achievement. Howard’s guidance through Scripture nurtured my soul. He pointed me toward some passages that continue to bring life and more life as I consider them (Psalm 63, 23; Isaiah 55; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43; Hosea 11:1-4).
EXPLOITERS VS. NURTURERS
Before we look at those passages… I was recently reading an interesting selection from Wendell Berry’s, The Unsettling of America, and although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, I was really struck by the tendency he observes in human nature to “exploit” rather than “nurture.” It reminded me of some of the transformation I experienced through that “Adventure in Prayer” with Howard. Berry’s observations relate well to tendencies I see in my soul. Maybe you will be able to relate. He writes:
We are divided between exploitation and nurture…. The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not. The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter’s goal is… profit; the nurturer’s goal is health—his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s…. The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place. The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, ‘hard facts’; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.
It scares me a bit to allow these words to penetrate my soul. But when I do, I find freedom to reject my tendency toward constant achievement, which at times causes me to wrongly justify exploiting others or even God’s creation for my own comfort or gain. Ironically I discover that there is increased productivity in my life as I discover my soul’s deepest longings. It helps me discover the treasure of spiritual leadership, rather than worldly leadership. As I reflect on the biblical theology behind these observations of Berry, I find even more freedom to learn what it might mean to let Christ nurture my soul daily and to become a better nurturer of others’ souls too.
YOUR SOUL’S DEEPEST DESIRES
This is not touchy, feely stuff. Our soul is actually designed by God to have deep desires for him alone. Physically you and I are a combo product of our mother and father’s DNA. But when it comes to your soul… your [person]ality: Your mother and father had nothing to do with that. God created your soul apart from your DNA and he placed your soul within you, full of proper desires and longings for him. Yet sin has really messed things up. Sin causes us to exploit others and it also opens us to be exploited as well. Neither is God’s design.
So daily drinking from the Well of God’s word weans me from wanting what is bad for me, and it stirs a hunger in my soul for the real food I need: God alone.
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Consider some of these passages that reflect on our soul’s deepest desires:
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. -Psalm 63:1
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. -Psalm 63:3
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. -Psalm 63:6
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. -Psalm 23:1
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. -Isaiah 55:1
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. -Isaiah 55:2
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -Isaiah 55:10-11
You are my portion, O LORD… -Psalm 119:57
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. -Psalm 119:37
LETS DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS
As you allow Jesus to tend to your soul maybe these reflection questions can help you open up to him and allow him to do his work of restoring your deepest desires today.
- This week try reading through these passages and reflecting on these questions: Psalm 63, 23; Isaiah 55; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43; Hosea 11:1-4
- According to these passages, what are my soul’s deepest desires?
- Being honest with myself, do my soul’s current desires match the deepest desires that God designed my soul to experience? Confess this openly to Jesus. If nudged by the Spirit share this with someone you trust to allow others to know your real spiritual journey.
- What are some of the ways I can remember God taking care of me throughout my life?
- In Isaiah 43 and Hosea 11:1-4 try substituting your name for Israel and Ephraim and see how God personalizes his word to you.
- Are there certain verses that jump out to you as you read these texts? This is spiritual fruit from God that he wants you to enjoy. Why might God be highlighting these words or phrases for you right now?