“How do we respond when we understand the neediness of our souls?” 

John Ortberg

That is the question John Ortberg asks at the end of one of the chapters in Soul Keeping. I had never really considered my soul needy, but this concept has a lot of credibility. My soul yearns, but everything else seems to get in the way. Weakness of will, strength not as strong as I thought, my mind focused on a fleeting desire of the moment. We all succumb at different times to things that point us away from what the soul truly needs.

Peace is the Advent theme that I appreciate the most but achieve the least.

Peace is elusive. It is something we all desire but have difficulty in the execution of making it happen. I like the accompanying word that often matches on par with peace, that being harmony. Both are things we learn to understand throughout life as our constant state of changing variables make us wish for all things to work out well. Harmony is just like it sounds; as a well-played piece of music that resonates with every ear. Our soul is made full. Those who strive to make peace are even called ‘blessed’, according to Jesus. It is an important piece of what our soul desires.

So how have you prepared yourself?

Preparation is another term used for this theme of peace. Interestingly, we prepare ourselves in order to feel at peace. Harmony often comes from our putting the time into the purpose at hand, and in turn, we realize where more peace is needed. No, I am not talking about a ‘to do’ list that once checked off will make us feel good about the day ahead. This is preparation of the soul. In turn, it is the changing of the mind, the directing of the will, and the surrender of the body. If I prepare by ignoring the needs of my soul, I may be temporarily satisfied, but perpetually unsettled.

Do you lead yourself with peace?

I have shared about how anxiety has shaped me over the recent years, making me come to grips with weakness and true strength. It has also helped me understand how it has done so in the past, largely without my identifying it. I recall for instance around age 10, being so distraught that I may be going to hell, that it occupied all my thoughts and kept me up at night. I could not function properly at any level for months as my young mind went round and round in debate over saying and doing the wrong thing(s). I remember breaking down a few times, mostly alone, but sometimes to another. The logical response came more than once: “Just stop thinking about it.” 

It made rational sense, but not irrational sense. If you have ever been in a mental loop you will know what I mean. Once it becomes a natural response, it continues seemingly without beginning or end. So the alternate response was…peacemaking.

It is actually one of my fondest memories of my mom, who would have been in her own place of anxious struggle at the time. I broke down to her in the dining room, exhausted from the struggle and feeling like there was no safe place left for me or my mind. It was one of the most calming times I had experienced with mom as she seemed to be more at peace the more I tensed. She pointed up to one of our framed wall-hangings that marked our home courtesy of AA, the first stanza of ‘The Serenity Prayer’. It was the first time I heard it prayed as an actual soul need and heartfelt desire. And it stuck. I revisited it often and more than anything, resonated with the words in that moment of peace.

Preparation of the soul brings peace in all that you do. If you feed the outer desires and weaknesses, you will simply starve and hurt your soul. That disharmony is something that shows itself in how you lead others, and more importantly, how you lead yourself. Serenity is a good term, and a well meaning one at that. But peace moves us when we prepare our souls. Being at rest with what is within my heart, knowing what I can and cannot change, and understanding how I can exist and change within the tension of the two, is a powerful place to thrive. Peacemaking then, begins with creating space for peace within me. 

The challenge this week? How will you prepare for peace in your setting so you can lead within it?

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