Exploring Soul Ecology

I found this quote after writing this post. 
by Dallas Willard, one of my heroes of the faith.
I was on a quest for the most quiet spot I could find. Leaving the air conditioned comforts of my office building, I wandered around until I found the spot. The noise of traffic not too disturbing. Away from lunchtime phone talkers. I sat down under the low hanging branches of the pine tree, where the hot, September sun dappled the ground where I sat. A fountain sprayed water on the lake at a manufactured, but irenic rhythm and decibel. In case you can't tell; I like beautiful, tranquil spaces in nature for reflection.

I opened Psalm 42, a familiar, well-worn path.

But, the opening question seized my mind, lurking at the doorstep of my soul. I knew if I cracked open that door, I may not like what this unexpected stranger uncovered inside my own home.

Why are you downcast, soul?

David's prayer-poem is a model of a heart which yearns for the living water of the Spirit of God which can truly slake our inner thirst. The accusers within and without threatened to beat him down and dehydrate him in the dust. But, David takes his pain, his ache, his longing - and like a thirsty deer which has a primal urge for water to quench her thirst - he yearns for God's streams. David turns and finds his hope, his salvation, in the merciful arms of Yahweh God.

For years now, I've been aware of the more melancholic, low energy temperament within me. It's fair to say that more often than not, my soul feels downcast. And, really, if we are a soul, not so much as we have a soul, then I guess you could say I am usually a moderately depressed and unhappy person (wow, that's hard to admit!).

But, why? I have every reason to be "happy." I'm blessed with a wife who has stayed faithful to me for eleven years. I have three healthy, adorable children. I have a college education. I am a home owner. I am gainfully employed. I have all the comforts that really anyone could ever ask for.

So, soul, why are you downcast?

And, as the question crossed the threshold of my innermost being, a follow up question arrived: What is the ecosystem of my soul? Forrest? Grassland? Desert? Tundra? Freshwater? Marine? Do I know the terrain? The habitat? The climate? The flora and fauna? What's flourishing there? What's dying? What kind of ecosystem does Jesus, the Shepherd of my soul, want to cultivate?

Perhaps, I've come to agree with a "downcast" prognosis of my soul, and have learned to inhabit a "downcast" worldview of my soul because I don't really understand soul ecology. Perhaps I have not learned to fruitfully tend and cultivate the ecosystem within. Perhaps there are narratives, images, symbols, rituals and structures - a culture of worlds and words - which have settled in my soul which are suppressing the fertility of my innermost being. If I am an embodied soul, then what does the external architecture of my inner ecosystem reveal?

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet forfeits his soul? Jesus asks.

Jesus wants to lead me deeper into the kingdom of God where my soul belongs. That is the true home and most thriving ecosystem for my soul, the place of good order, beauty, fertility and joy.

So, what are the foreign species of the transient, temporal and self-exalting world which I am allowing to invade the ecosystem of my soul? What is preventing the seeds of God's love, truth, grace and kindness from taking root and bearing fruit? I need to make a thoughtful, long ecological study of my soul that I may gain understanding of how to best care for my inner ecosystem.

How does God want to cultivate my soul - and how can I participate with him - in order that I may join with him in his renewal of all things?

*I recognize that depression is a physical, biological reality for many. In my post here, I don't claim to make any statement about the psychological depression you - or I - may suffer. Treatment and care from the appropriately qualified professionals may be necessary. I know there continues to be stigma and suspicion and judgment among Christians about the topic of mental health. Let's be quick to listen, quick to show compassion, quick to share one anothers' burdens, and slow to pass judgment here. In this post, I am offering a brief window into my own reflections of my journey with a more depressive temperament. Medicine, dietary and lifestyle changes are necessary and helpful for some. This is a post more focused on the deeper related questions which many of us can too easily avoid in our journey toward wholeness and healing in Christ and the resurrection power of his Spirit.


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