Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent for Christians. We start by absurdly marking one another with ashes from last year’s burned Palm Branches as a way of saying we understand with humility that we will return to ashes one day. I’m not sure we fully understand that, but at least we try.
And then we begin a time of preparation, soul searching and spiritual disciplines that hopefully lead us to the gift of Easter’s new life. Through the years, I’ve seen Christians prepare for Easter in a variety of ways, sometimes giving up hard things; sometimes taking on something challenging; sometimes both. I’ve seen people begin a time of daily devotion, scripture reading and prayer. I’ve seen people give up something they love and give the money they would have spent on that to the poor. Like every journey there is no right or wrong, there is just the taking of steps.
I still smile about one of my friends who gave up sugar one year for Lent and then ate a WHOLE carrot cake BY HERSELF on Easter Sunday and that did not end well for anyone. Still, she took steps.
As I’ve been teaching about Soul Tending this year, it seems a good time to offer up one of the teachings here. I learned it years ago reading a book called Come Thirsty by Max Lucado.
Did you know your soul can become dehydrated just like your body? As you know, your body will give you signs of dehydration…thirst, lightheadedness, muscle cramps, headaches. If we ignore those signs, eventually organ failure and death. We were created to need water, daily.
It makes sense that our souls, our spiritual selves, the part of us that came from God and will live with God forever, might be created similarly. This first day of Lent might be a good time to do a soul check on your soul’s well-being and hydration.
Signs of Soul Dehydration:
1. Fatigue-we were designed to be tired at the end of the day or as we age but what if your fatigue is just that your soul needs attention?
2. Irritability-I tend to believe I wouldn’t be irritated if others weren’t so irritating but what if it is a sign that my soul is thirsty?
3. Blaming Others-if only my ____fill-in-the-blank here: children/spouse/relatives/coworkers/boss/church/country was better/different/easier____. A well tended soul does not blame others.
4. Reaching for Soul Soothers that don’t help. What is the unhealthy thing you reach for hoping for soothing? Alcohol, sugar, carbs, internet, your phone, a purchase, a wrong relationship, drugs? Maybe you don’t need that thing, you just need some soul soothing.
5. Multitasking and never quite focusing on any one thing. It is a spiritual discipline, a good practice for our souls, to do one thing at a time. Can you even imagine?
6. Filling our lives with noise. Our souls need silence. God’s Spirit prefers to ride in on silence.
7. Too much time alone or with others. We need other people. We also need solitude. When these are out of balance our soul gets thirsty.
8. Self absorption, believing everything is about you. A well-hydrated soul sees a much bigger picture.
9. Being indecisive. This is where people make bad choices, can’t discern right from wrong or can’t even decide if they should say yes or no to an invitation. When your soul is well tended everything becomes much clearer.
10. Feeling restless or like something is missing. What is my purpose? What is my goal for today? A thirsty soul doesn’t know.
I‘m wondering how you scored on the soul check up? Today, this first day of the season of Lent, would be a great time to pause and give your soul a cool cup of Living Water each day. I suggest you choose one of the above to work on. That will be enough, with God’s help.
In Jan Richardson’s Ash Wednesday prayer, Blessing the Dust, she reminds us
…did you not know what the Holy one can do with dust?
She’s talking about being marked with ashes.
So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame. Let us be marked not for false humility or for thinking we are less than we are but for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff of which the world is made and the stars that blaze in our bones and the galaxies that spiral inside the smudge we bear.
Imagine arriving at Easter with a well-hydrated, well-tended, clear soul. Our God specializes in hydrating dusty souls…even yours.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. She is on a Soul Tending mission. As always, check out her upcoming speaking events at http://www.drcindyryanblog.com/events. There is still time to sign up for the March 1 Inner Circle Top Ten email at http://www.drcindyryanblog.com/circle.