The day I purchased my used 2010 Honda Pilot was also the day I learned, firsthand, what it means to hydroplane. While checking out the car, I somehow neglected to pay attention to the condition of the tires. Driving home in a sudden downpour, I tapped my breaks, only to discover that my bald tires had lost contact with the pavement, sending me fishtailing across the adjacent lanes of the tollway. Thankfully, I regained control and escaped my predicament unscathed.
Too often, I find that my pace of life, combined with the circumstances around me, can cause me to lose a sense of the grounding I need to live a sane and peaceful life. When this happens, I can easily hydroplane in my relationship with God and those I care about most. When I am “hydroplaning,” I lack the self-awareness of what is going on beneath the surface of my life.
The Bible teaches that each of us is made in the image of God and we are wonderfully complex, having both an external life and an inner life. When the Bible uses the term “soul,” it most often refers to the internal “spiritual” part of our nature. John Wesley, considered the founder of the Methodist and Wesleyan Churches, frequently asked the question, “How is your soul?” to colleagues at Oxford University. This is a much different question than simply, “How are you?” It is closer to the question, “How are you doing, really?” The question “How is your soul?” encourages us to pause and reflect before answering.
I find that the pace and pressures of life often leave us with a depleted or weary soul. In Psalm 42, the author takes an honest look within and describes his soul as “downcast.” It reads, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
This passage provides us an excellent example of someone who is willing to take an honest look within, at what is going on below the surface of his life. This is the opposite of hydroplaning. In the book Soul Shaping, Douglas Rumford describes the following symptoms of soul neglect: increased irritability and impatience, even with those we love; a growing sense of discontentment and restlessness; increased feelings of being overwhelmed; a loss of joy; a loss of compassion. We find ourselves doing more but enjoying it less. As the Old Testament book of Job (9:25) describes, “My days go by faster than a runner; they fly away without my seeing any joy.”
The truth is, this is not God’s will for any of us. Jesus declared in John’s gospel that He came to offer us a different way to live. He came to reconcile us to God and offer us spiritual or soul life as a gift, through faith in Him. He came so we could experience an “abundant life” or live with a “full soul.” One of my favorite New Testament passages is Matthew 11 (verses 28-30), where Jesus makes the following offer: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I have found that a personal relationship with Jesus frees me from having to be in control. I am able to rest in God’s love and care for me in Christ and deal honestly with what is going on under the surface of my life. As I seek to emulate the kind of life that Jesus lived, I find interior resources I do not have otherwise.
Jesus invites us to come to him … just as we are … even with lives out of balance. He wants us to learn how to live out a full soul and balanced life, but the fact is, none of us are going to get this right consistently. We need to learn from Him, which requires that we engage in the same activities Jesus did.
Two specific habits of Jesus mentioned in scripture are prayer and the study of scripture. Charles Duhig, in the best-selling book, The Power of Habit, refers to pivotal practices like these as “keystone habits.” These are habits that trigger or influence other behaviors, as well. Studies have shown that when someone changes a single keystone habit, say exercise, the ripple effect is felt throughout their life. When we follow Jesus’ example by developing a habit of prayer and reading scripture, we find that our souls are refreshed and strengthened. As British author G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
So, how is your soul these days? As the speed of life increases, it is easy to lose the grounding that comes from a personal and ongoing dependence on God. The New Testament author, John, opens the little book of third John with a warm greeting and prayer for his friend, Gaius: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” I pray that your soul is getting along well these days. If you find yourself spiritually or emotionally hydroplaning, slow down enough to regain the grounding of a personal connection with God.
Dr. Chuck Martin has been the lead pastor of First Baptist Frisco since 2002.