Last weekend at New Hope Community Church where I’m a member, people in leadership positions got together for an inspiring series of meetings. Being part of the leadership team, naturally I attended. Through a video presentation, given by Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Church in Honolulu, Hawaii, God challenged me to make some changes in my life. In his presentation, “Dead Leader Running,” Cordeiro shared how, by ignoring his physical and emotional needs (as well as those of his family), he narrowly escaped a nervous breakdown.
As he became busier and busier, he cut out of his schedule those things that filled him with joy and renewed his energy. Finally, his body wore out, his brain quit producing serotonin (the happiness hormone) and he experienced reoccurring panic attacks. This will happen to anyone who keeps giving and does not get refueled, he warned. That was not news to me, but I needed to hear it, again; during the last few months, my joy level has dropped and my body has noticed. It’s been sending me pain messages.
After the meetings were over, I went for a long walk—that’s one of the activities that fill my emotional cup. While walking, I wrote the following lines:
My body reflects
What my soul feels.
When my soul cries,
My body hurts.
When my soul laughs,
My body heals.
What is my soul? Different people have different definitions. Along with Leanne Payne (author of Restoring The Christian Soul), I define “soul” as my mind and heart; it includes my memories, will, emotions, and imagination. There’s a close relationship between the health of my soul and the health of my body. But because my body is visible and my soul is invisible, it’s all too easy to ignore the messages of my soul. In the morning, my body reminds me of its presence by sending me an “I am thirsty” message. I satisfy it with a glass of water. Next, my body sends me an “I am hungry” message; I satisfy it with eggs and sausage or oatmeal. A little later while I’m sitting at my computer and writing, my body sends me an “I am cold message.” I satisfy it by turning up the heat in my office and, then, go back to writing. Sometimes, though, the words do not flow. Feeling frustrated, I go to the kitchen and grab a handful of chips or eat something healthier, such as a few slices of cheese and a few grapes. I go back to my computer, but my writing still does not flow.
What’s the problem? My diagnosis was wrong. It was not my body that I needed to feed; it was my soul. Eventually, if I keep on ignoring the frustration of my soul and, instead, feed my body, it will get indigestion. I might try to soothe it with antacids, but that will not, in the long run, solve my problem. Until I take care of the frustration in my soul, my digestive problems will not improve—even if I’m following the diet that gives health to my body.
The complexity and interdependence of this mind/emotion/ body connection causes me to worship God. I declare, with the Psalmist, that his “deeds are awesome and amazing” (Psalm 139:14 NET). And I renew my commitment to do those things which bring laughter to my soul and health to my body. I hope that you will do the same.