Last weekend, I sat on the porch at the lake to watch the sunrise and I found myself making a list. Even now I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it’s divided in half. One side of negative qualities and the other positive.
I had been in a funk. You know the kind you’re full aware is happening, and it’s as if you’re trapped, don’t want to be, but can’t find yourself out?
I kept watching myself be short with my family. I was disappointed my summer of discipline was not unfolding like I’d envisioned. I felt disconnected from God, myself and from my people. It was time to hit reset, take inventory of what was happening and implement some sort of change.
In the midst of the weekend I had two dear friends come visit the lake. We set out to talk out our freshest dreams, and we did, but also traveled into lucious chatter about the holiness of our bodies, beauty, celebrating, and inevitably, boys. We got donuts, floated in the warm water and read our novels side by side - we even made up a dance. I promise it was as glorious as it sounds!
At one point, the conversations simmered down to midday rests on the swaying of the pontoon. Madelyn was out cold, and I was face up looking to the cloudless blue sky soaking in the rays, the joy of the day, and the fresh thoughts prompted by our chats and my recent read.
I thought about love. And about how I don’t think about love very often. I had come to this conclusion before, but was faced with it once again, this time feeling unable to escape the tangled web question of “why do I think this way?”
I realized I think more about doing what is “right” than anything. Being “right” is structured, it’s black and white. I’m either doing right or wrong. I can strategize when I’m attempting to do the “right” thing all the time. But love, love is messy. It’s a beautiful, chaotic mess that I have been tentative to fully submerge myself in fear of doing something “wrong.” This explains my default (and deceived) view of God: a distant someone who is frustratingly trying to straighten me out and use me as a pawn in the game.
This perception has been so deeply tucked into the engine that revs my way of living when I remembered God IS Love (1 John 4:8) it was as if I heard it for the first time. It was like I had been hearing an overplayed song, then finally woke up to listen to the magic of the perfectly combined elements of lyrics, melody and style.
I returned to my list. And what I began to see were characteristics my life could be marked by. Each word was like a knock on the door into my life that wanted to be let in, and I had the opportunity to choose if they could enter. On the left side words like anxiety, strife, proving, self-sufficient, heavy, distracting and critical were obviously on the negative half. I swallowed slowly to face the fact I was more well acquainted with these words than the ones on the right - love, empathy, kindness, courageous, worshipful, consistent.
In the push to be “right” I had left behind what was right in the first place. I had thought about these qualities, read about them, preached them. But when I turned deeply inward I couldn’t find them there. I heard someone say recently that if someone were to squeeze them they would want Jesus to come out. Oh do I long for that! But with such a skewed view of God Himself how would that have ever been possible?
Now the tables have turned a bit. And it feels like I have sea legs and am learning how to walk. I’m calling the way I want to live for the rest of my life ‘soul-first.’ I want to abide so deeply in the God who is Love that my life seeps of belonging, joy, creativity, discipline and spontaneity. No more settling for going through the motions, running so non-stop I can’t even connect. I want when people get closer to my life it becomes more beautiful because I am not just performing acts of love, I am becoming love. Love is the drive, and the eyes I see from.
Living soul-first is tied closely to groundedness. For me, it looks like seeking silence in the bookends of my day and midday. It looks like putting relationships over tasks, but being faithful to the work I was given. It is exclaiming with awe when I see a butterfly and accepting a beautiful sunset as personal. It is seeking to feel fully in suffering, whimsy and confusion. It is walking into a public place with a listening heart asking God, “What do you want me to know, do or say?”
Living soul-first means being on the playing field of your own life. It is messy and beautiful, not something you can organize tidily. All it requires is our commitment to be all here