I didn’t even know that I was hungry. Maybe I would have known if I had slowed down to think about it, to feel it.
I guess I was a little bit soul-weary.
The nudge came again and again and again.
I decided to listen.
How can I feed my soul? What does my soul need? What wakes me up, the deep-down waking up? What makes me come alive, really alive? What opens up my heart? What prepares me for Presence?
Sometimes it’s words. I reached for the words of two authors who write to my soul. Frederick Buechner’s book Listening to Your Life had been gathering dust on my nightstand for a while. I opened up to words that went straight to my heart. I spent some time with John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. O’Donohue’s words remind me that I am very much Alive.
I thought maybe I could use some new words, some I haven’t read before. I requested Buechner’s The Alphabet of Grace. I need Buechner’s words. The way that he writes about Christ makes me feel like I am not alone in my hazy-visioned, but hopeful seeking. He writes things like: “The images, always broken, partial, ambiguous of Christ. If a vision of Christ, then a vision such as those two stragglers had at Emmaus at suppertime: just the cracking of crust as the loaf came apart in his hands ragged and white before in those most poignant words of all scripture, ‘He vanished from their sight’–whoever he was, whoever they were. Whoever we are.”[i]
Those words pierce my heart each time I read them. Me too. Me too. It makes me breathe easier to hear the honesty and beauty in the faith and experience that Buechner describes. We need “me too”s.
I requested Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness. I heard that Parker Palmer may be an author that I should read. I picked a title at random. Oh my goodness. I may have found a clue to what I want to do when I grow up. He talks about soul and community. Being alone together. And creating safe space for people to hear their souls. He talks about how we can honor others’ souls when we don’t need to fix them, save them, or set them straight. He shows how this leads to a non-violent way of living that can actually change the world. I have pages of notes, I can’t do it justice here or even pick a favorite passage to share. Beauty. Beauty. Beauty. Now I’m ten pages into his book Let Your Life Speak. He’s describing just what I have been beginning to process in these past few weeks. I need this book right now. I have a feeling it may be life-changing.
Soul food. That is what these books are for me. Words that show me where I was, remind me of who I am, and show me glimpses of the journey ahead. Words that remind me that I am not lost. Words that breathe life and gratitude and joy into my very being.
The nudge kept coming. I need more than words. I need silence. I need times of being.
I signed up for two half-day silent retreats. One in May. One in July. I know that I need to plan to make things like this happen.
I spent more time just being without worrying about what words I should write down, which experiences I should share, or how to make better use of social media.
I spent time sitting and listening because that is what my soul needed. I was not sure what I was supposed to listen for. But I sat in stillness anyway. Eventually during these times of stillness, I heard what I was listening for.
My soul needs time snuggling and talking to my children. Spending time with my husband. Walking and deep talking with friends who know me and love me well.
Sometimes my soul needs to take some action. Like writing letters to congress people. Or cleaning out my closet. Or actually making myself some good, good-for-you food like lentil-walnut burgers or kale and quinoa salad.
Sometimes my soul needs to walk in the woods. Sometimes I need to pay attention to the way spring unfurls in my yard like a good, yawning stretch after sleeping all winter. Sometimes I need to spend a day watching sunlight dance on water. Somehow, my soul wakes up in the process.
When I feed my soul, my heart opens and softens like the ground does after a drenching spring rain. That’s the time when the weeds are best removed. The ground is willing to release the roots of the prickly plants invading the garden. That is happening to me in this period of feeding my soul, in this time of sitting and listening.
As my hungry soul opens up to receive nourishment, I know that I am opening up my soul to God. This process of feeding myself isn’t a process of hoarding up goodness and light and stuffing myself so full that I fall asleep, useless on the couch, as the world moves on without me.
When I make my good-for-you food that my family wrinkles their noses at, I have food to share with my friends or my sisters over lunch and conversation. I have to believe that when I feed my soul, my heart opens to God’s love and this love fills me up to overflowing and pours back out to those around me.
In his book The Longing for Home, Buechner describes the story of Jesus meeting his disciples on the beach, the story when he asks Peter to feed his sheep, the story when Jesus invites his disciples to come and eat breakfast. He says:
“I believe he says it to all of us: to feed his sheep, his lambs, to be sure, but first to let him feed us–to let him feed us with something of himself. In the sip of wine and crumb of bread. In the dance of sun and water and sky. In the faces of the people who need us most and of the people we most need.” [ii]
Don’t be afraid to feed yourself.
What wakes you up? What feeds your soul?
[i] Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace, (Harper & Row Publishers 1970) p. 8.
[ii] Frederick Buechner, The Longing for Home, p. 131-32