I love hospitality. I love small gatherings around long tables, delicious food and wholehearted conversation. The implications of hospitality have marked me on so many levels. It’s transformed the way I see the Holy Spirit as well as my children, but recently I found my heart ruminating over an idea I’d never considered before: hospitality toward my own soul.
Perhaps this sounds intriguing or even a little odd. That’s fair. But I believe there’s something in this mindset that’s critical for us to thrive at the root level and so much at stake if we miss our invitation. Like a dinner party for cherished and honored guests, let’s start where all hospitality begins, with a warm welcome.
Our soul is a God-given part of who we are. I know, “Come on, Hannah, that’s basic.” I know. I thought I believed it too. I knew the soul with its capacity to think, choose and feel was a necessary part of my humanity, but God has challenged me and still is stretching me to value my soul’s capacity as a most beloved friend in my journey as an image-bearer of Christ.
When God made us in His image and eyed the final masterpiece that makes up you and me – spirit, soul, and body – He exhaled with satisfaction and declared his work “very good”. (1) Our personality and unique ways of seeing the world, of feeling and creating were imagined in His mind about us before we ever came to be (2). It stands to reason that smiling on this gift of soul is an important precursor to the wise tending of our inner life.
It’s true that the fall dirtied the waters of our soul, but it’s also true that Christ’s work has provided for the restoration of all of us, spirit, soul and body (3). When we are redeemed, Christ calls not only our spirit, but our whole selves to the table.
Our soul is worthy of attention, not as a villain to our spiritual life, but as an ally that simply needs shepherding. As a mom of three children, I know firsthand that I cannot shepherd what I do not love. It’s true that our minds need renewing (4). Our vain imaginations need to be arrested by imaginations informed by Truth (5). Yet my soul’s brokenness and disfunction does not disqualify it from a seat at the table any more than a friend’s hurt or lack disqualifies her from my love and friendship. Quite the contrary. Warm welcome is often the beginning of healing. Will we view our whole selves with the same tenderness God does?
This is where we acknowledge God’s good gift in the makeup of our soul. When what is welcomed is nourished, healing not only becomes possible, but probable.
We’ve heard it said, “You are what you eat.” Before Christ, our soul had a limited menu. Even as God was drawing us to repentance and a life of freedom in Him, our sinful nature, our relational connections (or lack thereof) and other life experiences were the main course that shaped our soul’s condition (6).
In Christ, our spirit is made alive in Christ and our soul is opened up to a whole new world of possibility, a feast that for the first time satisfies our deepest need, one in which we are changed from the inside out (7).
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
We are hospitable to our own soul when we provide ourselves with a steady feast of the Word of God.
This feast is not merely informational, validated by how much we can regurgitate knowledge. Although I adore Bible study and have spent countless hours doing it, even study serves to woo us to the Author. Consider an apple. I could divide an apple’s properties into a bit of water, some pulp and a capsule with its vitamins and nutrients. As enlightening as that may be, if you’re from another country and you’re eating an apple for the very first time, it’s no longer just food with water, pulp and nutrients. The apple is an experience. (8)
You admire its smooth red skin as you roll it over in your hands. You open your mouth wide and take a bite as the sound of the crunch and the sweetness of the aroma heighten your senses. The apple tastes good and its substance satisfies. When you see it again at the farmer’s market, you recognize it and immediately the memory of the crunch, aroma and taste is triggered in your mind. You want more and you reach for your wallet.
Psalms 34:8 says, “Taste and see that He is good.” There are so many ways to feed on God’s Word, all worthy of exploration. For now, let’s just agree that our souls crave the goodness of His Word. Wherever we’re starting from, His Word is a feast worth pursuing.
The invitations are sent, the feast is ready, and the candles are lit. As beautiful as this warm spectacle is, this table is but a stage for the main attraction: exchange.
This is why we’ve gathered. For relationship. Our soul is welcomed to the table as is Jesus, our human spirit and our earthly body. Truly, the spirit, soul and body are all tangled up in the dance of our existence, yet each one offers its function in accordance with God’s perfect design. By honoring each part, we honor the whole. By honoring the whole, we honor the Creator.
Our soul comes eager for Living Bread. It’s a loaf that won’t run out. But in all the feasting and sharing, our soul has something to say too. It needs to be heard and there’s no better place. In the presence of an Abba Father undaunted by the knots in our thinking or the violence of our emotion, our soul can speak its truest condition in the face of Truth Himself. At this table, love trumps fear. Where pain is confessed, balm rushes in. Where sin is acknowledged, cleansing and refreshing come like a flood. Where our hearts just need to be heard, the Divine sits with us. No performance necessary.
When the voice of our soul is shushed by accusations cloaked in religion or snuffed by endless distraction, be sure that the pain won’t end there. Our precious soul will cue the body, releasing flares for help through increasing tension, sickness or burnout. We have enough to grapple with in our physical bodies without it becoming an agent of alarm pointing us to all within us we don’t think we have time for.
No, we are more precious than that. We are children of the Most High.
Are you grieving? Run to Papa.
Are you tired? I know a Fountain.
Are you hopeless? Open arms await you.
This intimacy with Jesus slowly unwinds the lies and, with practice, weaves a new tapestry in the way we live our lives.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.”
From this place of listening and tending our souls in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we gain the understanding that all our outer life flows from our inward realities. Likewise, wise stewardship of our time, energy and resources can be a well that flows inward to foster the health of our hearts.
Truthfully, this can look different in every season and each one of us are unique. It’s a learning process that takes practice, mindfulness and some trial and error.
As an introvert (INFJ / Enneagram 5w4), I need to protect margin in my schedule. Too much busy burns me out. I schedule at least one small chunk of time each week when I can take off the mom hat and just be a person. Coffee and deep conversation with a friend fills my cup far more than a room full of people. I’m energized by new ideas and growing my breadth of knowledge on topics I’m passionate or curious about. I almost never watch anything because I’m infinitely more interested in the books I’m reading. Nature anchors me in wonder and leaves me feeling more like myself. I try to be in it as much as possible.
That’s just me. What about you? What helps you to thrive?
Don’t underestimate the impact of small tweaks to your practices, routines or commitments. In my limited experience, even baby steps in how I steward my outward life can send a cue to my soul that I can breathe a little deeper. Small acts of intention are like postcards to my soul: “I see you. I hear you and I promise that I will tend to you.”
This is your cue to text your husband or a friend and recruit some partnership in scheduling a life-giving act of intention for your soul’s benefit this week. (wink wink)
As with anything pertaining to our wholeness, hospitality is not an event; it’s a journey. It’s a journey into the heart of God for us, and as we’re shaped in that Love, the heart of God through us.
My greatest desire is that I would stay childlike. May I never think I’m beyond the basics. May I never grow so mature that I perceive no need for the Vine. This is how we are formed and how we grow. We keep showing up. We keep the conversation going. We invite Jesus into the thick and thin of us. He’s already set the table. All of us – spirit, soul and body – have a place there. This is where we explore abundant life one meal at a time.
If you’re a mom like me, a grandma, aunt or friend of children, I know you’re looking for ways to help cultivate that same spiritual growth in those precious kiddos, who though they be small also have a soul of their own. Sacred Pathways for Kids is an incredible place to begin. This resource has been such an incredible blessing to my family. Just click my affiliate link here to take a free quiz that will give you some golden insights on how to help your kids connect with God in the way that He made them.
Article Footnotes: (1) Genesis 1:26-31, (2) Psalm 139, (3) Genesis 1-3, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, (4) Romans 12:2, (5) 2 Corinthians 10:5, (6) 2 Corinthians 7:10, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 2:1-2, Ephesians 4:23, (7) Ephesians 2:1-10, John 7:37, John 6:68, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 2:13, (8) John 1:1-5, John 5:39, John 6:68