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Walter Albritton

October 21, 2018

 

Keeping your soul healthy

 

            You have a body. You have a soul. Every day you read tips about how to keep your body healthy. But how about your soul? What are you doing to keep your soul healthy?

            That is the question John Ortberg asked his friend Dallas Willard. The busy pastor asked, “What do I need to do to stay spiritually healthy?” After a long pause, Dallas said slowly, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg quickly wrote down Willard’s advice. Then he asked, “Okay, I’ve got that one. Now what other spiritual nuggets do you have for me?”

            To Ortberg’s dismay, Dallas replied, “There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

            That is one of the important lessons Ortberg learned during conversations with his friend Dallas Willard. Such lessons led John to write a very helpful book titled Soul Keeping with the subtitle, “Caring for the most important part of you.” It is one of the most helpful books I have read in many years.

            In his book John shares how Dallas kept reminding him that his soul will live on beyond the death of his body. So, Dallas said, “The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity. You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”

            That fact, Dallas insisted, “is the most important thing for you to know about you. You should write that down. You should repeat it regularly. Brother John, you think you have to be someplace else or accomplish something more to find peace. But it’s right here. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are. Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies. It’s the most important thing about you. It is your life.”

            Ortberg wrestles with this and other soul issues as he helps his readers to see meaningful ways to keep the soul healthy. He begins and ends the book with the intriguing idea that the soul is a stream and it is our job to keep it clean. This concept he ties together with the inspiring story of “The Keeper of the Stream.” You may want to keep this story handy and read it often once you take seriously your responsibility to keep your soul healthy:

            There once was a town high in the Alps that straddled the banks of a beautiful stream. The stream was fed by springs that were old as the earth and deep as the sea.

            The water was clear like crystal. Children laughed and played beside it; swans and geese swam on it. You could see the rocks and the sand and the rainbow trout that swarmed at the bottom of the stream.

            High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man who served as Keeper of the Springs. He had been hired so long ago that now no one could remember when he wasn’t there. He would travel from one spring to another in the hills, removing branches or fallen leaves or debris that might pollute the water. Bur his work was unseen.

            One year the town council decided they had better things to do with their money. No one supervised the old man anyway. They had roads to repair and taxes to collect and services to offer, and giving money to an unseen stream-cleaner had become a luxury they could no longer afford.

            So the old man left his post. High in the mountains, the springs went untended; twigs and branches and worse muddied the liquid flow. Mud and silt compacted the creek bed; farm wastes turned parts of the stream into stagnant bogs.

            For a time no one in the village noticed. But after a while, the water was not the same. It began to look brackish. The swans flew away to live elsewhere. The water no longer had a crisp scent that drew children to play by it. Some people in the town began to grow ill. All noticed the loss of sparkling beauty that used to flow between the banks of the streams that fed the town. The life of the village depended on the stream, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper.

            The city council reconvened, the money was found, the old man was rehired. After yet another time, the springs were cleaned, the stream was pure, children played again on its banks, illness was replaced by health, the swans came home, and the village came back to life.

            The life of the village depended on the health of the stream.

            The stream is your soul. And you are the keeper.

            Well, that is the story that I suggest you mull over again and again as you reflect on the important question: How is it with your soul? + + +