If an abundant life is living by soul in a spirit of love, what does it mean to live by soul?
Soil and Soul
In the summer of 2020, my landlords paid my son to pull the weeds in the front yard of our immaculately landscaped rental home. I don’t know how long it had been since anyone took on the task, but it quickly became clear the yard had gone years without proper care. Huge networks of roots sat just below the surface and actual weed mitigation meant digging down and uprooting the massive entanglements. Otherwise, new surface weeds would sprout faster than we could pull them. My son and I spent hours that summer trying to not just make the yard look presentable on the surface, but manageable from one week to the next. But even with all of our efforts, it we found ourselves unable to conquer the weeds.
During this time, I found myself taking more and more trips to the mountains so I could go hiking. While wandering miles of trails through the Rockies, I began to notice something interesting. Weeds only showed up on the edges of trails and other places where people have interfered with the natural environment. If you wander off trail into a mountain meadow, weeds as we know them, don’t grow.
Then, while reading a book on soul craft, a line caught my attention. The book claimed that if you want a weed free yard, the key is to plant indigenous species. Doing a bit more research I discovered that native plants form a kind of blockade that limits the spread of weeds and other invasive plants.
Additional research revealed that weeds are actually a natural protective response aimed to prevent soil erosion, restore life-giving organic matter to the soil, enhance biodiversity, and provide habitat for insects and animals. In other words, weeds are nature’s response to our attempts to do something unnatural with the soil. This means that when we weed, we are literally fighting against nature. No wonder we have to dump all kinds of toxic and often carcinogenic chemicals that ultimately end up in our water if we are going to have the landscaping we desire without weeds.
The Weeds of Our Lives
This ecological realization hit me hard, but not because I have strong ties to a particular approach to landscaping but because I spent years thinking of weeds as analogous for unwanted behavior in my life, be it anger, impatience, or addiction. I talked endlessly about the foolishness of fighting for external behavioral change, comparing it to looping off the weeds with a weed wackier but leaving the sick root to thrive and form an even stronger weed. The real solution I argued was found in going deep and digging out the root network much like my son and I attempted to do that summer.
As it turns out for most of a decade, my attempt to mitigate the weeds in my own life were as unsuccessful as our efforts that summer. During those years I spent a small fortune on countless hours of therapy in every modality I could find seeking to dig up and reprocess my past, but I still found unwanted impulses ready to step forward at a moment’s notice. I always assumed that if a behavior returned, it must be because some root cause still needed to be pulled.
But this new knowledge about indigenous landscaping suggested there was a different problem. If it does in fact carry over to the human experience, this analogy would suggest that unwanted behavior is really your soul screaming that something in your life is out of sync. My unwanted behavior, those weeds, were not directly about my past, they were a result of how I understood myself and how I was living in the present.
Living By Soul
For years I spent the free hours I did have engaged in mindless games and media consumption because my life lacked meaning and purpose. My craving for affirmation, be it from the pulpit or on social media, really sought to override inner doubts about my own sense of significance. Sexually, I was casual and unfaithful in a desperate attempt to counter my sexual insecurity. I was contemptuous towards others because I held myself in contempt.
Living by soul means to listen to and respond to this inner cry. It means to adjust your mental and emotional landscaping so there is no need for weeds to form in attempt to add something that’s missing from the soil. You could even say it is about treating yourself with a spirit of love instead of power. I’ll explore more about this next.
This post is part of a five-part series introducing a big picture take on faith. They are the foundation for everything brought to the crafting table by Abundance Reconstructed. Here are links to the whole series: