Do you ever get a nagging feeling of emptiness? A gnawing sense that you are not operating at optimum capacity even though you’re busy and running at a million miles an hour? This dissatisfaction resides deep within our souls, it’s a bit like eating a lot of junk food - on the surface, you’re consuming food but your body is not quite satisfied. Just like there are many resources about healthy eating, we also need to be mindful about feeding and nourishing our souls. So, here are three indispensable (and FREE!) things I believe we need to fill up our lives with to achieve a healthy and flourishing soul.
#1 Beauty. Now, before you head online for more ‘stuff’ you don’t need, seeking beauty does not necessarily mean acquiring more ‘things’ – clothes, make up etc. Beauty comes in many different forms – nature, art, people, and architecture. Look around you; you’re literally swimming in an ocean of beauty. Anything that gives you pleasure when you look at it, is a form of beauty. I know we have a climate crisis looming and the oceans are filling up with plastic but the truth remains that the world God created is beautiful. It is pleasing and delightful to look at.
Growing up in a typical Nigerian household, emphasis is placed on being academically successful and acquiring multiple degrees; observing beauty isn’t seen as important. I had to learn to be intentional about taking time to stop and notice the beauty around me. This can range from a beautiful cursive font, to the intricate design of the wings on a butterfly. This period of isolation has forced me to notice more beautiful things and places around me while on my regular walks.
If you are currently self-isolating, have you thought about changing your screensaver on your phone or computer to a picture of something or somewhere you find aesthetically pleasing?
#2 Wonder. When you become more intentional about noticing beauty around you, it naturally leads you to a regular posture of wonder. One of the best things we can do is to take time to marvel at the wonders in the world that could only have come from a wonderful God. Find a moment to sit with your thoughts accompanied by a warming cup of tea, and just wonder.
Wonder about how a baby forms within its mother’s womb without ever taking a breath. Wonder about the fact that no two zebras have the same stripe pattern. Wonder about the fact that if all the DNA in your body were uncoiled, it would stretch out to around 10 billion miles.
The value of gazing is not so you can rush off and ask Google. Not knowing the answer is a good outcome in and of itself. Not knowing causes you to lift your hands and bow your head in acknowledgement of the majesty and intelligence of an all-powerful designer who keeps a complex universe spinning, yet still manages to be able to count the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). Give yourself the gift of wonder today – it only costs your ability to be still for a few minutes.
#3 Purposeful Work. ‘Work’ has become a dirty word with connotations of drudgery, long days bookended by horrible commutes. Beauty and wonder immediately cause us to relax but ‘work’ often conjures up feelings of stress and difficulty even if you’re fortunate to have your dream job. I worked in Central London for a few years and on occasions where I did the abominable, that is, made eye contact with a fellow commuter, I could see the ‘hamster on a wheel’ look.
I’ve been reading Timothy Keller’s ‘Every Good Endeavour’ (which I highly recommend) and slowly but surely, a shift is happening in my attitude towards work. Work wasn’t instituted after Adam and Eve sinned; work was part of the mandate God gave to the first humans he created. Genesis 2:15 tells us that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Sure, work became harder and more gruelling after sin showed up, but work in itself was always part of the script and I dare say, it is good since everything God made is good!
You don’t have to be world leader for your work to be purposeful but t I believe that part of why many of us are dissatisfied is that our understanding of work is somewhat skewed. Whether you are a full-time stay-at-home mum, a company director or somewhere in between, you have to believe your work is purposeful otherwise it really can seem more of a burden.
You might not be in your ideal job, but while aspiring for better, give yourself the gift of believing that your work – whatever it looks like - is purposeful and matters to God. Doing the job you do is a beautiful opportunity to be a co-creator with God.
Dammy Olatoye is a youth leader in her local community church where she enjoys leading Bible studies for young people. Read more from her at unvarnished.org and on Twitter