When I was a child, my mom taught me to pray this prayer before I went to sleep:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I didn’t know what a soul was, but I figured it was something deep inside that was special to God. And if God kept my soul while I was asleep, it must be my job to keep it when I was awake. These were all pretty big thoughts to a kid that needed to be tucked in and kissed by mom before I could go to sleep at night.
Now I know it is the most important part of me - more important than anything I possess or accomplish. And to lose my soul is to lose everything. Like Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
But what is the soul? It’s what is really running our lives, making us the person we are, defining our identity, and connecting us to God. It’s me. And it’s precious to God. Now you understand. It’s hard to explain, but maybe an illustration will help. It’s entitled The Keeper of the Stream*.
“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 a time 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. But 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 a village depended on the health of the stream.
The stream is your soul. And you are the keeper.”
God made your soul to be the stream for all His grace and love to flow to your heart. But a lot of junk blocks and pollutes the stream. We can all feel things like envy, anger, passion for the wrong things, neediness for attention - love, pleasure, all stuff deep inside clogging us up. If we don’t remove it, it will make us sick. We need God’s help to clean and heal our souls.
Now, you are probably expecting I’ll give you a list of things to do that will clean out your soul and make everything “cool” between you and God. Sorry. You’ll just add them to the To Do List that you most likely will not get to during the Christmas Season. Here is what I have for you. Take your soul to church the next 4 Sundays and Christmas Eve. And pay attention. Why? You’ll hear The Christmas Story. It’s a story about God’s ancient promise, a couple who couldn’t imagine God’s plans for their lives, nasty shepherds the town didn’t want around, and dignitaries coming far to worship the future King of kings. You may be surprised, but your soul will open up to a word, idea, song, interaction, experience that touches something deep inside you that longs for God’s presence. You soul is longing for this. Like the psalm writer wrote, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (Psalm 42:1). Your soul is thirsty to taste the love of God, to know the Christmas Good News is for you, no matter how nasty things are in your life. And when you feel this been soul connection, ask God to give you more of it. It will bring healing and cleansing to your soul. I’ve seen it happen over and over in the Christmas Season at Spirit of Life.
And by the way, praying the bedtime prayer my mom taught me will help, too. It still works for me every night.
(*Excerpt From: John Ortberg. “Soul Keeping.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/V7ViT.l)