What Feeds Your Soul?
4 ways to redefine work as creativity instead of achievement
I didn't understand why I was having panic attacks.
Writing a book wasn't easy, but I was writing a Bible study guide to explore the topic of rest. If there was anything I knew how to do, it was unpacking Scripture.
Yet here I was lying on my bed, unable to sleep, my brain muddled with worries. I found it difficult to breathe, a tightness clamped around my chest. If I dozed, my pounding heart would jolt me awake with rapid-fire palpitations.
You couldn't tell from the outside looking in, but I was exhausted. I didn't want to see anyone or do anything. I just wanted to pull down the shutters and stay in bed.
Have you ever felt that way about work?
No matter what kind of work we do—whether we're wearing heels in the office delivering presentations, cooking dinner for our families in sweats, or leading ministries of faith at church—there comes a point where we grow tired. Burned out.
I'm not talking about the kind of tired that goes away after getting days off or catching up on sleep.
I'm not talking about weariness others claim would disappear if we were better organized. Even if life hums along like a well-managed project, our souls can feel like something's missing.
Even though we are grateful for all God's given us, there is a kind of tired that drags us down and dulls our joy.
Soul stress happens when the work we do becomes separated from our hearts—when work becomes a to-do, compartmentalized from who we are.
What feeds my soul?
This is a hard question for us to answer as women who are intentional about serving God, our family, friends, and others.
I've learned that God wants me to answer these questions during my struggle with debilitating anxiety. Childhood trauma, triggered by the act of writing, reignited painful memories through post-traumatic stress (PTSD).
The me who always achieved&;mdash;the oldest in a single-parent family who put herself through college, traveled overseas as a missionary, and managed a corporate career in high-tech—had to confront the questions of my soul.
God used my brokenness to make something beautiful.
God transformed how I work and my choice of work by taking me on a journey to explore what feeds my soul.
Asking what feeds my soul has redefined work as creativity instead of achievement.
God brought me back to a garden to show me four ways to redefine work as creativity:
1. Do work that brings you rest
The first scene in which we catch a glimpse of God shows him at work creating.
"Let there be light." He spoke this into the darkness.
What were the shadows in my heart? How can I feed my soul and dispel those feelings of darkness?
Is there work that allows me to invite others into those restful moments?
God chose to rest after his work because it brought goodness into his heart and the people he loved.
Is there work I do that brings beauty and goodness to myself and others? I began exploring new work to enjoy God's restful presence and invite others into their creative work too.
2. Do work motivated by who you are with God, not what you can do for God
God didn't make things just because he could. He chose to make meaningful things that reflect who he is.
Work that emanates from who we are reflects God's image in us: a desire to create.
Our work doesn't have to be motivated by the fear of not being enough, guilt, or others’ expectations. We can say yes to work that is honest to who God made us: our unique weaknesses and strengths.
We see God's creative imprint in us by the first work assignment he gave Adam: naming what he saw.
3. Do work by being present: name what you see
In the busyness of our days, God waits for us to stop. To let go of the pressure to people-please or problem-solve.
He longs to say to us what he said to Adam when he first woke up to a new world: Be present. Name what you see.
"So the LORD God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one" (Genesis 2:19).
God brought the most beloved things he created to Adam—to see Adam’s response and hear him name them. Adam at rest, being present, gave God pleasure.
In the same way, God has brought a unique set of experiences—struggles, dreams, desires, loss, and memories—in each our lives, and he calls us to name them.
You and I have the power to make something beautiful. Don’t worry what anybody else is naming. Don’t evaluate whether what you have to do, say, or create is worthy.
The beautiful truth is that you are the beloved whom God has created.
He's given you a name and work that only you can do. That only you can bring into being.
4. Do work with others
We are like our Heavenly Father.
As you do, look beside you. It wasn’t good for Adam to name things alone. God brought him a helper.
We can't do creative work alone either. God wants us to help each other.
Find someone to help you. It takes faith to say, "I don't want to do this work alone. I need help." It takes equal courage to respond, "I'm here for you." Instead of fixing each other, let's be sojourners, offering each other rest and kinship.
We need safe places to feed our souls, to become the people God made us to be.
It’s time for you and me to fill the world with beautiful things.
Let’s name what we see. And see who we meet.