“Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” 1Thes. 4:4-5
How often in the day do we push ourselves to be somewhere just ahead of where we actually are? Maybe it’s a deadline, or an urgent need that creates an imperative in us for its fulfillment. Or perhaps it’s just the tedium of “what is” that makes us want to rush ahead to be somewhere other than where we actually are. Regardless of the reasons, whenever this mode overly defines our lifestyle the result is always the same—we end up losing touch with our souls.
Often, when I am trying to herd my family out the door to get somewhere, I will catch myself moving ahead to the next position I want them to be, perhaps standing at the doorway with my keys in hand, hoping that this might speed them up a bit. How is this similar to the ways we often rush ahead of ourselves, as if to force us to pick up the pace? And how does our refusal to accept or wait for ourselves contribute to feeling separated from our souls?
Feeling disjointed has a lot to do with the inner pace we set for ourselves in the course of our day. This includes the many ways we overstep the truth of “what is” in favor of our projected ideals of what we wish it were. “In patience,” we are told, “you shall possess your souls” (Luke 21:19 KJV). St. Frances de Sales, a 16th cent. spiritual director, wrote similarly that, “to possess fully our souls is the effect of patience, made more perfect as it is less mixed with disquiet and eagerness.”
Peace and patience integrate us towards wholeness. To “possess your soul” then, is to allow time throughout the day to literally catch up with yourself. It asserts the reality of “what is” as the starting point of our lives rather than the imagination of where we would otherwise wish it to be. Being patient with the actual pace of our lives is ultimately a matter of self-control. And whenever we lose this virtue it leads to a less honorable expression of life.
Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God” (1Thes. 4:4-5). In other words, self-control better exemplifies a person who knows the sovereignty of God in their lives. In the context of his letter, Paul was of course referring to moral self-discipline. But the same exhortation applies to any lack of self-control we exhibit in relationship to our souls. When the “passionate lusts” of our imagination drive us to live out of sync with the reality of who we actually are we tend to lose our sense of wholeness. “In patience, you shall possess your souls.” Perhaps this is what the apostle had in mind when he wrote, “…since we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).
The obvious antidote to “losing our souls” is to simply allow times in our day to catch up with ourselves—times to reclaim the peace that we’ve lost track of in the frenzy and distractions of our busy lives. To “possess our souls” is to accept the reality of “what is” as more true than even the most attractive and urgent alternatives we can imagine. And the more we exercise such times of restorative patience in our day the more in sync we will be with the truth of our lives.
where it is.
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
written for April 15, 2010
1. What kinds of compulsions cause us to run ahead of ourselves and forfeit peace?
2. How may we live with healthy foresight and yet not be swept into restless agitation?
3. What graces of God and spiritual practices help us to “possess our souls” and stay present to the moment?
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24.
As we seek God in prayer, let’s give thanks for the day and even the moment that we’re in, being present to our life as it is as a gift of God. Let us receive from God his grace as sufficient for whatever challenging circumstances we may be facing. May we seek the rest for our souls that may only be found in him (Psalm 63:1).