Let's begin a 2-part series on three big emotions- anxiety, shame, and anger- at the soul level.
Consider this: our soul is our truest selves in the present tense. The soul is very fragile and very resilient at the same time. When we experience a rift in our soul, it's when we are forcing parts of ourself to either the past or the future.
Anxiety is born we try to force our souls to live in a future tense. We are unable, physically, to live in the future and thus a rift happens in our souls and we call it anxiety. It's this split of present and future tense, with a chasm we are unable to cross. Intense worry, stress, and anxiety are the result. You cannot cross this chasm into the future to solve all the unknown variables of the present. Try as you might, you cannot control the outcomes of what is happening today. Besides the literal impossibility of living in the future tense, there is also a problem of our inability to see God's grace in the future. We are only given grace for each day. So when we imagine the future, we do not imagine our futures with sufficient grace for that day (2 Cor 12:9). We cannot imagine how God will come through, provide, sustain us, or use our weakness as his glory. Therefore, anxiety is the result. Look back at your life and tell me one thing that makes you anxious that is not about the future. Once something painful has happened, our souls automatically register it past tense and now what we feel and experience is something more like loss, grief, sorrow, shame, etc. It no longer feels like anxiety if it's not in the future.
This has been my journey lately because of my being married to an entrepreneur for the last 2 months now. It is a daily exercise of laying down what worries me about the future every. single. day. It's a mental checklist of what is my present reality versus what may happen tomorrow. The only way my soul experiences joy, laughter, patience, and love is to stay fully present. Watch a child play for a while. They are great at being fully present. Their emotions are based on what is happening right now. Good and bad. How much lighter we all might feel if we stay fully present each and every day.
Conversely, when we force our souls to live in the past tense, we often experience shame. You see a picture of yourself 20 pounds heavier (or lighter) and you feel shame. You remember a terrible thing you did to a friend or family member, and you look down immediately as your body senses shame rising. You might recall that junior high conversation where you were totally lost and faked it to look cool- and still can sense embarrassment rising to the surface. Shame is this rift in the soul where we hate our past selves. I see this all the time in before and after pictures on social media. "Look at how fat and ugly I was before, and look how thin and beautiful I look now."
Hatred of your past self is just as damaging as hatred of your present self. Your past and present make up who you are at your soul level, your truest self is in there somewhere. If you hate yourself, even past versions of yourself, you are creating a split in the soul that is very damaging.
When I experience shame, I will pause and try to think of where in my past this is coming from. Often a memory will come to mind that I need to ask Jesus to heal that past shame to find freedom from present shame. I gave an entire talk devoted to being obsessed with weight and numbers, but let me give an example here. A friend asks if I want some of her dress pants that she no longer needs. I accept and they are way too small for me. Shame. I pause and ask Jesus, "What part of me is feeling shame over the size of my pants I wear now?" And I let the memories come... It's 6th grade, when I noticed my jeans were too tight and the next size didn't match what size my best friend was in. It's trying on my older sister's prom dress and I can't zip it up. It's comparing myself to my new college friends' sizes when we are shopping together.
Do you see the rifts in my soul? And now, do you sense how deep Jesus' healing can go? I pause and remember each scene, and I ask Jesus to come into the memory. I listen and receive what he says to me, the past me. He tells my 6th grade self that these jeans don't define me. That I am beautiful. He tells me the prom dress is beautiful and brings out the green in my eyes. He shows me the life change of college and why I was eating more than normal. He blesses my body, and gently shows me where I began eating food for comfort. I repent. He's so kind when he does this type of healing, and sometimes, convicting. This is a very brief example- For more guidance on biblical healing prayer, I highly recommend this resource from Wild at Heart Ministries.
Healing these rifts in the soul will be unique and personal to you. But I can promise you this, integrating your past self at the soul level will provide immense relief to the present you. Then, when you can remain more fully present, and Jesus can anchor you to the grace given for today, you will find it easier to stop trying to force your soul into the future. Win-win-win.
Integration is the greatest depth of the healing of Jesus that I know. Yes, we need to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, but Jesus also wants to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of our souls. Yes, Jesus forgives your sin so you can go to Heaven, but there is so much more restoration that is available.
Kenny and I will be facilitating a 12-week group called "Restoration of the Heart" next March. (Update 2021: We offer this intensive once a year- contact me for this year's details). We lead you through some teaching on integration, your story, and wholeheartedness that has been life-changing for us and many others. I would love to talk with you about this opportunity if you are ready for more of the Gospel in more of your life.
Read Part 2 here, where I address the third biggie emotion and rifts in the soul: anger.
Above, a harbor in Piran, Slovenia. A very healing place for my soul.