I often start my time in the Soul Room with the question my spiritual director asks me when we meet: “So, how do you come today?” Or, as author Ruth Haley Barton says, “What is the condition of your soul right now?”
When I was first asked this simple question, I didn’t know how to respond. I assumed it was a different way of offhandedly asking me how I was. I would talk about my week and how things were going. But, the question required more than that—a deep look into my soul to get in touch with was going on below the surface. Taking an inventory of how I was doing spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
It has taken several years to learn to fully respond. Honestly, at times I have no idea how I’m doing. I’ve had to work hard to be aware of the very subtle indications of when I’m feeling anxious, joyful, uneasy, overwhelmed, peaceful, resentful, etc.
I am a type Two on the Enneagram, sometimes called “the Helper.” At our best, we Two’s are caring and loving, serving others from a heart of compassion and altruism. At our worst, we feel most loved by others when we are needed and can become manipulative and overbearing in our effort to find ways to meet other’s needs. In other words, we need to be needed. Two’s have mastered the art of empathy and are extremely aware of the needs and emotions of those around us but are often totally oblivious to our own. We learn to override those important signals of fatigue, anger, or fear by focusing on everyone else.
Learning to listen to these signals, after ignoring them for most of my life, has been challenging. It takes intentionality to move past the surface thoughts and emotions that often want to pretend everything’s fine. It would be much easier to ignore those deeper realities and sleepwalk through life.
As I’ve entered recently into a new season, discernment has become a crucial part of my journey. Asking that simple question of how I come is leading me to see more clearly how easily I fall into patterns of negative thinking, in addition to helping me detect who I’m listening to—God or the enemy of my soul.
Recently, my response to the question was this:
“I come this morning feeling physically tired and weary, mentally sluggish and distracted, spiritually striving and emotionally overwhelmed.”
As I considered the condition of my soul, I sensed God pause at “overwhelmed.”
“Let’s look at that, Lisa, what is overwhelming?”
“Well, I have a lot to do with preparing for my two small groups, finishing reading a spiritual direction book and writing a book log, numerous phone appointments, and some important decisions I’m considering. Not to mention, family concerns and friends going through crises.”
At this, I stopped and looked up the word “overwhelm” in the dictionary:
Overwhelm: to upset or overthrow; to submerge; to overpower in thought or feeling.
Synonyms: crush, devastate, floor, grind, oppress, overpower, swamp.
As I considered what it means to be overwhelmed, I could see the enemy’s fingerprints all over it! I was believing a pack of lies that were attempting to discourage and debilitate me.
The lies were:
I am alone….
There’s too much to do….
I have to figure out how to do it all….
It’s all up to me….
All ways of thinking that have plagued me for most of my adult life.
So, if those were the lies, what was the truth?
Jesus says: “I am with you always.”
Matthew 28:20 NKJV
“My grace is always more than enough for you
and my power finds its full expression in your weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 TPT
“The Holy Spirit takes hold of me in my human frailty to empower me in my weakness.”
Romans 8:26 TPT
“The strength of God’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.”
Philippians 4:13 TPT
What a contrast! We are never alone and are filled with the strength and power of the Spirit to equip us for any and everything. There is no need to be overwhelmed if we are looking at things from God’s perspective.
I never would have imagined the insight and power that can come from one small question. As I’ve led small groups, practiced spiritual direction, and spent time mentoring, it has become the first question I ask as well.
- So, how do you come today?
- What is the condition of your soul today?
- Are you taking
timeto identify who is talking and who you are listening to?
So good, Lisa, so good! Enneagram 3 w 2 here. Lord, help me to stop and ask my soul “what is your condition right now?”
Thank you so much Lisa, for sharing this much needed insight on ” overwhelmed” and yes as a helper I totally can see and relate to all that you wrote! Thank you
Thanks so much to each of you for your feedback! Always encouraging to know that I’m not alone in the journey.
Very helpful, Lisa, I liked how you wrote this and how it flowed. I appreciated the definition of overwhelmed and the contrasting verses. You shed light on a nice antidote to a common condition. Well done.