Updated: Nov 21, 2019
The journey of life sometimes feels like a ride on a ferris wheel. There are tremendous highs and inevitable lows; at times the view is clear and at other times we can't see the wood for the trees; but after a while we take stock of our journey and we realise that we're back where we started, as we have been many times before, and nothing has changed except the face in the mirror.
Project 40 is a chance for you and me to take stock, to make decisions that step us off of the ferris wheel and onto a path where we make real progress towards real change. Our steps may be difficult and the journey may start off less exciting than the ferris wheel, but we're walking uphill into our strongest story. And I think the view at the top will be spectacular!
Project 40 Plan
Project 40 is my personal plan to be intentional around setting (or resetting) healthy habits in all areas of my life, so that I am building on solid foundations as I move into my future. I happen to be turning forty in fifteen months time, and so I set myself a deadline for getting these habits into place so that by the time I turn forty, I can be living my strongest story, given my life circumstances, rather than wondering what could have been if I had stewarded my life better. Oh, how tired I am of hearing, "You have potential." It's time to walk into it!
The way I have gone about making sure my journey is moving forward and not just around and around in circles is this: I have a journal with four dividers/sections labelled Spirit, Soul, Mind and Strength. Each section starts with my vision for myself in that area, followed by my plan for outworking it and regular updates detailing my progress. What we can measure, we can improve!
This week we will be looking at the second section in my journal - the one labelled "Soul".
My Soul - The Vision
The following excerpt is from my own Project 40 journal. I encourage you to write your own!
My soul, I feel, is the 'Jaci' part of me - my personality, my character, my emotions. Once fallen, now saved, it is the part of me that is on a journey into Christlikeness.
My goal for my soul is that I would become increasingly aware of the unredeemed parts of it and that instead of being a hindrance to the work of God in me, it would become harnessed for the work of God through me.
There are particular areas I have identified that I am already aware of that need to be worked on, namely...
...and then I go on to list the areas I am aware of... you can make your own list! ;)
My Soul - The Plan
It is always an interesting journey to try to understand the way your mind and emotions work, and while we don't want to get lost down a rabbit hole, it is helpful to make use of tools in psychology to help us. I have done a bit of research for this project to help me to understand myself.
Developmental psychology suggests that when we are born, we act completely out of instinct and have undefined trust in the environment and in people. There is perfect vulnerability, which allows for essential connection with the world, and, I would add, also allows unrestricted communion with God. (Not arguing against being born into sin, just advocating for vulnerability being necessary for connection with God.)
However, life experiences cause us to develop personalities in order to protect and defend 'essence' from injury in the real world. Different personalities are formed to protect different aspects of essence. The idea is that if you can discover what your personality is protecting, you can discover which aspect of essence you are 'missing'. If I am afraid of failure, for example, I have lost the child's essential trust in unconditional love. If I am afraid to take responsibility, I may have lost the trust that the adults around me will carry their share of responsibility so I won't drown.
The search to rediscover essence is not a desire to regress into childhood, but the motivation to live life unhindered by limiting self-defence mechanisms.
This may well be psycho-mumbo-jumbo to you, and thanks for sticking with me through it, but suffice to say that the plan for training your soul needs to include discovering how your mind works and understanding what motivates you. Higher consciousness allows you to observe your own thoughts, which allows you to realign them with God's thoughts. By the renewing of our minds, we are transformed.
The most helpful tool I have found in my research has undoubtably been the enneagram. The enneagram is a personality typing tool that helps you to understand what your personality might be protecting, and why you do what you do. It doesn't just type you into one of the nine personality types, but it helps you to become the best version of yourself without trying to turn you into someone else. I recommend the book The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron as an awesome simple introduction to finding out more about how you think and how you can train yourself to recognise your blindspots in spiritual transformation.
My Soul - A Few Steps In
Now that I am a little more self-aware, I can actually keep track of my thoughts and behaviour, and start to measure and record progress. I can start to reform thought patterns and catch myself when I fall back into old habits. Revisiting my Project 40 journal every now and then helps me to remain mindful of the discoveries I have made regarding my personality, and to make intentional decisions around how I respond to situations.
Your Soul - The Ball's In Your Court
And that's all about me. I know working on our souls can seem a bit like belly-gazing at times, and I do think we need to be careful not to sink into so much self-awareness that we are consumed by thoughts of ourselves only. But at the same time, Christians in particular need to be careful not to ignore this important field of study. Next to knowledge of God, knowledge of ourselves is the most important thing we need in order to keep being transformed into His likeness.