Rector’s Thoughts – care for your soul; exam stress to calmness

Recently I was recommended a book entitled ‘Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you’ by John Ortberg (Zondervan 2014). I have to confess that as I write I have not completed reading it. However, I am impressed with the author’s interpretation of his subject. He begins the book with a queson for himself which asks, ‘Why is it that he, a person who holds a PhD in clinical psychology, is still unsure of who he is?’ As he reflected on this question he adds another, ‘What do people mean by soul?’ To this second question he discovered that most people claim to know what ‘soul’ means, but when pressed fail to be able to define it. One of the most worrying things he discovered is that many, including popular culture, define ‘soul’ as being the same as ‘self’. This encourages us to placate our souls with superficial, disjointed and transitory things, but those are at odds with the depth, unity and eternality that our souls actually need. In the end, the author plumbs for a definition given to him by his philosopher mentor, Dallas Willard which is: ‘The soul is the life centre of human beings – it is the deepest part of
us, and it is the whole person’.
From this, Ortberg goes on to explore how our souls can be cared for. Our souls are vulnerable and they need a keeper (besides God’s role as captain). Our souls are on loan from God, so we must care for them. We must come to realise that, ‘I and no one else am responsible for the condition of my soul’. The essence of soul care is to ensure that it is centred on a solid foundation: God. A soul centred on a less solid foundation such as ‘self’ is prone to whims, selfishness, discontent and ultimately, death.

As we begin the month of June we entering a time that can be extremely stressful for families – especially the extended families of those undertaking state examinations. For those undertaking their Leaving Certificate, years of study and preparation are concentrated into a couple of weeks of tests that can have a major impact of the candidate’s future. Hopes and dreams ride on how many points can be achieved over these short weeks. It can be a time of uncertainty, anxiety, worry, self-doubt, nervousness and helplessness. It is a time which requires the ultimate in soul care. It is a time to ensure that every effort is made to strike a balance between rest and study. It is a time to seek calmness and peace – the calmness and peace which the world cannot give, but only God. Therefore it is a time to seek God’s guidance and direction through prayer. Again to quote John Ortberg, ‘If you don’t come apart for a while, you will come apart in a while’. To facilitate this, our evening ‘Sundown’ Service on 28th May concentrated on those who were sittng end of term examinations and those about to sit state examinations.

The month of June can also see a time of change for whose finishing their primary education as they anxiously await their transition to their chosen secondary school. For some this is an adventure which they await with excitement, but for others it holds the dread of the unknown. Again, it is good to commit the entire spectrum of feelings to God as we make that next step
along the road of life.

Finally, we will be remembering all those who are preparing for State Examinations and their families during Services over the coming weeks. We also be remembering those who have undertaken third level examinations as they await results. We wish them all every blessing and may it be our prayer that all their hard work will be justly rewarded.

With every blessing,


Rev’d. John Tanner, Rector.

Tel: 01-289 3154 / 086 302 1376

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