Preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, refined flour, extra sodium, trans fats – there are many reasons to avoid processed foods. You know they’re not good for your physical health, and that more natural, unprocessed options are almost always healthier.

When it comes to food for the soul, the same principles apply. “Processed” soul food is full of artificial excitement, manufactured emotional experiences, programmed relationships, and superficial spirituality. And just as with physical food, all that artificial stuff makes it taste good for a while, but ends up leaving you strangely unsatisfied. You’re not getting the true nourishment your inner being really needs.

What does processed soul food look like? How about reality TV, Facebook relationships, or emotion-only religious services. It’s not that TV, Facebook, or spiritual “highs” are necessarily bad: it’s just that those experiences don’t last. They’re like emotional fast food.

We don’t often think about taking responsibility for finding nourishing soul food; there are plenty of processed options easily available. But you have a choice in what you feed your mind and heart just as you do with what you feed your body. You don’t have to settle for the hyper-palatable junk food that popular media and popular religion often serve up.

So where do you find this unprocessed soul food? Here are some thoughts:

  • Food for your mind. Read books! Learn a new skill. Study something outside your usual knowledge such as biology, astronomy, history, or biography. Choose someone or several someones who have accomplished things you would like to do, and study them.
  • Food for your heart. Spend some time in silence, or listening to classical music. Spend time in nature, away from your digital life. Unplug, completely. Allow yourself to think about where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’d like to be. Let yourself feel something.
  • Food for your relationships. Do something for someone else that stretches you beyond what you’re used to doing. Sit and listen – really listen – to your spouse. Risk showing a sensitive or unpleasant part of your heart to your spouse, or to a good friend.
  • Food for your spirit. Take a day, or an hour, and spend it with God – in nature, listening to worship music, or reading His word. Make sure your Bible study group or your church is offering more than pleasant emotions, and is helping you to experience God’s transforming grace in your whole being.

It takes a bit of thought to find unprocessed soul food to feed your inner being. Entertainment, ready-made digital experiences, or hyper-connected digital relationships are fine to a degree. But they can’t truly nourish your heart, provide you with true satisfaction, or push you to grow your character.

I challenge you: find one “unprocessed” source of soul food to partake of this week.

And do it again next week.

You may be surprised at how satisfied you feel.

And you’ll find you have more within you to give to others once your own soul is nourished.

Your Turn: What is one way you will find unprocessed, nourishing, soul food this week? I’d love to hear from you!

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