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Soul Work


Create in me a clean heart, O God;
restore within me a sense of being brand new.

—Psalm 51:10

Soul work is not a high road. It's a deep fall into an unforgiving darkness that won't let you go until you find the song that sings you home.

—McCall Erickson

Now that the snow pack is melting back a bit, I've been noticing on my daily walks with my dog that the street drains are clogged with the debris of leaves and pine needles from last fall. If we get a good hard rain, those obstructed drains won't be able to handle all the incoming water. That means it could back up onto the streets and make a real mess of things.

Thankfully, the street sweeper will soon be making his way through our neighborhood, freeing those drains from all the rubbish that has accumulated there.

I wish that there were street sweepers of the heart and mind that would come through every now and then and remove the garbage that collects there. Garbage like ugly thoughts I've had about others. Or words said that I wish could be unsaid. Rubbish like impatience and self-indulgence. Or pride that keeps me from admitting my faults.

Wish as I might, the job of cleansing my heart and mind remains mine alone. No outside street sweeper will do. If I'm going to unclog the drains in my life, I need to face myself honestly and confess the painful truth about myself to God. 

It's hard to face into that. Often I just hide it. But, God says...

Come out of hiding you're safe here with me. There's no need to cover what I already see. You've got your reasons, but I hold your peace. You've been on lockdown and I hold the key.

—Bethel Music Publishing

God's merciful tenderness and cleansing is such a gift.

But, the sad reality is, even after confessing all my yucky stuff to God, I tend to keep those things a secret from everyone else. And that's when I find myself falling back into the same repeat pattern I've been accustomed to.

If I really want healing from those things that clog the drain of my heart and mind, and that jam up the flow of the Holy Spirit's influence, then I must be willing to share that garbage with another. I must come clean not only to God but to others. That's where true soul work begins.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

—James 5:16

But, that is SO hard to do, isn't it? To come clean to another person. The first question that enters my mind is, "What will they think of me?" So often we are terrified that the person we confess our failures to will see us in a different light. Will hold us at arms length or perhaps even reject us.

The fact of the matter is we are all sin-stained. We all have garbage that clogs the drain of hearts and minds. Paul understood that when he wrote:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.

—Romans 3:23

If we're going to come clean with another it is important to find the right person. The reality is that some people may not be the safest folks to confess to. If you have a friend with a habit of "sharing" confidential things with others, they're probably not the right person to confess to. If you have friends that are judgmental, you might want to avoid confessing to them, as well. The key is to feel safe and loved, knowing that your friend has a rich relationship with God and has your best interest in mind.

That's why I see a Spiritual Director*. My Spiritual Director offers me a safe place to be me. I can share my heart and confess my sins without a sense of condemnation. The beauty is that she herself knows she is sin-stained and sees a Spiritual Director to keep the corrosion in her spiritual pipes clear.

The essential element in confession is to find a person where you can be you, warts and all. That's how God loves us after all.

'Cause I loved you before you knew what love was. I saw it all, still I chose the cross. You were the one that I was thinking of when I rose from the grave. Now get rid of the shackles - my victory yours. I tore the veil for you to come close. There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore. Just throw off your fear and come running to me.

—Bethel Music Publishing

Can we make a pact you and I? Let's find a way to step out of hiding... especially as we prepare our hearts for Easter. Let's do the necessary soul work that will speak hope to our hearts, will cleanse our souls and breathe peace to our minds.

*If you're interested in finding a Spiritual Director, give Christos Center for Spiritual Formation a call. Their number is: #651-653-8207. They also have a branch in the Chicago area. Or be on the lookout for a gentle-spirited older woman at your church. They often make the best and safest friends! They've seen a thing or two in their lifetime. 

A Place to Belong
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