Meaningful Soul Work: It Takes Two . . . .

The question I ask every Client I meet for the first time is, “Do you have any questions you would like to know about me personally or professionally?”  I encourage their questions because I believe they have a right to know something about the person they are about to open their lives to.  We live in a world where we can no longer assume that “spiritual counseling” is Christian counseling; where terms such as “soul work” have more to do with the sovereignty-of-self than with God’s Sovereignty.   This was affirmed recently when I googled, “Soul work–What is it?”   What appeared on my laptop screen were ten articles on self-healing, self-exploration and “being fully immersed in MY truth and purpose.” (Emphasis mine.)

The question raised in my mind after perusing several of the articles was:

"Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden . . . and find rest for your souls."
“Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden . . . and find rest for your souls.”

Can truly meaningful soul work happen apart from Christ and the Scriptures ministering to the human heart?  

In thinking about this question of meaningful soul work, the teaching of Jesus helps to clarify this spiritual mystery:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word
and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged
but has crossed over from death to life.”
 

John 5:24

Soul work is a God-thing.  It is belief in God’s provision, His only Son, that brings us from death to life in Christ–body, mind and soul.  Thinking about this I realized that I do have a story to share that I pray will be helpful in sorting out this question of meaningful soul work:

I was seven years old when I first became aware of the soul.  Even now, I can remember feeling the lump forming in my throat as I contemplated reciting the words of the classic children’s prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”*

Contemplating the seriousness of facing my own mortality and God, l ignored the lump, swallowed hard and prayed the words as best as I could.  That simple prayer, along with the Twenty-Third Psalm, became my “go-to” prayer for many years, long before I entered into a relationship with Christ:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . .
I will fear no evilfor You are with me;
If I should die before I wake, I pray dear Lord, my soul to take.”

When I entered my twenties I set thoughts about God aside.  More than anything I wanted a family of my own.  I fell in love with a wonderful man, married and we began our family.  Outwardly things looked good, I had everything I had ever wanted.  However, it was the seventies and as time passed, the words of Helen Reddy’s popular recording, “I Am Woman”, became “my truth”:

“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul.”

I probably fooled a lot of people with my outwardly confident appearance.  Yet inwardly, there was a darkness encroaching that I had little control over– all was not well with my soul.  The challenges of marriage and having young children left me feeling constantly defeated by a fierce anger that seemed to well up out of nowhere.  I made vow after vow that I would control my temper.  Yet after being defeated continually, I got to the point where I realized that I deserved to go to hell.  “Now I lay me down to sleep” was no longer enough to quell the ever deepening darkness.  It was at that point that I prayed a small desperate prayer, “God, please help . . . .”

In the weeks that followed I was invited to a Bible study** where I found opportunity to take an honest look at the Scriptures.  During that study the words of Jesus called through my self-focused darkness:

“The time has come . . . the kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…”
Matthew 11:28-29

Only after surrendering my life to Christ did light and hope begin to dispel the darkness . . . finally, I found rest for my soul!

Six decades later, I continue to find comfort in the simplicity of leaning into the wisdom and assurance of Scripture, as God’s Spirit tends to whatever fear crops up:

“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.”
Psalm 62:1,2, 8

I am struck by the contrast between my life before and after surrendering all to Christ.  That is why I urge every Client I serve to do the same through the Journey Notes process–a simple means of starting (or jump starting) an honest dialogue with our Creator/Soul Maker.

So . . . can meaningful soul work take place apart from the influence of our Creator?
What do you think?

All to His Glory!

*The New England Primer, 18th century textbook.
**Community Bible Study– http://www.communitybiblestudy.org/get-connected/find-a-class/

The Secret to Aging Well . . . .

If old grapes become prized as fine wine after aging over time and old furniture  increases in value as it is deemed to be antique, why do we have so little regard for people as they age? Living in a culture that celebrates youth and regards aging as something to delay or stop altogether, I fear that we have lost sight of the wisdom and perspective that can only be gained with time and experience.   I wonder if:

  • In our quest to avoid appearing older, we do ourselves a disservice in denying not only our own mortality but also our Creator?  
  • As we absorb ourselves with appearing outwardly young, are we leaving undiscovered the potential richness of character grown over time as we entrust ourselves to God as we age?
  • Have we, in our self-absorption, not only lost sight of God with our warped outlook but also lost the secret to aging well?

Of course, not all grapes become fine wine and most furniture either breaks, is worn out or discarded long before it could be categorized as antique.  The same can be said about people, except that inanimate objects have no choice as they age but you and I do.  The Scriptures teach that at the end of our days we will have to give an account to God as to how we have lived and the choices we have made.

So, is there such a thing as aging well?  I cannot speak to you as any sort of authority except to say that, like you, I continue to be a work in process.   However, the Scriptures have much to teach us to help keep our priorities straight:

  1. In I Samuel 16:7 we gain insight into how vastly different God’s priorities are from ours:  “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”  Our lesson?  Go to God with an open and contrite heart; admit your need to for His help to make your heart right before Him.
  2. Starting NOW, give thanks to Him for the hope that is ours because of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf and mine.  Determine to live each day as Jesus directed in Mark 10:15, 16, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.”  

There is no formula or magic potion to help us age well, but attitude is certainly important.  What truly pleases God (no matter what our age) is a simple, trusting faith that opens heart, mind and soul to Him.  I don’t know when or how I learned it, but I have found this classic children’s prayer to be helpful for nearly six decades when life has been especially tough and I have been at a loss as to how to pray:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
    I pray the Lord my soul to take . . . .”

It is a scary prayer to pray, sobering even for a child of seven.  I still hesitate before reciting the words, “If I should die before I wake . . . . “  as I am reminded of my own mortality before a holy God.  Part of me wants to pull back out of fear, but I am still compelled to push past those fears because of Christ’s faithfulness.  Even now, as I pray those words I choose to trust my Creator, surrendering my body . . . my mind . . . and my soul to Him.

So what is the secret to aging well?  I believe it is the mysterious working of God’s Spirit and His Word in those willing to trust Him:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  Hebrews 4:12, 13

It is faith lived out on a daily basis that demonstrates a life lived well at any age.

“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.  I Thessalonians 5:23, 24

All to His Glory!