Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Soul Check

My soul thirsts for you . . . as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1).

I should have known something was wrong.

The thermostat in my hallway told me that it was 80 degrees on the main floor of my home. The house felt warm but not miserably so. I performed two simple diagnostic tests. First, I checked to see if air was coming from the vents near the floor. Second, I judged if the air was cool. Yes, there was air. Yes, it seemed cool enough to me.

Temperatures in Atlanta last week were somewhere around 106 F. I assumed my air conditioner was working overtime but struggling to keep up with the withering heat outdoors. I gave thanks to God for ceiling fans.

Then came the weekend. We had a technician to the house to do a routine check on our AC units. After a few moments of poking around with the unit in our basement he came up and asked us if we had been feeling warm indoors. Turns out the unit that cools our bedrooms had no refrigerant. For all practical purposes, we had lived through the hottest days of the summer with no air conditioning.

The unit was running. The air was blowing. But the substance that actually makes the air cool was not there. The unseen element that allows an air conditioner to do what it was made to do was missing. I had misread the signs.

As we take up a regimen of training in the life of faith, the practice of spiritual disciplines, it might be a good idea to read the signs and assess the condition of our soul. This is not easy. We live in a world obsessed with the body. We get plenty of help with staying healthy and staying in shape. We are not as good at tending to the well being of our souls.

It is so easy to live our days with the assumption that everything is working just fine. The unit seems to be humming along, we can feel air coming from the vents, but still we have a nagging sense that something isn’t quite right.

What we manage to ignore is that the soul – that unseen reality that allows us to be what God made us to be – is empty or weary. In the well known words of the Twenty-third Psalm we say that the Lord “restores my soul” (Ps. 23:3). One of the ways God does this is through an intentional life of spiritual practices or “holy habits.”

It is said that the Puritans used to ask “How are things with your soul?” It’s a good question. Maybe we can ask it this way: Where in your life do you have a nagging sense that something is not right?

Invite God to show up and work specifically in that part of your life. Invite God to restore your soul as you practice holy habits in the days ahead.

Help us, O God, to read the signs rightly and to know truthfully the state of our souls. Show us those places where things seem to be fine, but are in fact empty and weary and not what you intend. Restore our souls, we pray, so that we might live as you created us to live, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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