A few years ago, my sweet friend, Ann, who is full of wisdom and fun, introduced me to the idea of a cubby hole clean out. Essentially, you go around the house and clean out all of those places where things get stuck. For example, the toy box that once was organized with a few trucks, but now has every toy from that room tossed into it. Or the stack of paperwork that needs to be organized of what can be thrown out and what needs to be kept. Or in my case, the shelf that I shoved all of the leftover homeschool junk onto so that I could avoid dealing with it!
I’ve always envisioned Ann’s cubby hole clean out this happy process where she is skipping through her home with a smile on her face while putting away the few things that are in their wrong places. I’m pretty sure that my vision of Ann frolicking around her house is completely false (Ann, you can weigh in on that!), but nevertheless, it’s in my mind. For me, cubby hole clean out day always has a wonderful end result, but the process is less than fun.
Tuesday, I started a major cubby hole clean out. Two places were haunting me – the ottoman in our family room which was overflowing with toys and the homeschool shelf. I had been completely avoiding both of those areas until I had the capacity to dive in. It felt like too much to tackle, but this week was the time!
I started strong, but it lasted longer than I expected so when Phillip came home, there were still piles of things to be sorted through and put in their proper spot.
“I’m sorry there are still piles out. Believe it or not, I’ve come a long way.”
“That’s ok! I’ve known you long enough to know that when you clean like this, it looks a lot messier before it gets better. Thanks for doing it!”
I laughed and the conversation went on, but that statement stuck with me, “it looks a lot messier before it gets better.”
I have several friends in my life right now, including me, who are doing the hard process of soul or heart work. They are taking the time to ask themselves the hard questions – am I happy? What dreams do I want to pursue? What is causing such an unrest within me? Is there something I should give up? Is there something that I should start? Am I where I want to be in life right now? Am I walking in the calling God has for me or am I just walking? And they are asking one of the hardest questions of themselves – what next?
Soul work is a lot like cubby hole clean out work. We tend to avoid it for as long as possible. Some may even spend a lifetime avoiding it. We think if we can just shove the junk where it’s hidden and not right in our faces then we can just keep walking and living like everything is fine. There’s one big problem with that though – eventually, the junk is going to build up so much that it becomes unavoidable. The mess is going to start creeping into other areas in your life that you thought were solid. And the mess must be faced.
Here is one truth about soul work – when you dive into the unavoidable soul work, it often gets a lot messier before it gets better.
Back to the cubby hole clean out example – when I initially looked at the ottoman and shelf, the mess felt absolutely overwhelming. I literally stared at it for a good five minutes before I dug in. But then I tackled one shelf at a time and one toy at a time. As I sifted through it all, one thing at a time, piles began to form, and organization started to take root, even though it looked crazy messy on the floor. Missing pieces of toys were put back together so that we could actually use that toy, and there was loads of trash, things that I no longer needed to keep.
When we do the hard work of soul work, things will get messy, but as you work through it, you will start to see clarity taking place and you will find trash that you need to get rid of. Trash is the baggage that we have carried around far too long, that causes us to get stuck in patterns that leave us walking on a treadmill, never getting anywhere. It can look like wounds from childhood, an old relationship, tragic events, shame, guilt or anything that holds you captive. Things will get messy, but keep going.
Here is a second truth about soul work – you can’t do it alone.
After a day spent cleaning, I was whooped, but I wasn’t finished. There were still piles and some things that I just didn’t know what to do with. Phillip graciously stepped in and helped me finish.
Friends, there are certainly parts of soul work that need to be done alone, but I can guarantee that things will get a lot better and go a lot faster if you invite someone into it. That person can be a friend or a counselor. It really doesn’t matter who, it just has to be someone that you can trust and that is willing to step into the mess with you. I am blessed with several friends, one of which is Ann, who step in, help me sort through the mess and are there, on the other side, to celebrate with me.
Here is a third truth about soul work – it will get better…but it might take awhile.
A byproduct of cubby hole clean out is that although I had two main areas of focus, the cleaning expanded to other areas of the house and therefore, took longer than I was expecting. Same is true with soul work. We may know that we need to dive into our childhood in order to move forward, but often diving into that causes you to have to dive into things in your present too, often taking longer than we expect.
We all want quick results, but quick results often mean we have not taken the time to really do the work. It would be like getting the house tidy enough for guests to come to the main rooms of the house, but not clean enough for them to stay upstairs.
Once you get through the mess of soul work, you may find that you enjoy it. You can see and feel the results so when other things come up, since we are ever-changing and ever-growing individuals, you will know what to do. Dig deep, ask the hard questions of yourself and answer honestly.
Here is a fourth truth about soul work – it is worth it.
When you put in the time and effort it takes to really assess your soul, there is a clarity that will come with it. Yes, soul work may bring up really hard things for you to work through, but working through those things also will inform what you want your life to look like ahead and having that clarity will cause you to take your next right step. And knowing your next step is priceless.
And here is the final truth – God wants to do the soul work with you.
The world is full of self help methods, some of which are pretty good and can certainly help you to an extent, but unless you bring God into the equation, your self help methods will always fail in the end. God is the only one who can bring true healing, guidance, clarity and peace to our souls.
If you are one who is doing soul work, well done. It might get messier before it gets better. It might take longer than you expected. It might push you out of your comfort zone to ask for help. But if you invite God into that space, you will come out stronger, healthier and wiser.
“Let us take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.” Lamentations 3:40 (The Message).
Our souls find rest in you alone, O God.