A green net covering a high chain link barrier obstructs my view of the Charles River. The Longfellow Bridge is under construction. It will be under construction for three years, causing inconvenience in traffic patterns, heavy congestion in an already crowded area, and ugly, obstructed views.
But it’s necessary. It’s a part of keeping the bridge safe and strong, able to withstand the constant stream of cars, bikes, subway, and people that it’s designed to handle.
Sometimes the only way to make things better is to fix them, to reconstruct them.
And so it is with our souls. There are times when our souls need to be under construction, when that is the only way for them to withstand the constant force of life in all its uncertainty.
I heard once at a conference that our “churches are full of hurting people who haven’t taken a season to heal”. This is part of the under construction process — realizing that your soul needs to heal and the wisest thing to do is to allow time for the construction and healing process to take place.
Several years ago my husband and I went through an extended period of healing, an extended construction period. It lasted over six years. During that time we did nothing beyond attending church and getting together with safe friends. We didn’t take part in any Bible Studies, we were not involved in any ‘ministry’, we did no service. We went through a season of healing and it was invaluable.
Besides achieving the desired result of healing and reconstructing, we learned several things.
1. We learned that we were far more use to God as people willing to be healed than we would have been had we tried to maintain a façade. The Psalmist David in a prayer of repentance says: “A broken and contrite heart you will not despise.” He speaks to the mercy of God, his loving kindness, the bones that God has broken. God has never, and will never, despise a broken and contrite heart. It’s the heart of the proud and the deceitful that concerns him far more.
2. We learned that our worth was not, and never will be, in what we do. Church service, ‘ministry’, getting involved – none of that is wrong. In fact, when done out of love for God it is a gift to be used for his glory. But it does not constitute our worth. Our worth this: we are made in the image of God, his creation, his love. Getting that wrong, thinking this is about what we do is far more dangerous to the soul than taking time out for healing.
3. We came to realize that when you go through a season of healing, God brings people into your life who are broken and need to hear that there is redemption, there is healing. Even in the midst of the hardest parts of healing, we would meet people who needed to know there was hope, needed to know we were also walking the long, arduous path called ‘healing’. Perhaps broken seeks out broken? I like to think broken knows that it can learn best from those also willing to go through the construction process.
4. We learned that the words ‘ministry’ will never be synonymous with ‘God’, and when we make them, we are in a state of serious delusion. If we are not careful, ‘ministry’ becomes God. The word itself is held up as the ideal, instead of God himself being the ideal and ministry the result of our love for him. Defined as ‘the one that serves’ we can see ministry for what it is – not an end in itself, simply a way to reflect a love of God.
5. Mostly we learned that God is close to the broken-hearted. He cared not about our lack of service, he cared about our souls. Deeply, urgently, consistently he worked in our souls to reconstruct them to His Glory. The cuts that we sustained by his hand in the healing process were cuts of a gifted surgeon, done only to rid us of what would harm. And oh how they hurt, how they smarted. But when all was done, when surgery ended, the dead tissue was gone, only the healthy remained.
While a major construction and healing period is over, we are still ever aware of our fragility and propensity to go out on our own, thinking our souls are fully fixed. But the reality is somewhat different. Just as the Longfellow Bridge will go through this extended construction period and emerge stronger, it will always have its points of weakness,need for inspections, and regular upkeep.
It’s something I remember every day as I pass by this bridge under construction, our souls are always and ever under construction.
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Stacy continues to provide amazing recipes for me to post. Today’s is Brown Sugar Browned Butter Maple Muffins – a mouthful of title and goodness. Stacy says this: “they taste and smell of warm winter breakfasts to me.”
14 thoughts on “Souls Under Construction (& Monday Muffins)”
Oh, Marilyn, such wisdom in your words!! I will keep your list of awarenesses gained because they so well apply to me! I too rarely remember that it is my being that truly matters, not my doing. I have just promised myself to reread this list often, so that when I commit to anything “to do” I will be doing so with your wisdom in my heart.
Such a thought-provoking post Marilyn. I’ve been in the place of over-serving and then brokenness and it was not a pretty place to be. Now I’m back and heavily involved in church again but warily watching my mental health. Thank you for this precious reminder of God’s love for us outside of what we do. It’s so easy for me to fall in to that trap again of seeing my value to God in what I am doing or what I am asked to do and I don’t ever want to go there again.
Oh me as well! (the trap I mean) although I’m getting much better at it. So much of this is a balance I think. Your last sentence really speaks to my heart. Thanks.
I think your post was very timely actually Marilyn. I know those kind of experiences are hard to talk about it but I definitely heard God’s alarm bells to me personally telling me to watch my step through your post. So thank you so much for sharing. Bless you.xx
I recently served on a 2 1/2 year pastoral search process, and 4 years on the church board, as well as teaching Sunday school… and I COMPLETELY understand what you are writing about. I sometimes feel ‘shell-shocked’ as I sit in the pew, trying to still my mind and focus on the service. I picked up a book by Judith Shulevitz called “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time” which has been been helpful in allowing me to give myself permission to rest.
We all need to surround ourselves with life-giving people in life-giving places. And sometimes all the ‘doing’ of ministry which feels so necessary and vitally important, isn’t life-giving. We all need to be restored.
Thanks so much for the empathy and affirmation of this comment. I think life-giving are the operative words. I think some of us shy away from seasons of rest/healing because we see people who have perhaps taken it too far and we are tired of the “me” centered gospel. But the healing piece is so different than the narcissistic piece that says “I need time for myself”. The healing rest piece speaks to time where God revives us so we can move forward in love and service. Thanks Donna.
This is a beautiful piece, Marilyn. My first thought with the bridge re-construction was, “Why does it have to take so long?” But I am thankful to the Master of our souls that He knows exactly how long we need, and guaranteed, there is no wasted time or work. Love you both so much.
Oh Mom – I know those words of ‘how long’ are so true. We said the exact same thing – and then you think of the soul piece and it is really lifelong with different periods of more intense work. Thanks for your words of encouragement.
I just resigned from my position as Deacon of Outreach at our church. Your words penned here were very very kind to me this morning. Thank you.
I love you. There is so much more behind these words I think. Thinking of you today.
Just printed out you five points of healing and reconstruction…tons of wisdom. Chris
Chris – thank you! So encouraged by your words.
I was just reading and discussing with a couple who are friends of mine on the concept of taking time go just spend time in seasons of prayer. It reminded me of a song that I heard later — Phil Wickham’s ‘Safe’. Thanks for your thoughts today!
I’ve not heard of the song but sounds like I need to take a look. It’s interesting how much we may stress grace to others, but when it comes to ourselves we tend to bow to a system of works. Thanks for these words and the song suggestion.