A couple of years ago, over Christmas, we dog-sat an unusual Greyhound named Pickles. Pickles was a large and awkward canine. He stood taller than our coffee table and took up a great deal of real estate in whatever room he occupied. Connor and his girlfriend at the time had planned on exchanging gifts at our house, in our living room. They sat on the floor and gave each other their presents. Pickles oddly enough felt the need to stand right between them. For those of us looking on there was no way to see the other side. The dog was in the way. Connor and his sweet friend bent down a little lower to see through Pickle’s legs. Our youngest daughter peered around the dog’s back end. Necks were craned, bodies tilted. Eventually with amusement, Lowell told Pickles to go lay down and Pickles regretfully and unwillingly complied.
In English, we have this expression, “the elephant in the room.” Google explains it as, “a major problem or controversial issue that is obviously present but avoided as a subject for discussion because it is more comfortable to do so.” Cambridge Dictionary defines it this way, “an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about.” Clearly, here in the United States, we have now an entire herd of elephants stomping and snorting, pacing and pooping in nearly every room we enter. The large, unpredictable, bull elephant is rumbling and trumpeting and he’s making lots of noise.
Marilyn feels very strongly that Communicating Across Boundaries should remain a politics-free zone. I understand that. Politics polarizes the public very quickly. Defenses go up, weapon-words are sharpened and launched and then people run for their corner. It’s virtually impossible, it seems, to have a calm conversation about these things. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything different. We’re not merely musing over a distant theoretical system, we’re voicing values and convictions. Politics, on the level that matters, is deeply personal. It’s essentially about educating our children, keeping everyone healthy and safe, living peaceably within our communities, protecting the vulnerable, paving our streets, mending our bridges.
Last weekend our son, Connor, called from Canada. During the conversation, I made some comment related to the state of the Union and he balked, “I don’t want to talk about politics,” he said. I suspect my response was rather quick and a tad bit harsh, “I understand that. But you live in a different country where you have the privilege of breathing different air. Here it’s everywhere, it’s a part of every conversation, it’s the elephant in every room, it’s the air we breath! I’m afraid we no longer have that luxury–!”
Many of you know that I’m a Spiritual Director. When a Spiritual Director encounters elephants in the room he or she is trained to look past the elephant to the heart of the matter–to your heart which matters. We might name the elephant but we might not. What really is of critical importance is what’s being stirred up in you because of the elephant. A Spiritual Director helps you explore how you feel about the elephant, what uncomfortable places you’re avoiding and why, what it might look like to press into those places. A Spiritual Director is curious about your soul, about your responses to the world around you, about the ways you are encountering God.
It’s time to attend to our souls. There are activists among us who are resisting the elephant’s movement. There are fact checkers and ethics committee members that are scrutinizing the elephant’s loud bellows. Courts in the land, run by judges committed to “swear to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth,” are holding the elephant and his trainers to justice. But it’s our own responsibility to take care of our hearts.
How are you holding up? What emotions are surfacing in you? How are you dealing with those feelings? Can you recognize and name what’s happening inside you? Are there places of panic or fear or dis-ease welling up? Can you find the courage to step closer to Jesus with your troubled spirit? Do you know, has it been your experience, that you are deeply loved? Are there ways that you are trying to protect yourself from pain? Are you struggling to love your neighbor as you’ve struggled to love yourself? Are you isolating yourself? Do you need to seek out someone to help you hold steady to the soul work that’s ongoing in you? Are you being called to something beyond your soul’s borders? Can you identify what Jesus might be inviting you into? Is there something inside you preventing you from engaging?
This is a strange season. These are troubling times. The elephant is on the move and there’s a great deal of dust in the air. Can you take some time to tend to your own soul in the midst of the turmoil? Can you take a break from the resistance you might be involved in to ensure you’re not resisting your own center? Can you push pause on activity and contemplate your deeper core? You might not be able to tell the elephant, as Lowell told the dog Pickles, to lie down, but maybe you can leave the room for just a little while. Give your soul a Sabbath from the messy elephant tromped up space. Take some deep breaths. And attend to your soul.
(*Photo credit: edie.net)
6 thoughts on “Attending to Our Souls”
I often ask or ponder what is my purpose in this life. But till this day, I haven’t really found the answer. I guess I just have to be patient and have faith. :)
Your comment struck a chord in my soul. Purpose is such a mystery. And I do think you’re right–there’s a need for patience and faith in the process. But I would also recommend sitting with the feelings that come with not having a clear sense of purpose. I wonder what those feelings might say. What are your longings?
I’m about to turn 47 next week (Ugh!) and I feel like it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve found my purpose! I spent years wandering in the desert wondering what it was I was born to do. I’ll pray for you on your journey. I’ll pray for you as you attend to your soul in the meantime. Be kind to yourself.
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Happy birthday in advance! And 47 is really not a big number :) I’m so glad that at least one of us has found his purpose, and I can’t wait to understand my own too. But I guess it is better to just enjoy the moment right now! :) Thank you for the prayer and I’ll be praying for your health and happiness as well!
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I have had such an up and down season with the political angst of our nation! I am a conservative and strongly pro-life. I could not endorse either Democrat candidate because of their support for unlimited abortion, and I couldn’t really endorse the Republican candidate because I am conservative and I couldn’t go with the Libertarian or Green Parties because of various things in their platforms. I eventually voted for the party platform I felt was most conservative, because while I didn’t like any of the candidates, I felt it was wrong not to vote, also. I have peace with my decision because of the great verse in Proverbs that says the king’s heart is like channels of water which the Lord directs however He wishes. God is still in control, whether I like the current president or not, and God controls him as well as me. I voted in a way that allowed me to stand true to my conviction that abortion is sacrificing a baby to a modern Molech, that working is always better than government handouts, and other principles that I believe are biblical.
I have been deeply disappointed in the behavior of some of my friends, who became so angry about the results of the election that they threw 1 Pet. 2:17 right out the window and began posting character attacks against the elected leader of our nation. Disagree with what he says and his executive orders all you want, that is freedom of speech. But when you (generic you, not you Robynn) publicly call the president names and post photos that belittle someone, denigrate them, and outright deny their personhood, then you are insulting someone made in the image of God, and in a sense offering insult to God Himself. All through scripture, God says not to call people mocking names–Jesus directly said to call no one Fool–and God attaches importance to names, especially His own name. This is what bothers me the most now. It is well with my soul, but my spirit is very troubled about the hate being dished out both left and right.
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Appropriate counsel. I enjoyed your metaphor. Maybe I’ll go fishing or just take a walk in the park.
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Timely for many people, I’m sure. “It’s time to attend to our souls.” There is a tendency to try to protect our boundaries in times of turmoil, but this is a time to tear down walls in our hearts.
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