Soul care or care of our inner spiritual life is a lifelong process. It is worthwhile during this Lenten season to reexamine it. Procrastination is one of our favorite habits, made worse by social media such as Facebook. Procrastination is what we do to avoid doing what we should be doing. Playing games in soul care is a form of procrastination. Soul care is hard and painful work as we peel away layers of resentment, unforgiveness and bitterness. It also needs us to distinguish and identify who we really are (real self), who we think we should be (duty self), and who we think others think we should be (perceived self). We play games to distract us from the real work of reconciliation of our fragmented selves.
Many of us do not really like our real self. It is sometimes questionable if we really know who our real selves are. Our real self is who God has created us to be. Some of us wonder if people will still like and love us if they know who we really are. This sense of unworthiness poisons our relationships. We sense the darkness inside us, a beast that struggles to be free. We are so afraid and ashamed of our humanity. We listen to inner voices that compare ourselves with other people and tell us that we are not good, beautiful, smart or talented enough to be of any value. Lent reminds us that in spite of all our faults, imperfections and self-delusions, God loves us enough to send his Son to die for us. God knows we are works in progress. We need to stop playing games and start reconciling with his Son, Jesus Christ.
Some of us live life out of a sense of duty. We impose rules and regulations upon ourselves so that we live a life worthy of God. This is especially common in those who seek to grow a deeper relationship in God. These people live out of a duty self. They live austere and sacrificial lives, thinking that is what God wants them to be. This may not be true. Their sacrifices may not be what God wants them to but what they think God wants them to. Jesus enjoys food and festivals as much as other people. Often such lives based on the duty self are deeply steeped in legalism, empty of joy and judgmental of others who do not do as they do. Lenten period is a time to reexamine our lives and stop playing games with our duty self. That is work righteousness. We need to repent and reconcile with our real self in Christ.
What others think of us is very important to many of us. It may not be apparent to us in our perceived self that we are giving others power to control who we are. The truth is that most people are not thinking of us. They are too busy thinking of themselves. The lie of the perceived self comes from our hearts. We are desperate for affirmation, love and company. So we try to be the someone who we think other people want us to be. This is a house of cards which may collapse anytime. Again, there is a need to reconcile our perceived self with our real self and find our affirmation, love and companionship in God.
Lent is a time to meditate and pray about reconciliation. God started this by becoming man and reconciled us to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. We need reconciliation. Not only reconciliation with God but also reconciliation within ourselves. We need to reconcile our real selves with our duty and perceived selves. Let us stop playing games and get on with the real work of soul care.
Alex Tang is an author, speaker, pediatrician and lay spiritual theologian. His main interests are in spiritual formation, spiritual direction and bioethics. He blogs at www.draltang01.blogspot.com and his website is www.alextang.org .
Photo by Alex Tang