Exploring a Soul-Ache
Mind if I just sort of soul-barf with this post? I’m just going to explore something out loud and see what comes of it.
I’ve been noticing an intensifying pain in my soul over the last couple months — though I now wonder if perhaps this ache hasn’t been crescendoing for much longer and I’ve just been ignoring it. (Have you noticed how easy it is to ignore soul-aches when you’re very busy?) The ache isn’t there all the time, just now and then — but lately, more often than not. Sometimes this gnawing pain manifests as a sense of alienation; other times as a kind of unidentifiable emptiness; and still other times as a sort of odd nervousness.
In the past when I’ve felt like this it almost always was an indication that I wasn’t adequately grounded in Christ as my only source of “life” — that is, I wasn’t getting all my identity, love, worth, significance and security from Christ. Whenever our life isn’t fully rooted in Christ, we have to strive to get it from transitory things like people’s opinions of us, our accomplishments, our possessions, impressing God with our correct beliefs and holy behavior (religion), and the like. These idols invariably leave our soul feeling unsatisfied, alienated, empty and/or nervous.
The odd thing is, in response to this growing ache I’ve been intentional on doing this, and it doesn’t seem to be working. I spend time drinking deeply from the well of God’s perfect love for me, letting Christ tell me all my identity, worth, significance and security comes from him, and it helps in the moment. But the ache keeps creeping back.
What is up with this?!
“Soul, what is wrong with you?”
Hmmmm…. it feels like this ache might having something to do with aging. Yes, that’s it. The last year I have more and more found myself absolutely stunned that so much of my life has passed! It feels absolutely surreal, like I’m in a dream or something. I can’t possibly be going on 52! I was 19 last week!!
Who would have thought life would be so ridiculously short, when once upon a time it felt so long? The train is going exponentially faster, and the only certainty is that it will soon run out of track and head off a cliff — but who knows when? Could be in forty years or forty seconds.
As I explore my soul-ache, it seems there’s a part of me that wants to scream “Time Out!” — or at least “Slow Down!” But time mocks my protests by speeding the train up even more.
Okay, this aging thing is certainly part of the ache. But why should this bother me? I’m honestly convinced — yes, absolutely convinced — death is a friend, not a foe, because of what Christ accomplished. The older I get, the less invested I feel in this present world. In many respects, it frankly disgusts me. I honestly don’t feel any fear of death. So, what is it about the aging process that is bugging my soul? The final destination, as unpredictable as it is, doesn’t seem to be the problem.
Maybe it’s not death itself that is the source of this ache, but a sense of insignificance that attaches to it. If I’m totally honest with myself (and now with you), I have to admit there’s something to this. Maybe I’m anxious that I won’t finish all I want to finish before the train runs out of track. (I’ve actually had this concern, more or less, since I was five or six — so it’s reasonable to suspect it lurking in the background now).
I feel I’m closing in on the source of the ache. There’s something here.
It’s possibly significant that over the last couple years — and especially this last year — I’ve at times felt overwhelmed by this two volume book project I’m working on (Myth of the Blueprint). I’ve occasionally allowed myself to imagine the frustration and futility I’d experience if the years of research and thousands upon thousands of books and articles I’ve read in preparation for this work were to come to nothing. I’ve thought how it would totally suck if I had a stroke or some other misfortune that prevented me from finishing this task.
I wonder — I really wonder — if there isn’t a little voice in my head continually reminding me of this possibility, creating this on-going angst in my soul. I bet that’s it — or at least part of it!
If so, this can only mean one thing. It means I’m attaching too much “life” into this project. It means I’m apparently not as free of idols as I’d like to believe. Obviously! If all my identity, worth, significance and security were derived from Christ, then nothing would hang on whether I ever do anything with the years of research I’ve engaged in, right? Whether I finish this project “in time” or not should have nothing to do with my sense of being fully alive, having unsurpassable worth, being profoundly significant and enjoying ultimate security.
There may be more to my soul-ache than this, but folks, I really think this is a major part of my problem. I’m an idolater!
And what this means is that I haven’t been totally honest with myself and with God. Dang! Jeremiah was right (Jeremiah 17:9)!
So, its time for me to go lay this aging carcass on the altar once again and let it get slain.
It’s kind of funny. The only remedy for soul-pain is to crucify yourself.
Well, that was profoundly helpful. Thanks for listening. Hopefully my soul-barf was helpful to some others who might be experiencing similar soul-aches.
Now go back to enjoying your ever-quickening train ride!