The State of My Soul
By Kathy Redmond
I attended TDC’s Soul Care for Leaders Workshop day at Glen Eyrie during the 2023 Leader Summit. To my surprise… the prompts nudged me deeply and transformatively.
“Write your descriptive words for the state of a healthy soul and unhealthy soul.”
Perfect. I can do this exercise because it will get me somewhere. I can analyze myself and put my hopeful future state and my current state on paper. Peace, rest, generosity, love, kindness, humility. These attributes are the pinnacle. It’s where I hope to be. As a single parent with a history of abuse, I work to taste this state. Next, I comfortably write fear, anxiety, envy, resentment, bitterness, despair. This state of the soul resonates more with me, I am ashamed to write. Of course, shame. That’s another one. Our leaders today said we should be honest. Well, here it is.
“List five descriptors for the state of your soul.”
I went with 10. Sifting through my analytical mind to assign five words to such a daunting task would not give the complete picture. I did not anticipate words four and five to be “hopeful” and “expectant.” Deep down, in the recesses of my soul, I know cognitively that God has been, and is, faithful. For that reason alone, “hopeful” and “expectant” made it in my top five. Fear and anxiety took the top billing, but still, I celebrated a small victory.
“Take time now to meet with God.”
A doer and a pusher like me can often struggle to be still. I fight to hold intrusive thoughts at bay. “Why do I do this, Lord?” No answer. In exasperation, I give up. My time with God has become a chaotic, forced effort to connect. I conclude that something must be wrong with me. I sit and scribble defiantly. And then I hear: “Beloved, I see you. Stop fighting. My strength is made perfect in your weakness, but you won’t allow yourself to be weak. Give me control and stop toiling. Trust me.” I wrote that down. Skeptical, I tested the spirit: “Trust me. Be weak. Stop fighting me. Give you to me and let me take care of you.”
“Release control to your Good Shepherd by giving your burdens to God.”
If one prominent theme defines my relationship with God, it is my struggle for control and difficulty with trust. Having gone through many trials, I now understand the perspective of the Israelites who walked with God and saw the signs and wonders, yet needed reminders that He was present, in control – and trustworthy. And I realize why God made sure it was recorded in Exodus, and why altars of remembrance were built in so many Old Testament stories to remind generations of God’s faithfulness. This Gentile has been the wandering Israelite.
“Give them the gift of mattering.”
The culmination of a full day in Soul Care was a listening exercise. Three of us sat at each table and were instructed to listen to the stories of each person for ten minutes. One of the questions, “When God looks at your circumstances, what does He notice? How does He feel? What is He saying to you? What is He doing in your life?
This was the breaking point, or the breakthrough, for me. I recognized areas I’d referred to as “scar tissue” from a rape support group 25 years ago—revisiting that season of my life caused elements to resurge, along with their impact on more recent events. I was still bleeding, and I saw it reflected in how I trust or, more appropriately, have not trusted God.
See, in this exercise, we aren’t allowed to fix or comfort or offer advice. As someone who has counseled many abused women over decades, this directive is hard for me. I don’t want people to hurt. I need to fix them and develop their strength—a space of ministry in the past, that now I’m being asked not to act in. Here, they say, to fix is God’s job.
I wrestle with control and trust in God, sitting at the table in total discomfort, knowing that my brokenness will soon be revealed to two coworkers. So, I draw on the support group experience from 25 years ago and volunteer to go last. It might give me a chance to stop the bleeding wound that was reopened.
It was finally my turn, and the tearful flood of pain came out. As I talked through rape, support groups, divorce, abuse – the entrenched trauma that had become my DNA was given voice in God’s presence again. He has known I needed this. He has known I needed rest for my soul. He has called to me, and instead I have found escape in busyness and duty. But this time was about rest for my God-breathed soul. As the two people at my table pray for my healing, I feel the burdens lift. The unproductive, exhaustive search for rest in the depths of my soul feels nearer resolution.
I grumbled and complained about giving a work Tuesday to Soul Care when I had way too much work to do. Yet, the work with God was far more important. I left exhausted, having wrestled with God for eight hours. I felt a lightness in my soul as I took more steps with God towards its restoration. I also took steps to remember God’s faithfulness in every single trial, and committed to place my trust in a faithful Father who has been waiting for me to give up control.