The other day I was trying to vacuum my living room, but the vacuum was unusually difficult to push. The last few times I vacuumed I had noticed some resistance, but not enough to stop and examine the problem. However, this time I couldn’t help but notice as it was so difficult to push that I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything.
I stopped, unplugged the vacuum and flipped it over to examine what might be the problem. On the underside of my vacuum I found a tangle of string, hair and carpet threads. It was so tangled that the wheels and element that is designed to pick up the dirt and debris from the carpet could no longer spin.
The problem was not easily solved. I had to get out scissors and slowly cut and pull apart the tangled mess, until finally, after much effort, the wheels and spinner were freed.
As I sat and slowly untangled the mess I wished that I had examined the problem when I first noticed the vacuum starting to show resistance. If I had taken the time initially to stop and free the wheels, it would have been a quick and easy fix. It happened gradually, but when it finally was so tangled that it completely stopped the vacuum from working, it then took a long time to cut back all the things that were knotted together and keeping it from functioning and running smoothly.
The same can happen in our lives. Distractions, unresolved hurt, anger, unforgiveness, resentment, and apathy all lead to our inability to function. Sometimes it can look like depression, anxiety, fatigue, distancing ourselves emotionally from others, difficulty sleeping, or burnout.
When we get to the point where our wheels no longer turn, we are so entangled by all of these unresolved issues it often warrants help. Seeking help from a trusted, godly friend, a counselor, or an accountability source can be key in restoring us to health and function. We need someone to help us cut back and untangle the cords that are binding us.
It’s helpful to learn to do a self-check or welfare check periodically to help prevent “the wheels from falling off.” Meeting with someone once or twice a month or even weekly to share your heart and allow them to speak into your life as well can help your soul stay untangled.
We hear lots about self care these days, but what helps us prevent this knotting and tangling throughout our inner self is soul care. In John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You he describes this kind of tangling:
“The soul was not made to run on empty. But the soul doesn’t come with a gauge. The indicators of soul-fatigue are more subtle:
• Things seem to bother you more than they should. Your spouse’s gum-chewing suddenly reveals to you a massive character flaw.
• It’s hard to make up your mind about even a simple decision. • Impulses to eat or drink or spend or crave are harder to resist than they otherwise would be.
• You are more likely to favor short-term gains in ways that leave you with high long-term costs. Israel ended up worshiping a golden calf simply because they grew tired of having to wait on Moses and God.
• Your judgment is suffering.
• You have less courage.”
Soul care requires being proactive rather than reactive. We can avoid this soul breakdown and entangling by taking the steps we need for soul care. Just as our body needs care, rest, and nurturing so does our soul. At times it looks different for each person, but it is our responsibility, especially as leaders, to figure out what our soul needs to stay healthy.
So maybe this week you need to have a long talk with a trusted friend, plan an afternoon of solitude, or have a hard conversation with someone you love but haven’t connected with in a long time because of a heart wound. Take some time to consider what your soul needs this week to stay untangled and functioning properly. Looking inward and evaluating the health of our own souls can be tough work but is the best gift to ourselves.