When Your Faith Needs A Tune-Up
Ok, I’ve been trying to write a post on taking a Sabbath for the past few weeks. Every time I sit down to write, I’m in the weeds with my message and what I hope to get across. I’m unmotivated and it’s probably a good indicator that I NEED a Sabbath!
I also feel a little burnt-out and uninspired in my faith lately. We all go through this I think. It’s not the only part of my faith life, of course, but it’s something that’s been on my mind. So instead of writing on Sabbath, I’m going to put something out there about refreshing your spirit so maybe you can get to understand just how important taking that Sabbath is.
If I’m going to compare my faith to anything lately, it’s going to be a comparison with my car. My husband and I love taking care of our daily drivers, and we maintain and repair a classic car of my dad’s as well. It’s so fun to learn how to do things yourself, to save a little cash in repair costs, and to really take care of your things. I invest enough money in cars as it is. I should take good care of them! As far as money goes, they are our most expensive possessions. I guess, in that way, they’re pretty treasured and valued.
The reason I’m comparing them to my faith is that my faith should be a really precious and treasured and valued possession as well. It’s a gift directly from God, so doesn’t it deserve the same care and attention as a bunch of metal and spark plugs? With a car, it’s pretty easy to figure out how to maintain it. With your faith? That takes a little more creativity.
Just like a car that needs a good tune-up from time to time, so does my faith. Just a few tweaks to get the thing running smoothly, using its fuel efficiently, and taking me from Point A to Point B. A little extra performance and power is a bonus too. Of course God is the one who adjusts us, does the major body work, and realigns our hearts. We can do our part to perform some seasonal maintenance too. As we’re headed into the winter and the start of the liturgical year (for me, that’s Advent on Sunday, December 2), it’s the perfect time to take a good look at our faith and make the necessary adjustments to keep it moving forward.
Still following my car maintenance metaphor? Good! Now it’s time to spell out just how I’m doing a little faith tune-up and hopefully encourage you to do the same.
+ go to the source
There are plenty of passages in scripture that talk about refreshment or a new spirit or sound in our faith. I’ve found over twenty of these verses including:
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
It will be a sign between me and Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.
I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.
Doesn’t all of that sound great?! I think everyone needs a fresh start, a fresh perspective, a little rest, and some new energy. Refreshment for me is a feeling of full rest, fresh motivation, renewed strength, and a positive outlook. I have to assume if this single word appears over twenty times in scripture, than God must have thought it was a worthwhile value and something to pursue. It’s also a gift to receive with grace and gratitude. And a gift that is abundant! God doesn’t restrict or withhold this blessing.
So what does refreshment look like for you? It’s helpful to start brainstorming about exactly what you’re hoping for or wishing for. Speaking to God in prayer really honestly and outlining what you’re asking for is important. It’s also good and valuable to go to Scripture and tease out the verses you find that give you that feeling of rest and refreshment. I like to use the BibleGateway website to do a keyword search, but any way you can dig through scripture to find verses that inspire you is great. The point is to start moving toward a concrete picture in your mind of refreshment.
Any kind of scripture and research work too! If you’re not the Bible type, it might be good to start collecting quotations, inspirational messages, song lyrics, maybe even a vision board to start getting a good idea of where you want to be after your tune-up. Anything that helps make the picture crystal clear is a good way to get going.
+ get it all on paper
I have a unique way of Bible journaling that I outlined in this blog post. It’s basically a way to pour my heart out to God in an unstructured way that spills all my thoughts and feelings on to paper. So many of us like to journal or write morning pages or write notes on post-its to get our ideas out. For me, it’s so helpful to just put everything down from my head and heart as honestly and fully as I can. That requires carving out a bit of time to let myself feel thoroughly understood and not cutting corners with my thoughts and feelings.
I know I pour out my heart so much better on paper, but I have a lot of friends who do this well with a trusted friend or therapist. However it gets out, let it out! Bottling up every thought and feeling is a good way to keep yourself stuck in old patterns, feel burnt out, and unable to move forward. I start to feel refreshed almost immediately after I put words to paper, and it encourages me to turn to my journal any time I’m feeling off or unclear about things. If you unburden yourself in one way and it doesn’t seem to being doing the trick, try another method until you find one that resonates with your soul.
In my faith tradition, a formal confession is an essential part of a healthy faith life. Is it hard to spill all your secrets to a priest? Heck yeah! But having that fully honest conversation helps purge some of the spiritual backlog in your soul. I particularly like how formalized the whole process is. This sacrament has a structure that includes an intro, a confession, an act of service or prayer (penance), and then a formal forgiveness (absolution). That kind of structure helps frame my my own spiritual journey at any given moment, and it’s the most refreshing feeling in the world when it’s all over. Unburdening your heart fully and totally is a great way to move forward.
It’s funny… whenever I am afraid to confess something that I keep returning to or an habitual weakness or habit, I’m reminded of an anecdote I heard once from a priest. His penitent came to confession and said, “Father, I feel like I’m telling you the same thing over and over! It’s so frustrating” He said, “Well, at least you’re not coming back with anything new!” That reminds me that we all have ways we habitually fall short or aren’t living the life we hope to. And it encourages me to keep going back to confession, no matter the sin, to receive the grace to move forward.
Not every faith tradition has a formal way to purge all wrongdoing. There are so many other ways to repent and turn back to a place of goodness and right behavior. And who doesn’t want to live a life of integrity, honesty, and a clear conscience? Sleeping soundly at night is a great way to feel refreshed. I don’t think we are always aware of the kind of toxic load our wrongdoings can have on our own spirit and that it can manifest in physical ways. That’s why I think it’s such an important process to tune-up our hearts by detoxing all this negative energy.
Whether it’s confessing to God on paper or in prayer, apologizing and making right the ways you’ve hurt others and yourself, or following some of the more formal twelve steps toward recovery, it’s one of the most important things we can do to have a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. It’s good and healthy to take stock of our own wrongdoings, mistakes, and shortcomings and work toward making amends. I’m not normally one to “clear the air” with others in a big and dramatic way and tend to avoid conflict, but I try to quickly and fully apologize the moment I realize I’ve hurt someone. I like to get it out of the way so I can work toward making things right and mending any fences. I don’t want to dwell in any relationships where there is a hardening or hearts or resentment: whether that’s a relationship with God, the people around me, or even with myself.
Scripture promises a ready refreshment if we repent and turn back to a loving heart posture toward ourselves and others.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sings may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
It’s a pretty clear if/then promise and one worth pursuing any time we are feeling burdened or burnt out. Trusting that forgiveness will come with repentance is an important step too! Forgive yourself for any ways you’ve missed the mark and try to move forward with a clear heart and a clear mind. It makes practical sense to apologize and make things right, and the blessings aren’t restricted to Scripture. We can see and feel so many moments of refreshment in our lives as we move forward with an honest heart.
+ get out there
The last way I really feel refreshed is to get out there! I like to put myself in the company of those who make me feel better, build me up, uplift me, encourage me, and help keep my heart and mind refreshed. For me, that’s my husband, son, and dog, a few close friends, a few close relatives. What’s that saying again? “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I’m not going to verify the math there, but I can definitely see the difference in my heart and mind when I surround myself with positive loved ones, neighbors, believers, and coworkers. Not that I should completely avoid those who bring me down! I just like to spend the majority of my time and energy with those who refresh my heart. Their positivity and good feelings are contagious and help get my out of the mess of my own thoughts.
This is also where all that basic self care comes in: fresh air, physical activity, sleep, good food, hydration. These aren’t throwaway suggestions either. I have such a difficult time prioritizing these, but when I do I reap the rewards pretty much immediately. Give me three nights of solid sleep and fresh air, and I feel like a new person. I like to build in small breaks throughout my day that refresh and restore: my favorite music while I’m taking a shower, a good podcast on a commute, walking my dog outside, some stretches or yoga to start the day. It can be as little as ten minutes and the cobwebs and clutter in my mind and heart start to disappear.
This is also a good time to put yourself in the Presence of the Divine. For me, that’s going to church on Sunday and attending an adoration holy hour. It’s also listening to worship music and touching base with Scripture. I don’t pretend I know what moves your heart toward peace and wholeness. Those are just the things that get me there! It’s important to have a handy list of the things that connect you to God in your mind for times like these when you need a new start. Once you look through that list, start implementing the concrete things that help lift the burden of your heart. Make a plan for it and get out there!
I hope these are some good suggestions to give your heart and spirit a little tune-up. I feel like refreshment and a fresh start are themes I continually write about here on my blog, and for good reason! These are lessons I tend to forget and the things I leave off my to do list. At some point, they all build up and I’m just a mess who feels directionless, burdened, burnt out, and unhappy. It starts out with a few things falling through the cracks. As they build up over weeks or months, I start to feel a call in my heart to realign things, to GYST, and have a fresh start. This seems to be a common theme I hear from loved ones too. Sometimes it’s just a general feeling of being off. Sometimes it’s a full breakdown. Sometimes it’s somewhere in between.
Our lives can be so busy and messy and cluttered. We can forget to take stock and take care of our soul. Modern life and modern adulthood can really take their toll. If it wasn’t for writing and reading and consuming things that call me to refreshment and a little tune-up, I would forget or put it off or avoid the ways that I can truly heal and feel better. So if you’re reading this, take it as your check engine light telling you to turn things around, give your heart some maintenance, and start living a full and healthy life, full of refreshment and happiness. If your heart is your most valuable possession, it makes sense to take good care of it, make sure it’s in running order, and give it the tune-up it needs.