I am pondering a question that seems to be asked with less and less frequency, pondering that in the early days of Methodism the question "Is it well with your soul?" was not only expected but possibly even welcomed by members of the small bands or classes that gathered the members of this new movement together every week. The question was not one of nosiness nor was it meant to be intrusive, rather it was a genuine enquiry asked of one who had declared themselves to be serious about discipleship.
It is a question that I need to ask myself and also to allow trusted others to ask of me, and yet it is one that I rarely encounter, and if I am honest rarely ask. I think that needs to change; let me explain, we are always hearing how the church needs to change, how the church needs to let go of the past, how the church needs to re-engage with the society around it, and we are battered by these statements. We are battered and we feel like failures, shame covers us and we retreat to lick our wounds, readjust our armour and get back into the fight...
We find ourselves in a fight often with each other insisting that we alone or at least our group of friends hold the answer to the ills of the day, "if only we could move forward/ turn back the clock" all would be well. I suspect that this is all symptomatic of a much deeper malaise, and when we grumble about the hymns and style of worship, the type of people we are reaching and the "others" who simply don't think like we do we are revealing a disconnect with our souls and therefore with God.
When we close ourselves to one another, when we retreat into ourselves or our group, when we will not and cannot hear another point of view then surely we are closing ourselves to God also. There is a lot of deep hurt in all of this, hurt that is not easy to unpack or uncover, hurt that letting go of our armour always produces for whether we are protecting ourselves from or in the past change, real change makes us vulnerable. Real change involves our whole selves, and quite possibly begins with the question "is it well with my soul?"
Is it well with my soul? Why am I hurting and confused?
Is it well with my soul? Why do I find these people/ideas difficult?
Is it well with my soul? Why am I frustrated and angry?
Is it well with my soul? Am I at peace with God?
Is it well with my soul? the question takes us deeper than the externals of our faith to encounter the God who longs for the best for us...
Is it well with my soul? Today I am asking myself this question, I cannot ask it of others if I am not prepared to answer it myself, in a time of change I have come to the conclusion that this is probably the most important question we need to ask ourselves and allow trusted friends to ask us, perhaps then with deeper understanding and grace, with renewed love for God, others and ourselves we will be able to move forward wherever forward may take us.