Scrubbing My Soul, by Amy Israelson
wondering if I can ever beat
Beat this anger that is bubbling up inside of me.
It feels wild, volatile, untamed;
Like a whip, eager to lash out –
to sting like I’ve been stung!
The kindness of yesterday melts away like a spring snowfall, revealing the dirt and grime underneath.
It is ugly.
I feel ugly.
Years of dirt and decay lie exposed.
Hate: rotten, stinking, potent.
How can this be inside of ME?
I look away.
Yet the storm brews.
I stir; wondering how to calm the soul within.
The Psalmist says:
“I have stilled and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
A weaned child? Resting. Nestling. Beloved.
“a clenched fist”;
“a wild storm”;
“a garbage heap”
is my soul within me?
I search for an image, placing my hand on my heart.
“Lord, what is the state of my soul?”
It is in the crook of a darkened room,
scrubbing a filthy wall on my hands and knees:
“A sooty cavern.”
And there I am:
In the corner,
Trying to scrub it clean!
I have made progress.
A small patch of wall,
about the size of a handheld mirror,
is white – ish.
Jesus comes into my cavernous room.
With light about him.
Emanating from him.
Walking into the room,
with radiance around him.
The walls (I notice),
become bright, themselves full of light: gleaming back at me.
Jesus stops and waits.
I am full of awe and spin around on my knees – to face this Light-man. Jesus.
My heart leaps inside my chest.
He IS light. He BRINGS light!
“Jesus,” (I laugh!)
“it is THAT easy for you, isn’t it?!”
My God who turns my darkness into light!
He smiles – He radiates with joy and brilliance.
“Will you drop the rag you hold?”
He asks compassionately.
Yet I stiffen.
Resistance rears up.
I grip the cloth.
I want control!
What should I do?
Jesus has invited me to cease.
I keep my face towards the Light-man,
not wanting to return to a life of scrubbing.
I sit and watch him:
Jesus at ease in my mess.
His shoulders unburdened and his posture open;
He is completely at home with soot-covered me.
I return to this image for weeks,
striving – willing my resistance to fade.
Finally, something in me breaks.
“Who am I kidding?!”
I drop the rag and move toward him
I finally let myself go, and fall into his arms.
He laughs, embracing me.
“Now THAT wasn’t so hard, was it?!”
“Be still” is the voice of the Light-man.
In this quiet moment,
The walls melt away –
giving way to a free, open space –
fresh air and sunshine swirl around me,
fields unfold in the distance.
Overwhelmed by a sense of joyous adventure,
Like a little girl, I twirl freely – arms wide open.
How is my soul within me now?
A dancing child.
A bubbling brook.
A wide-open field.
A forgiven daughter.
Amy Israelson is an educator and life-long learner in the curriculum of the Spiritual Life. She is, as we come to recognize this in ourselves, more beautiful for being broken.