When peace, like a river, upholds me each day,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
To tell the truth, it’s not always well with my soul. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty happy with who I am most of the time. I’m grateful for the tremendous abundance that has graced my life. I love to laugh and to look at the world with a slightly ironic, maybe a little bit jaded, eye while maintaining an absolute belief in the goodness of all creation. When I’m pondering an issue, a theological/spiritual lens will generally plant itself right in front of my mind’s eye, thanks to three years of practice in seminary and twenty-five years of ministry.
And yet, it is not always well with my soul.
When my first coach and I were coming up with values statements, this one bubbled up from that place I can’t locate in me but that I have come to trust as the seat of intuition, which is maybe a more secular way of saying, I have come to trust it as the way I hear the voice of God.
As I look at a sheet of paper filled with words in someone else’s handwriting, I remember the values clarification exercise we did in one of my coach-training courses. As one class member interviewed us, another wrote down lots of words that described values that they heard coming from our responses. Sometimes they were in clusters, sometimes single. As I look through that list today, these jump out at me: social justice, charity, generosity, prayer, peace, faith/living it out/prayer/remaining open to God’s presence/discernment/call, spirituality, truth/authenticity, love, grace. These are just a handful of all the words on the page, but they seem to group together for me. They represent standards I look to, glowing prizes I want to reach for.
When I was trying to express all of this at once, that wonderful line from the hymn came to me: “It is well with my soul.”
I know that when I get too much out of alignment with these words, I am ill at ease. I am inauthentic. I am fragmented and scattered.
And then it’s time to sing.