Soul Work (book review)

You probably think that being a monk is a full-time occupation, right? But what if you could learn from the most committed monks, without actually moving to a monastery? That’s exactly what Randy Harris shows us in Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk.

I’ll admit that I was hooked more by the subtitle of this book. After all, whoever heard of a part-time monk. Randy Harris set out to find out more about the deep spiritual walk for which so many monks and hermits are renowned. In the beginning of the book, Randy states that there was something he disagreed with in almost every monastery or hermitage he visited. But he culled through all they had to offer, and presented the best practices in Soul Work.

In short, there is much to learn from the unhurried, quiet, peaceful, and deeply-abiding lives of those who separate themselves from general society. What a huge contrast with our frantic, noisy, stressful, superficial lives. Randy shares what he learned about…

  • Deeper intimacy with God
  • A more refreshed outlook on life
  • A life infused with hope
  • More meaningful prayer times
  • Greater levels of obedience
  • God-honoring humility
  • A more satisfying relationship with God

But we won’t pursue any of these things unless we are truly dissatisfied with our current spiritual level. As Randy wrote,

“We do not move in our spiritual lives until we experience some dissatisfaction with what we’ve got. … The first step toward living an intimate life with God is to realize our own desperation, and that desperation comes largely by developing some sense of God’s holiness.”

This is not a casual read. It’s a book that forced me to confront how much more of God I really wanted in my life, and if I was willing to make the necessary changes to achieve greater intimacy. I was challenged by Soul Work, and I think you will be too.

I am an ACU Press book reviewer.

My Blind Spot

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Blind spots can be deadly. I simply don’t see what’s right there until—wham!—it crashes into me.

These blind spots have been called our “unconscious incompetence” zone. I’m not doing well in a certain area, but I just don’t know it yet until—wham!

Up to that point everything seems fine, but wise King Solomon said, “Smugness will destroy fools” (Proverbs 1:32).

It seems there are two ways I could deal with my unconscious incompetencies. (1) I could wait until I get blindsided by one of them; or (2) I could ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to me. Neither option seems very pleasant, but if I’m going to get hit—wham!—it seems like a better option to let Someone who loves me, and wants the best for me, to do it (see Hebrews 12:5-11).

David thought so too. He prayed—

Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Or, how about Sir Francis Drake’s prayer:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push us into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

The wham! moments will come. The question is how do you want them to come?

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