Taking Spiritual Inventory
In her sermon, “Prophets for a New Day,” the late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon wrote that from time to time, we have to take a “spiritual inventory”—i.e., we must review what we are doing, and determine whether or not what we are doing is the will of God.
Taking such an inventory is a risk if we are truly serious, because, so often, what we are doing and what God wants us to do, what God sent us here to do, are diametrically opposed to each other. So many of us spend and waste valuable time trying to copy something or someone we admire, but when we do, we often find ourselves in spiritual turmoil. We were not sent here to sing someone else’s song or write a story God has already assigned to someone else. Each of us has a unique purpose in this life.
We butt heads with God so often, and we blame God for the bruises that result from the fight. Maybe our resistance to taking spiritual inventory comes from a gnawing feeling in our soul forever reminding us that something is not quite right with what we are doing. We try to squelch that feeling, because, deep down, we suspect it is a sign that God’s divine truth is trying to push its way through to our souls, where truth cannot be ignored.
What do we lose when we take inventory? We lose the security of sameness. In Dr. Cannon’s sermon, she retold the story of the anonymous prophet of God and his encounter with King Jeroboam, who wanted to burn incense on the altar. This prophet had been sent by God to cry out against the sacrificial altars and idols of King Jeroboam. When the prophet carried out his divine assignment, Jeroboam became so angry that he reached out his arm to seize the prophet. But, Dr. Cannon writes, “in the twinkle of an eye, God caused the king’s hand to become paralyzed.” The king pleaded with the prophet to heal him, and, after the prophet prayed, the king’s arm was restored. The king was now grateful and wanted to reward the prophet, inviting him to a meal, but the prophet refused, saying that he was “under divine orders not to eat or drink nor return by the same road on which he had arrived.” (See 1 Kings 13:1–10.)
This nameless prophet had taken inventory; he was clear on what God wanted him to do. It must have been tempting for him, when he had suddenly gained the king’s favor, to take advantage of the situation. We human beings like to be taken in and noticed by rich and famous people. But this prophet had his instructions, and he left the presence of Jeroboam.
There is more to the story Dr. Cannon shared, but what her sermon suggests, among other things, is that in this topsy-turvy world, when so much of what we have always known seems to have been compromised, overturned, or challenged, we all need to take a spiritual inventory. What would God have us do today? What is God waiting for us to release, to let go of, so that, while we still have time, we can begin to live into our purpose? Who is it that we must let go of? What emotions and grudges must we release in order to be free enough to be a useful child of God?
The song “Hush! Somebody’s Calling My Name” woke me this morning. I searched and searched for its history, to no avail; I did not find out when it was written or if it was sung by enslaved Africans. But after a while, I stopped. Being quiet, “hushing,” as it were, is a part of the process of taking spiritual inventory. It is in the hushing that we hear God and are moved by God. If God is calling you right now, what is God saying? What are any of us refusing to hear or to accept? The psalmist writes in Psalm 62:5: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God.” In the taking of spiritual inventory, may we all find rest in God, and strength for the journey God set us on this earth to take.
Amen and amen.