Part of my regular Christmas season celebration is having dinner with an old college friend (which is so much more literal now, since it's been almost 20 years since we graduated). The conversation and dinner go like this: wine and bread, accompanying the "Do you remember" chat. On to appetizers, with the catch me up on what you're doing. And the main course, where it takes about 15 minutes for us to get to the good stuff: the I'm not perfect, what was I thinking, and while I share this, I'll need another glass of wine conversation.
Then we linger over dessert, laughing over the people and events who made us doubt or cry or furious since the last time we had dinner.
"So my ex-husband is moving out-of-state," she offered (and yes, she read this and I have total permission to share the conversation).
She took another bite of some thirty-layer chocolate cake. I waited for her to say she was sad, that she realized feelings or something else.
"Is it bad that I'm so happy I can't stand it? That I'm delighted that he's LEAVING? That, while I don't hate him, I don't want him in my life and soul anymore, that his moving feels like an answer to my prayers?"
Their relationship had been troublesome and difficult for both of them, and running into him unexpectedly (or having him pop into her life, as he had done when she'd asked him to leave her alone) was bad. In fact, it sounded like his leaving was a good thing, giving her holy space. She smiled and let out a breath. "Good. I wondered if being a good Christian meant that I shouldn't feel like that."
I enjoy these moments of priesthood, where, because a bishop and other priests laid hands on me, I have the canonical authority and the Holy Spirit's authority to absolve. I love the moments even more when I get to remind people that forgiveness is not amnesia, nor is it allowing someone to live in your soul rent-free.
Oh, yes, we all have these spiritual squatters in our lives, the people - ex's, acquaintances, coworkers, family members, random people with whom we've gotten entangled - who live rent-free in our souls. Spiritual squatters often manifest as people who turn on that holy voice that says, "End this." Generally, when I am talking with friends or parishioners or random people, I don't feel that vibration in my soul that says, "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" We humans, though, will feel that danger instinct kick in, ignore it and walk right into the emotional trap. We may want to end the relationship, but as soon as we do, some voice, either the other person's or that annoying "good girl" who is part of our souls, keeps saying, "But you can't just evict someone from your life."
Yes, you can.
As one good friend puts it, relationships, friendships and otherwise, should be like plowing through reasonably good soil. Yes, you'll hit a rock every now and then, but when it feels like you're plowing through concrete all the time, drop the reins, leave the plow, and walk away from the field.
In other words, evict those who are living in your soul rent-free.
We usually engage these spiritual squatters out of fear: fear that evicting them from our lives will hurt too much, will be a mistake, or will signal that we aren't good because we couldn't be friends with such a soul-sucking person. Or we labor under the magical thinking that if we just work hard enough, the relationship will be okay.
The holy truth is that there are people in the world who we encounter, perhaps even build some relationship with, but find that talking to them or being in relationship with them is hurtful and unsafe to us. From the ones who are predators and unsafe emotionally and physically to us on one end to the people who will just constantly deplete our energies and time when we engage them on the other end, these soul-suckers are boundary-less wonders who need some holy eviction papers from our lives.
I've found that when we admit our souls have an unwanted occupant and we've been allowing them that sacred space, God does Her own miraculous work. The place in ourselves that we were so fearful would be a big hole when the soul squatters left turns out to heal rather quickly, if it even existed at all. We discover that our boundaries are in tact, our soul is complete, and that we have many, many people in our lives who will affirm our decision to evict. Then we can do our own spiritual work on why we engaged this situation, but that's holy work done later, not with the soul-squatter around.
Our selves and souls are too valuable to allow people to live rent-free, to engage constantly those who are simply not good for us, and our instincts (and great friends) will let you know who these people are in your life. Forgive them, yes. Forgive yourself, too. Wish them no ill will, and send them on their way, either simply out of your life.
Or out of state.
Either way, the eviction notice has gone out.