Soul Care 101: Stop Shadowboxing and Take Back Your Keys!

Open your contact lists on your phone and computer.  Count the entries.  Next add your social media friends and followers.  Now, estimate how many people you brush up against on any given day (in both the physical and media realms).

Let’s pretend you actually arrived at a final sum (we’ll call it “Z”).

Head out to your local hardware store.  Ask the kid behind the counter to make “Z” copies of your house key.  Finally, send one to every person included in “Z”.  (Make sure you have extra copies to hand out to random folks throughout the week.)

Sound crazy?

We wouldn’t give many of our family members that much open access to our homes, not to mention the countless others we encounter.  But this is exactly what we do—day in and day out—with our hearts.

Little wonder we feel plundered at the end of most days.  Life has a way of breaking-and-entering on its own.  We don’t help ourselves by handing out keys like Pez dispensers.


Can you think of a time when you were completely taken out by something said or done to you?

I recall a time decades ago when I’d had an article published in a local newspaper.  Some gentleman found my home phone number and called to talk about the piece.  I spent nearly 30 minutes on the phone with this guy who drilled me with questions.  I felt like little Johnny sitting in the principal’s office.  As I recall, I handled it with a decent amount of savvy, but without realizing it, I did something stupid:  I gave some cynic a key to my heart.

And freely he did roam.

For weeks this guy and his accusatorial tone haunted my soul.  I’d find myself replaying the conversation over and over in my mind, thinking of everything said and all the things I should’ve said.  For the longest time, these thoughts fed a smoldering rage in me, which in turn, left me completely distracted, weary from shadowboxing a memory.

That was one guy.  Consider for just a moment how a multitude of daily encounters leave us feeling assaulted.  The online keyboard warrior.  The well-meaning family member.  The person in the grocery checkout line.  Some random yahoo who makes a cheeky comment and all of a sudden you nosedive into fight-or-flight mode.

A part of you gets trapped in that moment, forever throwing wild punches at phantoms.


“So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.”

1 Corinthians 9:26 (NLT)

It’s not just that we’re being robbed of life.  The tragedy is that we allow it.

Do you realize the number of people walking around with a key to your heart?

key2Don’t believe me?  Start paying attention to all of your interactions and notice the effects people have on you.  Do past encounters lurk in the corridors of your soul for hours, days … or even years after the event?

I once had a guy cheat me out of front row tickets for a Stones concert.  He told me that his dad, a lifelong Rolling Stones fan, was dying.  He’d never seen the band live.  This was his last chance for a special father-son experience.  Naturally touched, I gave him my tickets.

I later discovered the truth.  The jerk went to the show with his girlfriend.  His dad wasn’t even sick.

For years—yes, YEARS—the mere thought of this guy made my blood boil.  Oh, the hours spent conjuring up my fiendish revenge …

The sad part, however, is not that I got screwed out of some concert tickets.  The heartbreaker is that I let this guy continue to cheat me as he pickpocketed my soul, stealing life and leaving behind jagged pieces of darkness.  I’d given him a key to COME ON IN whenever he felt like it.

Friends, take back your keys.

In Matthew 16: 19, Jesus says, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”  He then explains that we have the authority to allow and forbid what happens in and around the kingdom.  This certainly includes our own hearts.

Take back your keys!  And stop handing them out so haphazardly.

Who’s lurking in the darkness of your soul?  Who’s disrupting your peace (and has been for a while)?  Who are you tired of shadowboxing?  I’ll warn you: Once you start exploring these spaces, you’ll be shocked to realize what a haunted house you’ve become.

Begin to name them.  Then take a deep breath, and prayerfully say, “You don’t get to stay here.  I release you.  I take back my key.”

It’s a bold spiritual move, but it’s an essential component of your own soul care.

To be clear, I’m not talking about closing off your heart to the world.  Far from it.  Rather, I’m suggesting a process of restoration and healing that will allow you to live and love more deeply than you thought possible.

We surrender so much life in these places, fighting meaningless battles that only keep us fractured and detached from the moment.


One of the major themes in Jeremiah: “You’re so preoccupied with enemy invaders that you’ve abandoned your own need for healing and restoration.”

Friends, it’s only out of wholeness that you’ll find true life—an unimaginable life force that flows through you, but not from you.  When you start taking back your keys and offering them to the one who wants to heal and restore you, you’ll discover a deep capacity to love (and be loved) that can only exist with an unbroken spirit.

You’ll even one day be able to embrace those who once haunted your soul and ransacked your most sacred places.  This is where you’ll find much of the power needed to forgive.

Who’s violently roaming your soul-passages right now, leaving your heart fractured and worn?

Take back your keys.  And quit handing them out as if it doesn’t matter.

keysIt does matter.  Because your heart matters.

This world is crying out for love, and the strength of your fully present, restored heart is needed.

And the next time that snide remark or malicious deed comes at you, stop it at the gate.  Decide right then and there, “You don’t get a key.  You’re not coming in.”

Your heart will thank you.

Be well, friends.



14 thoughts on “Soul Care 101: Stop Shadowboxing and Take Back Your Keys!

  1. Printing this out and putting it in a beautiful box along with a ring of keys(I can always find keys that I have no idea what they go to!) to give to my soon to be college graduate intern students. Perfect! Along with a pretty piece of jewelry of course, life has to be a balance of the meaningful and the beautiful. My with is to take back my keys and that they never lose theirs to begin with! Pretty sure my high school graduating son would roll his eyes, someday…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny how we stumble across articles when we need them most. Found your blog by chance on Facebook – the post about giving kids a way out via texting X. Have since subscribed and had time this morning to read several of your previous posts. This one sorta slapped me in the face. I will, going forward, refuse to give my keys away, and I’m taking back the ones I’ve given. I pray I am never the one from whom the keys are kept safe. Happy to have found your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Bert. I agree that’s a beautiful writing that explains well the metaphor of letting people in. I especially like this quote “Life has a way of breaking-and-entering on its own” because sometimes we relinquish control over what is most important to us, while trying to wrestle control over what is petty. Thanks for the reminder. It’s going to take some work to have the ‘full strength of my heart’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: When Caring Turns Ugly | Bert Fulks

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