What I know in the deepest parts of my soul is that I want to and am making love-based choices and not fear-based choices to shape my life… So I will look at the basis of my fear and see what it is trying to tell me so that it doesn’t have to scream so loudly anymore.
Yesterday started with a pleasant surprise. A sweet student at the university I work at sent me a wonderful blog post yesterday morning. She had no way of knowing how much I needed the words she sent me or that it would inspire me to write this very post. The blogger’s name is Hannah Brencher and she starts her post off by talking about Disney’s movie “Brave” and how the main character Merida says that “there are no magical shortcuts to solving your problems.”
Ain’t that the truth. The irritating, agonizing truth.
Singer/Song-writer Nichole Nordeman proclaims a similar truth in one of her best songs “Dear Me” when she says
“Dear me, this is a letter to the girl I used to be/ You’ll see, you’re gonna take the long way.”
(You’re probably gonna want to listen to the whole song, so the link is here)
I don’t know if you know this about me (sarcasm of course, because it’s glaringly obvious), but I don’t like the long way. Patience doesn’t come naturally to me because I thrive in our culture of productivity, efficiency, achievement, and immediacy. Unfortunately, our most important growth rarely blooms in that environment. Certainly the transformation I’ve undergone during my young adult years has been tumultuous, to say the least. I think about the woman I was 10 years ago at 18 and I feel so different from her.
*Me at the age of 18, in the spring of 2008
While it feels like I’ve had a significant shift in pretty much every area of my life during the last decade (faith, marriage, family, friends, education, job, physical health, mental health, etc.) and often have change occurring in multiple spheres of my life at once, I am currently choosing to wrestle with the part of my story that has had the least healing. The one that holds the most shame and makes me feel least like the woman I want to be.
It is actually a brave, beautiful, glorious thing to choose for yourself, but right now it feels like the exact opposite. It’s exhausting. It’s frightening. It is stretching me father than I feel comfortable going. To face your shame and the lies you’ve believed is one of the scariest things you can do. And it’s also one of the most important things you can do, which is why I’m choosing to do it. The aforementioned writer Hannah Brencher, as well as one of my favorite authors Glennon Doyle, talk about sitting with fear and asking it what it has to teach you.
Glennon says this:
“I realize that I have allowed myself to see it all and feel it all and I have survived. All the ghosts are still there, but they’re less threatening to me now. They can scare me, but they cannot kill me. They tried, but I won. Everything is still a bloody mess, yet here I am. Alive…. It had hurt like hell. It had almost killed me, but not quite. That ‘not quite part’ seems incredibly important.”
(Doyle, Love Warrior, pg. 199-200)
That was Monday night. I knew I had to finish the last part of my counseling homework before my next session this week and I had been avoiding it. It took me more than 2 hours to get through it, to sit with reality and write about things I’ve found it hard to linger on. It was really difficult and emotional, but I did it. More than once, I found myself reaching for my phone as a reflex to distract myself and I had to pull myself back in to focus. I literally had to take multiple breathing breaks , literally just to take deep breaths when I got overwhelmed. But I did it.
And then as a reward to myself, I proceeded to fill out a Disney movie bracket to celebrate because clearly I care much more about Disney movies than I do about the NCAA basketball tournament. That’s how Monday ended.
In dawning of the next day, because God’s mercies are new each day, I was reminded through the blog of a woman I’ve never heard of that was sent to me from a student leader who has never worked directly for me who I only accidentally bumped into and chatted with for less than 10 seconds on Monday morning (funny how God shows up anyways regardless of what avenues or vessels seem logical or illogical) that:
“We say we want to be brave. We want to have victory over our trials and fears. Victory only can happen when we are training for the fight and engage in the battle. The battle for our minds. The battle for our hearts. The battle to create precious things that matter to the world. Fear would love to steal all of that, but it is up to us to say “Not today… not today, fear. I want to build with love instead.”-Hannah Brencher
What I know in the deepest parts of my soul is that I want to and am making love-based choices and not fear-based choices to shape my life. The caveat is that I cannot pretend the fear and shame don’t exist at all, because they have clearly wreaked havoc in certain parts of my life already. So I will look at the basis of my fear and see what it is trying to tell me so that it doesn’t have to scream so loudly anymore. That screaming desperation, that soul-sucking isolation, that bully that is shame…… I’m taking my God-given power back from it. Slowly, SO FREAKING OBNOXIOUSLY SLOWLY, I am learning and growing and changing.
And let’s be honest. The growth really isn’t measurable at this point. Nothing on the surface of my life looks any different than it did last week or last month or 6 months ago. Except for this:
“So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.” – Pema Chodron
I did that. I am doing that.
I am choosing not to numb or avoid or distract. And sometimes it’s literally about 1.6 seconds instead of less than 1 second, but it is happening. I’m learning how to re-define productivity and maybe it isn’t always synonymous with efficiency. Maybe what is beneficial and helpful can still be productive even if it doesn’t happen on the timeline I was hoping for. As Bill Thrall says
“God is responsible for the outcomes of our obedience.”
I am saying yes; God will take care of the outcome.
So in this brutal, bittersweet, beautiful season, I am gathering my sweet ones around me. Sweet ones like a husband who is still kind, patient, helpful, and forgiving when I am short with him because of the exposing, vulnerable work of going to counseling. Sweet ones like a friend who anticipates when I am going to have a particularly difficult counseling session and does nice things for me because she knows I will be overwhelmed, and loves me on my term with the boundaries I put in place (even if it seems ridiculous) because I felt too vulnerable to look another human in the eye at the time. I let my student leaders celebrate my birthday at our staff meeting by writing me letters of encouragement because words of affirmation is my primary love language, even if it feels vulnerable to let them, so that you have enough fuel in your tank to do your counseling homework after that meeting (because how can I preach to them about vulnerability, letting people meet your needs, and learning to celebrate yourself but not practice it myself?)
You will need people like this as you face the parts of yourself that you have most consistently avoided. Let your people love you and let their love give you the strength, grit, and fortitude to walk into battle with. Let their love remind you that you have something worth fighting for. Certainly the beauty of those relationships qualify (which for me are the easier things to fight for), but even more so, I let their words of affirmation remind me that I am worth fighting for. Fear and pain has already stolen too much, and God’s best for me is worth fighting for.
And here is the best news of all:
Easter Sunday is almost upon us. The glorious reality of things that were dead, lost, and gone can be restored, resurrected, and made new. Tears well in my eyes as I write those words. I could not do this, face all I am facing, without the power of Easter and the hope that Jesus gives me. Hope that things can be different, hope that these parts of my story that I have hated can be redeemed. I want wholeness and freedom, so badly my soul aches for it. And He is bringing it. Easter approaches and the grave cannot hold Him. Which means it cannot hold me. And so I rise. Or as Dr. Maya Angelou would say “Still I Rise.” Truth and hope and courage are out there, sweet ones. Don’t give up.
And as the incredibly wise Dr. Brene Brown decrees at the end of her book “Rising Strong”
“We craft love from heartbreak,
Compassion from shame,
Grace from disappointment,
Courage from failure.
Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.”