Vulnerable

Friends,

I am in the midst of some of my greatest struggles, and I feel more alone than I have in a long time. I love people but I have an ability to give this impression that they know me without ever letting them close. History has taught me when you let people close to you it ends poorly and so I built walls. These walls have created the very isolation I now struggle with when my life feels unstable. Yet God keeps reminding me to “Be loved.”

Tonight, I’ll be vulnerable about my desire for a husband and children. This desire is so deep and so full that sometimes my heart aches. That desire for children has only started in the last year or two and the husband not much longer than that. Even with my ex’s and their families pointing out my deep capacity to love and care for them, to build a home… I had this impression that motherhood was beyond my capabilities.

But I believe God changed my heart. I went on a prayer retreat where we prayed for our future husbands, ourselves, God, etc. A tangible thing that came out of that was feeling like I should get off of birth control. This facilitated conversation with my migraine doctor which taught me what I’d need to know when I was getting ready for pregnancy.

And I want it. I’m taking these steps because I am hoping that God will show up behind this with a man after God’s heart, full of intellect, wit and kindness and who is ready for a home and family. Someone who loves community.

It’s why I’m selecting the car I’m going to pick. I could get a car that would work for now but I want God to know I believe He’ll show up for me here. I’ll buy something that will work for a family. I’m betting on God and not the whispers that tell me that the only one capable of loving me is God; that I missed my chance at a family because of the poor choices of my past…

God, I believe that these desires didn’t appear without purpose. I believe you mean for me to have a husband and a family; help me with my disbelief and heal my heart so it can receive the love you send it, Abba. AMEN.

 

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A Few Songs

So much is changing right now and I get why everyone else thinks this should be so easy, so hope-filled. Why my “burden should be light.” I know I am making things harder than they need to be. But that is, perhaps, why it is my journey and not theirs. God is wiser than we are.

 

I’m not going to write much here but love, marriage, family and home keeps popping up. Sometimes I give thanks, sometimes I lament; often I do both. These songs seem to be speaking to me right now so I just wanted to document a few of them.

Centering, Emptying, Grounding, Connecting

The fourth chapter of Brian Seaward’s Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water looked at the seasons of the soul and I found many of his reflections profoundly helpful. Centering, emptying, grounding and connecting are the four processes reviewed and are all deeply rewarding and necessary but also have challenges that accompany each of them.

Centering, or entering the heart and quieting the mind, is the first step and for some the hardest. It is creating a quiet space for the divine to speak into. “In the words of Jesus of Nazareth, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’” (pg. 125) It is important to do this activity daily, even if only for a short time, to try to have a designated space, and to have it be quiet.

The second is emptying, where we let go and release those things we no longer need.  It can be thoughts, ideas, memories, etc. but they are weights that hold us down. Emptying out creates space for new ideas, insights, and growth. The author claims this is the hardest and often is accompanied by grief and avoidance. “Stressors are not so much a spiritual breakdown as opportunities for a spiritual breakthrough. Our moments of despair are the soul’s attempt to take that first step into the void.” (pg. 139) This is not a place to get stuck, as many do, but to rest in the momentary but profound freedom this brief emptiness offers. “When we understand and appreciate the balance, we can see how necessary the emptying process is to becoming whole.” (pg. 143)

Third is the grounding process, the space in which we are reminded of our basic connection to God; when we seek for insights from something beyond ourselves. Dreams and vision quests are paths used but there is always communication happening outside of these two things; it is often a matter of receptivity which is more a process then an outcome. “Just as you cannot push water uphill, you cannot demand enlightenment. Discipline and patience are essential in the grounding process.” (pg. 153) Another space you will find this is in moments of synchronicity, where we see that all things are linked and that the divine can speak to us through those ties. In other words, two events that might separately have no great meaning together speak a greater truth to us. This is, in part, what Sophy Burnham refers to when she, “…eloquently suggests in her acclaimed bestseller A Book of Angels, the voice of God has many mouths. Insights, inspirations, and revelations can come from relatives, friends and even strangers.” (pg. 157) To hear from God provides stability through the divine instead of our own foundations.

The final process is connecting, relationship. From the Apostle Paul to African Proverbs to Chief Seattle, our interconnectedness to each other and the world is impossible to deny. “From a Taoist perspective, when we see ourselves as separate from the whole, we not only distance ourselves from nature, we isolate ourselves from other people as well. In turn, this distance weakens our spiritual health and suffocates our very essence.” (pg. 161) As science began to recognize that we were all energy, Jung with Einstein formulated the idea of a collective unconscious, a universal mind. Later, in his autobiography, Jung noted that which he had labeled the unconscious could just as well be God. Shifting from grounding to connecting is found in both receiving and giving. Viktor Frankl, a psychologist and concentration camp survivor, “…wrote in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning: “We had to learn from ourselves and we had to teach disparaging men that it did not matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.” (pg. 164) This communal, interconnected life we all share asks something of us, and we give to it, enter into community and this final phase, through and out of love and compassion.

God and Us: Compassion Versus Pity

Compassion is made up of two Latin roots married together which means “to suffer with.”  This is an action word, it requires you to be in the midst of something. Beside the person in their state of suffering. What this can often look like is pity. The Latin root of pity is “piety” but most definitions (Webster) look something along the lines of “to feel xxx for.”

Does it sound like an almost indiscernible difference? Like they are interchangeable? If we think back to the most painful loss that we’ve every experienced, at that point we most likely wanted someone to mourn “with” rather than someone who felt something “for” us.  In many instances, a “with” versus a “for” can make a big difference. When I think of my best mentors, leaders, pastors, teachers, they were the ones that exhibited compassion and empathy, not pity. So where do we see this modeled?

In the book Compassionate Ministry, Bryan Stone uses the example of Jesus since he is probably the most perfect example of compassion the world has ever seen. Is it because Jesus literally suffered with every one of us, collectively gathering our sin from each of us and lifting it from us, bearing our burden. Jesus is more in the midst of our collective suffering than we are. We experience a fraction of the amount Jesus bears for the world. Jesus is with us. How then, can we model Christ? Let us look at the words of Paul to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:1-3 “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.…”

When Bad Things Happen to Good People… and God

This video is a lecture by Rabbi Harold Kushner and he knows something about this topic. The video is going to seem dated, but there is a lot to be learned from what he has to say. It is nearly an hour long but I encourage you to find time for the whole thing. Some of it might feel encouraging, scary, healing, uncomfortable or even dangerous. I would just recommend taking it all in. I don’t think you’ll regret it.