Pieces of the heart.
One of the struggles I faced early on when it came to re-beginning “the work” was giving myself permission to even enter into it.
It felt like entering into this new process would undo everything I’ve grown into over the course of many years.
Because here’s the thing.
When I look out over the scope of my spiritual formation, I see one long, circuitous journey ever building on itself. The first 19 years were the foundation stones of my belief. Then, at age 19, I broke open in a type of second conversion. This led to “sitting in the dark” for two straight years, questioning everything I thought I knew about myself and God and willfully asking God to teach me what love meant.
At the end of those two years, I encountered Jesus in a new way. This fundamentally changed me and ushered me into a couple more years spent getting to know this Jesus and letting myself be known by him.
This led, very gradually but naturally, into a more tender heart for others. I began to long for others to know their worth and value in an intimate, real way, the same way I had come to learn my own. This opened my heart and life into informal means of ministry.
After about five or six years of growing into this new and tenderized heart, I received — and then answered — a call to formal ministry, which led to enrolling in graduate studies for spiritual formation and a three-year training program for spiritual direction.
Then, through my graduate studies, I encountered the ideology of nonviolence.
This gripped and changed my life, too.
Now I found my heart broadened from a love for those who are wounded to a love for those who do the wounding. I noticed a deep well of compassion building up in me for those who are victimizers, perpetrators, hardened, and even murderous.
I didn’t fully understand this growing love in me, but I knew it was important. It seemed the natural and eventual outflow of a life changed and gripped by Christ. I wondered how the love that had transformed me might also transform individuals we instinctively dismiss or repel as being too far gone. I wondered how the love that transformed me might perhaps transform society.
In stepping into this new healing work, it felt like all of that evolution of growth in me was getting lost.
Because the truth of the matter is, I’m bumping up against violence here in this healing place — violence done against me — and I am nowhere near a nonviolent response to it.
I’m nowhere near forgiveness or peace. I’m nowhere near compassion for the one who harmed me. I’m nowhere near the rooted, peace-and-love proponent I’ve slowly yet steadily become in the last 15 years.
I’m in a reeling, scared, hurt, and angry place.
Perhaps you can see why I’d be unwilling to give myself permission to enter into this new part of my story that emerged in that fateful session with my spiritual director last month. Perhaps you can see why I’d not want to touch it with a 10-foot-pole once I began to feel some of the feelings tied to it.
Would this new journey erase those 15 years?
Was I not a real proponent of nonviolence if I couldn’t respond to this revelation with willing charity and forgiveness?
These are the questions I’d begun asking myself, and this is where the wisdom of Debbie, my therapist, was a God-send.
“What if we thought of it this way?” she said when I met with her last week. “I think of our hearts having been fractured because of the Fall. They’re broken into pieces. And the work of redemption, or our spiritual formation, is the healing and restoration of those pieces to wholeness.”
As she said all this, I nodded vigorously. I believe this to be true.
She continued, “What if pieces of your heart — the pieces you’ve known all these years to be growing into love and a nonviolent response — are pieces that have been restored to wholeness, but this new part over here hasn’t? Could there be room for this new part to go through the process, too?”
Man, she’s wise.
I guess what I want to say here is that if you’re scared to enter into the process, you’re not alone. I’m scared, too! Nor are you cuckoo for fearing you’ll lose whatever growth you’ve realized already in your life. I’m scared of this, too!
But also hear this, just as I am hearing it: That growth isn’t gone. You haven’t lost it. It’s not irrelevant, and it’s not erased. It really happened. It’s still real. It’s just that there’s another part — a newly discovered part — that needs to experience that same kind of growth. It needs to be given a chance to learn what the other parts of yourself have already learned.
Is this helpful for you to hear? Can you relate to the fears I’ve been feeling at the outset of this process?