Beginning the Work Again :: Tears for What I See


Looking at the brokenness.

I mentioned in my last post that I experienced tenderness in the aftermath of my healing experience and that I came to see it as what emerged when my heart, fresh and new, became exposed to the elements. 

But it’s also because of what I can see now.

I was in the long-ingrained habit of looking away from some things, and one memory in particular. It was a scene from which I averted my eyes whenever it came into my awareness. I just couldn’t look at it. To do so was to wince and shudder. To do so was to relive it all over again.

But now, because of Jesus, I can see it. 

And not only can I see it, but I also see it for what it is. 

I’m seeing truth — the truth of what happened, and the truth of its injustice. And that, too, is a reason for the tears.

One thing I didn’t mention in the entry about my healing experience is how much I cried. When I met Jesus in that memory and experienced him with me inside of it, I put my head on the desk and just sobbed. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever done that for this particular memory, and it felt good to release the tears and honor the pain of what had happened after all these years.

Then, when I was driving to my therapy session last Thursday, I connected with the truth of the experience in a different way. It was crazy-stormy in Florida that day. The clouds were dark and hovering, the rain like sheets. Everyone crept along the roads the best they could.

And inside my car, I played one song over and over again on the stereo. It was written by a girl who struggled to face the truth of her own difficult experience. The song charts her progression into that truth with a growing strength. “It’s not right … it’s not right,” she begins to repeat about halfway through the song. And then, harmonies tight and strong, she proclaims, “No.”

As I let this song companion me on my drive, I began to realize that another part of the emotion I’m carrying is the acknowledgment of injustice. That what happened was wrong. That it breaks God’s heart, too, even as he offered me his calmness and strength and peace and love in that moment of healing. 

There’s something amazing about God’s ability to see truth while extending mercy. It’s a profound duality I’m holding in my heart a lot right now. It’s something I’m seeking to learn.

Beginning the Work Again :: It Continues Into Truth

Entry. Where will the path take you?

Now, begin.

I shared yesterday that I’m going to spend the next few posts in this series recalling specific aspects of the formation process that I learned or found helpful the first time I walked through my own process of intentional formation — aspects I am personally needing to remember right now, as I step through yet another curve in my formation “spiral.”

Please know this part of the series isn’t meant to be prescriptive, in the sense of spelling out a “1-2-3” checklist for you to follow or a “Do this, and you’ll get results!” claim. Rather, it’s meant to make the formation process a bit more concrete — to show at least one way it can look, and has looked, for someone else.

I see these posts a little bit like waymakers, like markers on the path or dots upon a map. How we get from one point to the next will look different for everyone, and the kind of terrain we cross to get from one point to another on our personal map also is unique from one story to the next. But the markers at least lay out some territory. They hold, or contain, a scope of journey.

With that said, then, let me share this second observation: 

After awareness comes truth. 

This part can take a while. 

This is the part of the formation process that helps us learn what we’re really dealing with here. It’s where we begin to uncover what’s real, and we stare at it. It’s where we examine events and their impact. It’s where we notice what’s true inside ourselves, for real.

It can be scary as all get out.

Because often, we’re looking at things we haven’t allowed ourselves to see before. Sometimes it’s things we experienced, and sometimes it’s things we have done.

Also, this part often includes questioning things we’ve accepted without question until now. Sometimes it’s the case that things went unquestioned for survival’s sake, and they worked and were necessary for a certain length of time. But now they’re ready to be questioned. Now it’s time to reconsider.

And again, it can take a while.

The first time I walked through an intentional formation process, the truth component took years. I don’t say that to scare you away from this process, but rather to acknowledge the importance of this step. This is where we really learn what’s true about ourselves and our stories, at least to the level we’re currently able to understand and see them.

Our first time engaging with God in a process like this also tends to impact the length of time different phases take, since the first time around, everything’s new. Everything’s discovery. 

And sometimes this part of the process takes a while simply because looking at what’s real scares us. I know that, for me, the things I’m working through right now are particularly difficult to look at and acknowledge. I’ve spent just over a month now going back and forth with what I’m holding — moving toward truth and then swerving away, simply because the truths I’m dealing with are difficult and painful to see. 

I expect I’ll be in this truth phase for a while yet. 

And that’s OK. We take the time we need. God is infinitely patient with us in our process. 

In this truth phase, you might find that therapy or counseling is a welcome and necessary companion to you in the process. There is no shame in seeking this kind of help — and it can actually be the most wise thing you do for yourself. We don’t always have the skills in our own toolset to work through certain things, and neither do our friends and family much of the time, either. It can be helpful to have a specific skilled, confidential, and objective place to process some of the truths we see.

So, truth. Such a hard but essential part of the process. But this is where we start to learn what God sees and what God intends to do.

What are your thoughts on this truth component of the formation process? Is there anything you’d add that hasn’t been mentioned? Any questions about this?

The Body Series: Grace and Truth in the Body

Suffused with grace.

All he does is suffused with grace.

A great deal of my journey into love had to do with learning grace. I just didn’t “get” grace. Why did I need it, really? Oh, yes. I’m a sinner from birth and all of us fall short of the glory of God. We all need it. 

But truthfully? 

That didn’t mean anything to me.

I wasn’t in touch with my “sin nature,” nor was I quite in touch with my actual sins when I committed them. And I most certainly wasn’t in touch with my belovedness. 

And so during that dark season when I sat down on the ground of my life and decided I wouldn’t get up until I understood God’s love for me, it had a lot to do with learning grace. 

Do you want to know what I learned about grace? 

It meant not having to perform. It meant being accepted exactly as I am. It meant not having to watch my every single move to the left or right, constantly gauging whether it was the exact right move. It meant the world wouldn’t fall apart if I didn’t hold it — and myself — together. It meant being allowed to be flawed and still being completely loved.

It was a revelation. God’s grace covered all my “sins” — which, strictly translated, means “missing the mark,” like when you’re shooting an arrow at a bull’s eye target. I didn’t have to hit that perfectly round and narrow mark with every single move. If I “missed,” God’s grace covered the miss.

God freed me from my perfectionism. That’s what God’s grace did for me.

My prayer today.

Don’t ever deprive me of your truth. Not ever.

The reason I share this with you is because of something one reader, Katy, shared in response to yesterday’s post. She wrote: 

I think that I became more in-tune with my body when I became more in-tune with my emotions … I started paying a lot of attention to how my emotions were affecting my physical health, and how my physical health was affecting my emotions. Now I know that being sad or mad or stressed can give me stomach issues, and that eating low-sugar, high protein meals helps with my anxiety. The better I eat and the more I exercise, the better my mental state.

I read these words and thought, I need to understand that better

And the reason I need to understand it better is because my experience of increased emotional health led to gaining weight, to the point of being overweight for the first time in my life. Was I not as emotionally healthy as I thought I was? Did I miss a right turn somewhere? 

I think, for me, this has something to do with growing into a greater balance of grace and truth. 

One of my absolute favorite passages in the Scriptures is John 1:14, which says of Jesus that he was the “fullness of grace and truth.” In his being, he held them both in fullness of measure and perfection.

Grace. Truth. Together.

Sometimes I think the ongoing journey of spiritual formation can be summed up by saying it’s about growing into the fullness of grace and truth together. When I encountered my need to understand grace because the idea of it bounced off me like a ball against a wall, I was way far over on the truth side of things. I know now that I was pretty much like a Pharisee. 

And so I started to learn grace. And once I found it, I bathed in it. Soaked in it. Relished its amazing gift. Fell so in love with Jesus. Bowed down in gratitude. 

To the point where grace showed up in my treatment of my body. I savored rich foods in ways I never had before. I celebrated a lot. I welcomed the enjoyment of a good meal the way I was learning to welcome myself and those around me in full acceptance in the presence of God. 

Just like we can fill up on truth to the exclusion of grace, I think we can do the same with grace: fill ourselves up on grace to the exclusion of truth. 

But Jesus is the fullness of both. And that is perfection and glory and beauty and perhaps the real definition of love. 

On my body journey right now, I’m in the process of pulling truth back into the mix — while keeping grace alive. 

How might you describe your own body journey in the context of grace and truth?

Into This Dark Night: Seeing All the Dust Particles

We're at the Plaza Theatre to see the Civil Wars, and our seats are incredible. Yeah!

The spiritual blindness that happens in the night of the spirit happens because the divine light of God is brighter than the eyes of our soul can handle. This is one reason the night of the spirit hurts — because our souls, being human, are much weaker than the brightness of the divine light of God. 

John of the Cross says this: 

“The light and wisdom of this contemplation are so pure and bright and the soul it invades is so dark and impure that their meeting is going to be painful. When the eyes are bad — impure and sickly — clear light feels like an ambush and it hurts.”

There’s another reason the night of the spirit is so painful, though, and it’s because what the soul is able to see when the divine light shines upon it are all its imperfections. 

The saint describes it this way: 

“Consider common, natural light: a sunbeam shines through a window. The freer the air is from little specks of dust, the less clearly we see the ray of light. The more motes that are floating in the air, the more clearly the sunbeam appears to our eyes. This is because light itself is invisible. Light is the means by which the things it strikes are perceived.”

The light of God is a sunbeam on the soul, and our native imperfections are dust motes and particles floating through the air, now clearly visible because of that ray of light. The sudden, acute awareness of all these imperfections makes the soul in this place feel quite wretched. 

Remember, the soul that has entered the night of the spirit has already endured the night of the senses. Her love for God has been purified a great deal, and she has come to a place of being wildly in love with God

Seeing her impurities through the searing light of God undoes her.

She feels these impurities will separate her from the lover of her soul, God, forever. 

Living a Rhythmed Life: What Do You Wish You Could Do?

It looks like Narnia.

Hi there, friends. 

Toward the beginning of our series on living a rhythmed life, I invited you to create a discernment tree to get a wholistic picture of all that’s happening in your world right now. And then yesterday, I shared that this week in the series, we’re starting to hone in on practicalities. 

At the end of the week, we’re going to start making some decisions. 

Up until that point, though, I’m going to invite you to add a few more components to your discernment tree. 

Yesterday’s component was that of calling. I asked, “Do you have a sense of call?”

If you do, add the truth of that calling to your discernment tree page — perhaps at the bottom of the page, underneath the fullness of your tree. It will serve as a guiding principle for you as you begin the process of making decisions later this week. 

(Sidenote: I spoke with a friend this morning who shared that her answer to the question, “Do you have a sense of call?” was “No.” However, she does have a very strong sense of important values that she wants to mark her life. If you have a sense of values that you want to mark your life, feel free to write those down at the bottom of your discernment tree, too.) 

Today, I want to ask you the question: 

What do you wish you could do? 

Our discernment trees are all about surveying what’s really “there” in our lives right now — all of our commitments, all of our daily routines, all of the pieces that make up the fullness of our reality. 

But what about the parts you can’t include right now? What about the hobbies you really love but just can’t get to, or simply haven’t? What activities have been sitting on the sidelines that you miss or wish you had time to explore? What aspects of life do you wish could be included in your daily, weekly, or monthly routine?

Today’s activity isn’t about looking at what is but allowing ourselves to voice what we wish could be.

It’s about dwelling in possibility.

Again, if you’re able, give yourself permission not to judge or make decisions about your particular wishes right now. Just write them down at the bottom of your discernment tree.

What things do you wish you could do?

Living a Rhythmed Life: How It's a Practice in Self-Care

Growth in small places.

Hi there, friends. 

Today’s post in the “living a rhythmed life” series is a bit of an extension of yesterday’s post about the reality of limits in our lives.

Sometimes we want — and try — to do more than we really can. We try to stretch time. We try to stretch energy. We try to stretch ourselves so that we can do everything we either want to do or feel that we have to do. 

That is a degradation of self.

When we push and push and push, trying to do it all, we’re ignoring the reality of our minds and bodies and spirits. We’re making “the thing out there” more important than the reality of the actual embodied and spirited selves “in here,” closer to home. 

We just can’t do it all. 

And so tuning in to who we are, how we’re made and wired, and what we’re meant to do — and honoring that truth with the way we live our lives — is a continual practice in self-care. Honoring the self you really are. Not pushing beyond your limits, but living within what’s real and true. 

What is it like for you to regard the rhythmed life as a means of self-care in this way?

A Turn in the Suffering :: When It Creates a Reckoning

Welcome into the light.

I’ve shared here previously that I walked through a marital separation and divorce in 2003-2004 and that it was an experience that created a heavy cloak of shame that I wore the length of my body every single day. 

I remember sojourning back to California from the Midwest, where I’d been living the previous year, with all that belonged to my name packed in the backseat and trunk of my little white Volkswagen Jetta. I arrived at my dad’s house, which would be my new home for the first part of that new season, and stepped into the tiny guest bedroom feeling all out of sorts and wondering what, exactly, my life had become. 

I was starting over. Starting from scratch. Re-entering the familiar context of my hometown, surrounded by people I’d known my whole life, but nothing was the same. 

Those first few months created a cocooning of sorts inside my soul. I would hole up in my room at the end of each day and play Sarah McLachlan’s new album over and over and over. I sat in that room with the door closed tight behind me. It was the safest place I knew.

And it was grief. Disorientation. A place where I pulled my shame cloak just a little tighter about my shoulders each day. 

But I’ve also shared that, eventually, I began to rethink all the beliefs that had been stamped into my soul through that experience. That was I worthless and thrown away … but no, I was beautiful to Jesus. That I was a single girl on her own for the first time … but no, I was now the bride of Christ. That I was less than desirable … but no, Jesus found me to be lovely

And then, in what was one of the most pivotal moments of turning around inside that season, there was the belief that my shame was merited because my new life as a divorced woman was counterfeit … but no, God sees me as Christianne, his daughter, not Christianne, his divorced daughter.

It became a season of reckoning. 

My suffering brought me face to face with what I truly believed about myself, others, and God. And by leaning into what those beliefs really were, God and I could look plainly at them together. In the context of that painful honesty, he could begin the work of reforming my crumbled foundation. 

He Can Handle All Your Truth


Do you know that moment when sunlight hits a person’s eyes and their eyes become so clear you feel you can see straight into their soul? 

That is what I saw in Jesus’ eyes this morning. 

We were on the seashore, walking into the rising sun of mid-morning. I was a few steps ahead of him, turned to face him as he walked straight ahead, and I was waiting for the next words out of his mouth after those he spoke yesterday regarding you

The sunlight hit his eyes, and he said it: 

“I can handle all their truth.” 

What is it like for Jesus to be able to handle all your truth?

I think it’s kind of like a young child in the presence of their parent, scared to tell them the truth of something they’ve done. To them, it is the worst possible thing they can imagine having done in the small sphere of their whole wide world that they’ve experienced up to this point in their little life. 

But to the parent, there is nothing the child could have done that the parent can’t handle.

Why? Because the parent has a larger sphere of knowledge and experience. The parent’s scope of life is broader and deeper and stronger than the child’s. They can handle truth from a child-sized view, whatever that truth may be. 

That’s just a small glimpse of the way Jesus is with us. 

His scope of knowledge is broader and deeper than we can imagine. He knows all things — he is the source of all that exists, after all. He created it. He created us. And he has complete knowledge of us already.

So whatever we tell him isn’t a surprise. It doesn’t break him. He is too strong to be broken. 

If Jesus is strong enough to handle all of your truth, what truth would you speak to him?

How Grace and Truth Relate

Reading the psalms.

I mentioned in a previous post that the first thing I learned in my long journey of coming to understand grace and my need for Jesus was the reality of grace — that grace is the aspect of God that invites us closer to him wholeheartedly and without a single reservation. It’s about our full acceptance and welcome in the presence of God, no strings attached.

This was a pretty huge paradigm shift for me. 

I knew my whole life that God’s love was unconditional and that Jesus created a way for us to have full access to God — but really, that idea lived mostly in my head. I didn’t really understand unconditional love and acceptance because I’d lived most of my life inside rules and conditions.

So the journey into grace was about learning to breathe and receive my love and worth before God. And it took several long and searching years for me to find that path, let me tell you.

But I’ve come to believe it is this foundation of grace that prepares us for the truth of God. I’ve come to believe that no matter how long it takes or how hard-won the journey might be, it is the most essential reality God desires us to receive through our life with Christ.

When we look at Jesus, we are told that he is “the fullness of grace and truth” (John 1:14). What does that really mean? 

It means that somehow, in love, grace and truth peacefully coexist and belong together. 

But without a foundation of grace firmly rooted inside us first, without knowing in a visceral, very real way our full welcome and acceptance with God, then words of truth — and particularly words of correction — only strike us as harsh and shaming. All we hear in words of truth is that we’re going the wrong way and need to go the right way, as though going the right way is more important than who we are.

At least, that has been my experience. Has that been yours?

But once we are in a relationship of full acceptance and embrace, knowing that nothing we do wrong will remove that full embrace and that standing invitation of welcome, we can read these words that David wrote in the psalms …

Train me, God, to walk straight;

   then I’ll follow your truth path.

Put me together, one heart and mind;

   then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.

— Psalm 86:11 

… and give thanks and make them our prayer.

In a loving, grace-filled relationship, the truth that teaches us to walk straight becomes a gift. It becomes a gentle and loving guide intended for our good. It becomes an object of hope, rather than a ruler of judgment. It becomes something for which we give thanks.

What is your experience of grace and truth? Where in the journey into either do you find yourself today?

You Needn't Be Scared of Him

Life sprouts in unexpected places.

I think it’s easy to think about God and be scared of him. Or even to think about Jesus, God made human, and be scared. After all, this is God we’re talking about. He’s holy and righteous. He set the world spinning. He gave us a moral conscience and cares about right and wrong. 

This morning, as I looked into the eyes of Jesus, I saw him acknowledging this — how easy it is to be afraid of him. 

But I also saw him asking me to tell you that you needn’t be afraid. 

There’s a story in the Chronicles of Narnia about Aslan the lion. He’s a huge lion with all the strength of a thousand men, and he can be quite ferocious, especially when confronting evil or protecting what is lovely.

And yet he befriends young children. He gives his own life to save the wayward one of them. He walks and talks with them, and they absolutely love him. 

There’s a line in that story about this lion named Aslan. They say: 

“He isn’t safe, but he’s good.” 

It’s so easy to equate safety with goodness, isn’t it? At least for me, it’s easy to equate the two. But that’s not what Jesus offers. He offers his goodness. He offers our best. He gives us the truth, even if the truth is hard to look at. 

But he’s good. He’s full of love. 

Do you ever feel scared of God? What scares you about him? What is it like to consider the invitation of Jesus not to be afraid? 

Be Honest

Offering stones.

One of the things God most values is the truth from your inmost being. Did you know that?

Throughout the Scriptures, we see examples of people who behaved one way — as though they loved and served God — but weren’t connected to God at all inside themselves. They were more concerned with their actions and keeping up appearances than connecting to God in a real and honest way. 

But consider the people Jesus met and how he responded to them.

When coming upon his small band of disciples for the first time, they immediately left what they were doing to follow him. They left jobs, income, families, and any standing in society they had in order to walk and talk with Jesus and learn from him. The truth of their hearts dictated their actions: they simply wanted to be with Jesus.

Then Jesus met another man who knew the limitations of his faith and simply confessed it: “I believe; help me with my unbelief.” With this declaration of truth, the man and Jesus had a real encounter. They were able to communicate. Jesus was able to meet him where he was and respond to his request because it was real.

Consider the rich young ruler who wanted to know how to get into heaven. He had followed all the commands of the Scriptures, but Jesus knew what really held the man’s heart: his wealth. So Jesus asked the man to give his wealth to the poor. He was unable to do it and went away sad. He didn’t know the truth of his heart, but Jesus did. 

Wherever you are — in a place of all-out abandonment to God, in a place of doubt and insecurity in your faith, or in a place of loving other things more than God — God simply wants the truth. That is where real relationship can begin. 

What is the truth of your heart today? How can you express that honestly to God in order to meet God in a real and true way?