Where Is the Strength in Your Life?

I love a good tree.

In the early days of dating Kirk, he shared something that really stuck out to me. He said:

“If you’re the strongest person in your whole world, you’ll get really exhausted.”

It’s so true.

Think about it. If everyone else looks to you for strength and you’re the one propping your own self up, when do you get to rest? Where is the place you get to go to let go of holding it all together? Where can you just be held in someone else’s strength? 

I’m certainly familiar with this paradigm. I spent the whole of my life being a strong one — both for myself and for other people — without even realizing that was my guiding compass for life. And once the lightbulb turned on and I realized my whole existence teemed with that unrelenting dynamic, I got really, really tired. 

It’s like I suddenly realized I’d been holding up the whole world, a self-chosen and self-made Atlas, and I really didn’t have the strength to do it for one more minute. 

Would anybody ever hold me?

Thankfully, I found Jesus. He now gets to be the stronger one in my life. 

And learning vulnerability with other people — trusting them to carry strength they can offer to me if needed, too — has been a saving grace in my life more and more these days. 

Even though I often slip back into earth-shouldering Atlas mode still today, it’s such a relief to realize I can let go of that burden once I realize I’m doing it and choose, instead, to find strength that holds up the world elsewhere.

Who or what is shouldering the strength in your life right now? Is it God, yourself, other people, something else? What is it like for you to live in that reality?

Living in the True Self

Bougainville in light.

I was in a session with my spiritual director yesterday, and we talked quite a bit about the true self — the self God created when he created us, the self into which it is his ever-continuing intention to form us throughout our lives. 

There was a moment in my time of prayer during the session when I could see three selves inside of me, two of them false and one of them true. 

The two false selves exist on the extremes of a pendulum.

On the far right is the self that wants and seeks to be super-human. This is the self that wants to create magic, to be the irreplaceable part of other people’s lives, to be the savior for another person’s quandary. It’s the self that exists under extreme pressure to live up to some ideal of perfection and shininess in order to be needed and wanted and utterly indispensable to others and to this world.

On the far left is a completely opposite self. This self exists in the shadows, behind a heavy curtain, cloaked in shame. This is the self who walks with eyes downcast, ashamed to meet other people eye to eye. It is the self who shrinks from being seen, the self who lurches into coffee shops and grocery stores and the post office and drives down the road with a sense of unworthiness and fear. It is the self who apologizes all the time for merely existing.

Neither of these selves are true.

And I’m so thankful for long-standing relationships, like the one I have with my director, Elaine, that can be a place of reminder. Because of our long-standing relationship, Elaine was able to remind me — through concrete examples — of the true self I have come to know and embody and embrace through my relationship with Christ.

This is the self who walks on the beach with Jesus regularly. It is the self who took a four-month journey through the woods with Jesus, even though I didn’t know what would transpire in those woods or what would emerge on the other side of them. It is the self who eventually came upon a village with Jesus and who sits on benches and rocks and walls and front-porch stoops with him. 

It is the self who knows Jesus and is completely free and strong and fully alive and full of joy in his presence.

There is no shame present at all in my true self, and no need at all for magic. Just being.

The true self lives in honest and glad surrender to these truths: Jesus alone is the one who holds and offers and is the magic. And with Jesus, there is no evidence or place for shame.

Have you met your true self yet? What is that self like? When do you most often inhabit and live inside your true self?

Are you familiar, as I am, with the pendulum that swings from one false self to another? What is your false self (or selves) like? What does your false self seek? How might companioning with Jesus help bring you back to center, to living in the rest and assurance and joy of the true self he created when he created you?

Letting the Truth Be the Truth

Colored bricks.

I shared recently that I’ve been experiencing emotions that are quite new and powerful to me. They rise up, quite unexpected, and honestly unsettle me.

I’m not used to feeling my heart on my sleeve. I’m the kind of person who takes in an experience and ponders it slowly, deciding how I feel about it and how I want to respond. I’m slow to feel, you might say, always wanting my feelings to match what seems most fitting or right or true to a situation. 

As much as I have often thought that approach to my emotions is the equivalent of wisdom, I’m learning these days, as I experience my emotions much more in the moment, that it keeps me from really knowing myself. This slow to feel approach has served as a shield of sorts — a shield that keeps me from knowing my heart, my emotions, my true response to situations, and even, in some ways, the depths of my own depravity.

That’s not always helpful. 

And so God has been giving me the gift of my emotions lately, even as they don’t feel much like a gift at all. When the emotions are hard, or when they cause me to sin against another in my heart, I wish this gift wasn’t being given to me at all. 

And yet I can read the psalms and be reminded that this is, in fact, a good thing: 

Count yourself lucky — 

God holds nothing against you

and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,

my bones turned to powder,

my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;

all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;

I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”

Suddenly the pressure was gone —

my guilt dissolved,

my sin disappeared.

— Psalm 32:2-5

Those images of bones turning to powder, of pressure never letting up, and of the juices of one’s life completely drying up … they’re pretty vivid, aren’t they? We get this sense of what happens when we hold everything in and don’t let it out. Our bones dissolve to powder from the pressure of holding those feelings down and down and down. Just like a covered pot of steaming food will eventually dry up if it’s left covered too long, so will the juices of our own lives dry up when we hold inside the truth of the emotions we feel. 

So I’m doing as the psalmist says today and counting myself lucky. I’m lucky because the truth of my emotions can’t go unnoticed right now, and so I bring that truth to God. And in the places where those emotions cause me to sin, I confess it and am set free. 

On Being Tied to Others


Recently, I had an experience that was pretty visceral. I was feeling pretty beat up and insecure, and I put out an SOS call to my spiritual director, Elaine. Thankfully, she had some time to connect with me by phone that day, and after pouring out my woes, I landed on an image to describe the way I felt. 

In the image, I was three years old with a ponytail on the top of my head, and people were grabbing me by that ponytail and banging me around at whim. 

Ouch. Pretty visceral, right? 

What absolutely broke my heart was seeing my own response inside that image. I was flinging my arms out wide in a desperate attempt to grab the leg of the one(s) flinging me around, trying valiantly to grab hold and hang on tight, as if to say, “Love me! Care for me! Approve of me! Want me!”

Ouch again. This is me in one of my most vulnerable places. I struggle with things like this.

Thank goodness for Elaine. She asked if Jesus was there, and he was.

I wouldn’t have seen Jesus if she hadn’t asked me to notice him. 

But when she asked me to notice Jesus, there he was, sitting on a set of steps in front of a brownstone walk-up residence off to the side. All that flinging and flailing was happening in the middle of a neighborhood street, and Jesus sat quietly on the brownstone steps, facing the street, watching the scene unfold before him.

I found it interesting he didn’t try to rescue me. He didn’t get off the steps and interfere in the incident. Instead, he looked at me with calmness and knowledge in his demeanor and his eyes and simply communicated, “You don’t have to take that.”

It was like I had a choice. Really? 

So I gave it a shot. I disentangled myself from the abusive swinging and banging around, and I went to sit by Jesus on the steps. And as soon as I sat down, it was like I came back into possession of my whole self. I was 32 years old, inhabiting the fullness of my story, my life, and my body. 

I was whole and pulsing with aliveness. Jesus and I sat shoulder to shoulder, looking out on the neighborhood street before us, and talked like two adults who know, love, and respect each other. 

Do you struggle with something similar — being tied to the whims of others, enslaved to their approval or treatment? What might it be like to receive the full acceptance and respect of the companionship of Jesus instead? 

Learning Your Heart: Sometimes Therapy Helps

Trail of candles.

Here is something true.

Once you acknowledge those subtle intimations and allow yourself time to collect and reflect on key moments in your life, a whole new and unexpected world begins to open up. You become more in touch with the breadth and depth of your story, and you begin to disentangle yourself from what is merely expectation versus truth. 

You strike out on the path of greater self-awareness, and here’s the difficult part: sometimes the path gets quite thorny indeed.

Who are we? What roles have we played in the world and the lives of those around us? Are those roles true? Are they healthy? What do we believe about God? How did we come to believe those things? Do those beliefs align with what is really true about God? These are just some of the questions that present themselves as we allow those subtle intimations and key moments a voice in our lives, and let’s be honest: these are great, big questions.

This is where I’ve found that therapy can be quite helpful. It creates a safe place to sift through the pieces of our lives with an eye toward greater self-awareness, conviction, and healing, and it provides for a safe and concrete relationship in which to take small steps deeper into the truth of who we are.

Sometimes the help of a trained professional can be the greatest, most generous gift we give ourselves. 

I have been there. It’s not something I’m ashamed to admit, nor is it something I’m shy to recommend. Making sense of our world and the truth of our inmost beliefs and deepest experiences on our own can be confusing and overwhelming, and sometimes we can do more harm than good to ourselves when navigating these waters on our own or only the help of well-meaning friends.

Therapy is not for everyone, and it’s certainly important to find someone who is competent, caring, safe, and professional for this kind of working relationship. But the bottom line is this: you don’t have to navigate the territory of your story and your heart all on your own.

What are your thoughts on therapy? Is it something you’ve found helpful in your own journey? Do you have misgivings or hesitations about it?

The Light Is Bright, but It's Good

More pink little pads.

I’ve been sharing with you lately about the image of a city that Jesus keeps giving to me regarding you. It is a huge and massive city inhabited by a great many people. Tall buildings have been erected in that place. People live and work inside those buildings. It is a busy and bustling city, and everyone moves around inside it, doing what they are expected to do. 

But their hearts lack hope. 

This is the place where Jesus has entered and is setting out to find and give you life. 

I mentioned in one of those previous posts that he is unrelenting in his plans to find you — that he will seek out every nook and cranny and even the dark and hidden corners in order to bring you the life and love that he has to offer you. 

This morning, I sat with that image of dark and hidden corners.

I could see a deep, dark hallway nestled into one of those tall, concrete buildings on a busy thoroughfare. The hallway’s entrance was just off the street. And I could see a person pushed deep into the dark corner of that hallway. 

That dark corner had become their safe place. It had become their home. It had become their place to hide from all that is dark and scary and threatening and unsafe in the outside world, just outside the hallway on the street and beyond. 

Jesus sees that hallway and that person — perhaps that person is you — and is entering into it. 

When I thinking about Jesus entering into that dark hallway to encounter the person hiding there, I can imagine it might feel intimidating.

It makes me think about what happens when I come home late at night and enter the bedroom to turn on the light and find my little girl cat, Diva, asleep on the bed. The sudden infusion of light in the room startles her, and her eyes wince against it. She’s disoriented and not ready to wake up, and it takes a few moments for her to get her bearings and warm up to the idea of being awake and re-engaged with the world around her. 

So I wait for her to adjust to the light, and I stroke her head as I sit and wait. 

I know that once her eyes adjust, the connection we’ll enjoy together in the light is better than the solitude she experienced in the dark. In that dark solitude, she could experience nothing of her surrounding reality. There was only darkness, and she was alone.

But in the light and connection of our shared time together, she receives love and attention and enjoyment and touch. She can play. She can rest. She can ask for what she wants. And she can see so much more of her surroundings. Her reality is broadened. Her experience is more full.

Can you see yourself in this picture? Do you identify with the image of the darkened hallway? What is it like to consider Jesus coming into that place with you, bringing the light of his love and truth to meet you there?

Remembering the Grace that Abounds

I love this little girl.

My kitty Diva, who so often teaches me vulnerability.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ve been wrestling with the superhuman tendency again. This morning, as I sat in the quiet with Jesus for the first time in several days, I could feel the effects of so much strain. My body was tired, my mind was tired, and my spirit and heart were particularly weary. 

I could feel, sitting there with Jesus this morning, how much the superhuman tendency creates an incredible dependence on myself and my own strength.

I’m not free to simply be. I’m not free to connect in real ways with others. And I’m certainly not in a posture to receive God’s grace. 

It’s almost as though, when in superhuman mode, we gear up with so much armor. We’re like young David going into battle with Goliath wearing the too-big and too-heavy armor of his king. That armor is heavy. When wearing it, it wears us down and wears us out. It creates an always-present awareness of navigating our way around the world with that heavy armor braced upon on all our limbs and vulnerable places.

We’re not free, and we’re always straining against heaviness with all the strength we can muster from inside ourselves.

But this morning, Jesus reminded me of his grace. 

It is a grace that abounds, more and more, always. It reminds me that I belong to him and no one else — not even myself.

And in belonging to him, he decides and declares my worth. 

The incredible thing about belonging to God is that we always win. We receive infinite worth, unending love, and a grace that never ends. 

Would you like to receive the gift of that grace from God today? 

Negating the Superhuman: Drinking in the Present Moment

Rainy brick-lined street.

Over the last several days, the superhuman tendency has shown up for me again. And as I’ve watched it lurking around, controlling what I do and how I do it, I’ve noticed some more things about it.

I’ve noticed that the superhuman tendency makes me impervious to real feelings and experiences. I’m never fully present to what’s happening around me when I’m in this mode. Instead, my mind is always whirring on the next Big Thing. People and experiences become transactional. Sometimes they feel like distractions from what I need to get done.

When in superhuman mode, I’m also quite resistant to slowing down. I get out of touch with God. I’m unable to sit still. 

The last several days, that has manifested itself in a dearth of quiet stillness before God, which is unusual for me. I’ve noticed a bit of going-through-the-motions while doing things I normally enjoy, or an avoidance of those things altogether.

Finding my true, still center has taken a lot of effort the last few days. I haven’t always been successful at finding it, either.

But a few moments ago, I listened to a contemplative podcast that combined sacred music and reflective questions to invite me deeper into stillness and presence in the right-now moment. The speaker observed that the world around us is full of people, sights, sounds, and experiences.

Could I let myself see and hear and experience them? 

For some reason, upon that invitation, an image of a wine cork presented itself in my mind. I could see its texture and even imagine what its little grooves would feel like in my hand. I could almost hear the popping noise that the cork would make when it uncorked from the bottle. I could hear the glug-glug-glug of the wine as it was poured into a glass. I could imagine the taste, too — the wine was a delicious red cabernet (my favorite). 

When I’m caught up in superhuman mode, I don’t notice those sounds or relish those tastes. Everything becomes a blur and seems to get in the way of what I must do next. Every encounter, every task, and even every conversation becomes a bit more functional than I’d like.

I don’t want to live that way.

I want to drink up the moments right in front of me. I want to live life and experience people. I want to experience my food when I’m eating it. I want to live deeply into each conversation and encounter. I want to enjoy the tiny enjoyments of life, like the way the rain creates a sheen on my brick-lined street and makes the weeds pushing up through the cracks a really sharp and vibrant green. 

These moments of full enjoyment make us vulnerable. They bring down the guard that normally braces us to succeed and not let anything fall.

Today, I choose that vulnerability. I chose to trust in the grace and goodness of God instead of my superhuman-ness.

What about you? Can you take a moment to really drink in the present moment? What does a measure of that full enjoyment of this moment feel like for you?

Are You Friends with Worry?

Beautiful sky.

I am the kind of person who worries about pretty much everything. And if I’m not worrying about what might happen, I’m goading myself to work harder and hurry up so that nothing will go wrong and the earth can go on spinning. I wonder if you can relate to this. 

Here are a few ways that looks in my life. 

When I was completing my first graduate degree, I went to school full time, five days a week, and completed one course per month over the course of a year to get my business credentials. In this fast-paced setting, projects and papers were due with fairly consistent regularity. And often before those projects and papers were due, I would spend days and days worrying about them and hounding myself for not being further along in completing them.

This worry and hounding would last until the day before the assignment was due, when I would finally sit down and churn out a fairly coherent and solid product upon the first try.

All that worry was for nothing.

Thankfully, by the time I started work on my second graduate degree, I had learned to trust my process and worried and hounded myself so much less. 

Here’s a second way worry looks in my life.

I will formulate a plan and use all my strength and energy to make every component of that plan work. When things go wrong (as they invariably do), anxiety rises and so does that goading voice inside my head. Hurry up, it says. Work harder. Work faster. Get it together. Things fall apart and it’s all your fault. 

If I were one step removed from the reality of the situation, I would recognize that voice for what it is and tell it to shut its trap and go take a big, long hike. But in the thick of the situation, I’m not removed from it. I’m trying to figure things out and get the plan accomplished. 

What I’ve found to be the case, again and again, is that things come together just as they’re meant to.

Things fall apart from the original plan because that original plan was flawed, or the timing wasn’t right yet, or new information had yet to come to light. All the time I spent worrying is usually, in the end, wasted time — not to mention how it tears me apart on the inside.

I’ve been working on this area of worry in my life lately.

I’ve been learning to settle into the process of how things need to unfold. I’ve been learning to trust that when things aren’t working out as planned, it’s usually for good reason. And I’ve been learning to embrace the developmental process that has absolutely nothing to do with whether I’m holding things together perfectly enough or not. 

Can you relate to this struggle with worry? Do you have your own goading, hounding voice to contend with? What does it say? What have you learned through experience is the fruit of your worry?

More on Limits

Morning reading.

I’ve set aside today as a day of rest. It’s the first day I’ve allowed myself a full day of rest in eleven straight days — and let me tell you, it’s been a difficult morning so far, keeping this commitment. I keep wanting to write e-mails or make plans to schedule my upcoming week. I keep thinking about deadlines and how much I want to keep working in order to meet them or get ahead of the game. 

But so far this morning, even though there have been great surges of struggle to let go of work and sink into rest, I’ve been able to remain committed to what this day is about for me. I haven’t written the e-mails. I haven’t opened my notebook and planner. I’ve rested — literally gave myself permission to sleep a little bit longer — and I’ve continued to let myself actively embrace the plans I’ve made to spend quality time with a very dear friend today. 

But the struggle has gotten me thinking this morning more about the limits of our humanity.

What is at the root of that drive in us that wants to burst through our limits and not be stopped short by anything? What is it that keeps hounding at me to do more and more and more, not welcoming that still small voice in me that pipes up to say, “What is done is good and will have to be enough for now, and now I need to rest”?

I don’t know about you, but for me, the root of that striving drive and that hounding voice has a lot to do with fear. 

I fear falling short. Failure. Not being enough. I fear letting people down or creating some inadvertent catastrophe by a moment’s lack of vigilance. Plainly put, I fear whatever might happen — via circumstance or relationship — from my not being perfect or all things for all people or situations.

Can you relate to this?

I remember another season in my life when I began to recognize this tendency in me as something possibly unhealthy or other than God intends for it to be. I started seeing this drive in me as a tendency toward what I called the superhuman. It was so helpful to even call it that because then I could step back and say, “What does it mean, then, to be merely human?” 

Being human means not being God. It means having a body that can only be in one finite place at a time. It means having a brain that can only hold so much. It means having systems inside me that need nourishment and rest in order to thrive and get rejuvenated.

Being human is an invitation to grace. 

Perhaps it will help you to hear, as it helps me, that when we try to be superhuman, we’re trying to be other than what we actually are and what God made us to be. When we’re aiming for the superhuman, we’re actually trying to be what God alone can be, which is to say without flaw or failure or misstep.

When we’re trying to be superhuman, we’re more than likely trying to protect ourselves from pain or judgment or rejection or disappointment in some way. More often than not, we are acting out of a fear of what might happen if we don’t do it all, whatever “all” might be for us. 

Right now, in this moment, with what you’re facing, what do you fear will happen if you allow yourself to embrace the reality of your limits? If you played out your worst fears to their imagined conclusion, what might that look like? What is it like for you to hear that God made you human, not superhuman?

Acknowledging Our Limits

Filtered colors.

I’ve been thinking a lot about limits lately — specifically, the kind of limits that keep us from accomplishing everything we set out to do. 

For instance, in late May, I made a commitment to God and myself that I would post a contemplative reflection for you in this space every weekday (save holidays), and last Friday was the first weekday I didn’t uphold that commitment. I was on an all-day film shoot that began at 8 a.m., and the previous two days had been filled with similar day-long commitments, and I just couldn’t get it done before leaving for the film shoot that morning. 

As I drove around that day, the post left unwritten all day, I struggled to accept that I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to get it done.

Here’s a second example. My husband, Kirk, and I have recently begun guarding our Sundays for rest. We both work hard in our respective jobs, and our work lives and commitments often bleed into the evenings and weekends.

Recently, we realized the need to make a change.

Now, Sundays are for Sabbath rest for us. We take the day slow. We take a drive, go for a walk, read, or work on creative projects that bring us life. We attend a contemplative eucharist service in the evenings, and usually I’ll play with my iPhone camera and take photographs of things that inspire me. 

But this past weekend, I woke at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday with my to-do list running through my mind. I got out of bed and worked in the quiet of our house for three solid hours, and that evening, I worked another several hours getting some other items checked off my to-do list. 

I’m still learning how to rest on Sundays. 

And here’s a third example. About two weeks ago, I agreed to copyedit a book manuscript for an author whose book I looked forward to reading. I dove into the project and made great headway right from the start. But over the last week, other important commitments have cropped up requiring my immediate attention. That copyedit project languished on the side, and the day I’d hoped to have it finished came and went. 

This morning, I e-mailed the client and apologized. “I’m so sorry for getting behind on this,” I said. Life happened, and I couldn’t do it all. 

I’m still fresh inside this learning curve. I’m learning how to rest and say, “I’ve reached the end of what I can do today, and that has to be okay.” I’m also learning how to say, “I’m sorry. I overcommitted myself. I need to change the plan.”

Can you relate to bumping up against your human limits? How do you normally respond to your limits when faced with them?

We Are Not Defined by Guilt

This past weekend, I attended a retreat to complete three years of training in the ministry of spiritual direction. For this week’s entries on Still Forming, I’ll be posting reflections gleaned from the retreat that made me think of you and this space throughout the weekend.

Today I am writing the post that first inspired me to create this week-long series of retreat reflections for you in the first place.

It has to with guilt.

On the first night of the retreat, I was weighed down with feelings of guilt in a big way. Earlier in the week I had received an invoice that informed me I was not paid up on my Audire account like I thought I was. I had a large balance I was unprepared to pay that weekend.

Although grace was offered in the payment schedule, I arrived at the retreat feeling a bit unworthy to be there. After all, I hadn’t yet covered my expenses.

I walked around with a bit of a hang-dog feel.

I also realized about halfway through the first night’s session that I’d forgotten to bring my assignments for the weekend with me. I’d left them at home. I had to leave the retreat campus that evening in order to go home and retrieve the papers.

On my drive home that night, the hang-dog feel was in full force. Guilt was my very-present companion.

But sitting at a stop light on that drive home, I had a revelation.

I realized how much my feeling of worthiness in that moment was dependent on what other people thought. In effect, they held the validity of my worthiness in their hands.

The funny thing is, they didn’t even know this was the case.

In actuality, they likely hadn’t given me and my supposed shortcomings a second thought. And they most definitely weren’t walking around the retreat center stewing over what I did or didn’t do!

Sitting there at the stop light, I turned my thoughts to God. When God looked down upon me and these supposed shortcomings, what did he see?

I saw nothing but grace and understanding on God’s eyes.

When he looked at the circumstances of my unpaid bill, he knew it would take some time for me to pay it off. That didn’t stop him from welcoming me into the retreat to spend time with him and discover what he had prepared for me to discover. And when he saw my forgotten papers waiting there at home for me, he knew why I had forgotten them. He saw the circumstances surrounding it.

And it was all okay. Really okay.

I was reminded in that moment of that passage in Romans 8 that says there is no condemnation — absolutely none — for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is only full acceptance, love, and grace.

Do you struggle with guilt, too? Are you able to see that guilt as a way of placing your worth in the hands of others? Are you able in this moment to place yourself instead in the hands of God?

What Happens When Worry Disappears?

This past weekend, I attended a retreat to complete three years of training in the ministry of spiritual direction. For this week’s entries on Still Forming, I’ll be posting reflections gleaned from the retreat that made me think of you and this space throughout the weekend.

I’ve shared in this space before that I struggle with anxiety. There was a time in my life many years ago where the anxiety I carried with me was so intense and all-consuming that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. But I remember talking with a friend during that season and feeling on the verge of a breakthrough to healing.

The truth is, healing scared me.

I didn’t know who I would be without the pain or the worry that had become like a second self to me. I looked at my friend and asked, “Who will I be if I’m not anxious all the time? Will there be anything left?” 

My friend looked at me and said, “I think you will discover all kinds of new and interesting things to think about instead.”

That has stayed with me for years.

When we aren’t preoccupied with worry or self-condemnation or anxiety or pain, the world has a chance to become more brilliant and amazing, and our hearts have a chance to engage the world in ways they were always meant to thrive. The world — and us in it — simply become more interesting.

In other words, our pain and worry and anxiety are not the most interesting things about us. 

I thought of that gem of wisdom again this weekend when encountering the Franz Kafka poem that I shared in yesterday’s post: 

You Need Not Do Anything

You need not do anything: you need not even leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You don’t even need to wait, just be still, quiet and solitary
and the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

— Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

This poem highlights two great gifts of truth when I read it.

The first is the gift I wrote about in yesterday’s post about receiving the invitation to simply be where you are. The second is what I’m sharing here today about finding the marvelous, kaleidoscopic gifts the world has to offer once we’ve come out from under the pain and struggle and worry and judgment that so often run through our minds and cripple our days.

The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.

It has no choice.

It will roll in ecstasy at your feet. 

This happens when we are still. When the voices are silenced. When the judgments disappear. When the worries and anxieties remain at bay.

Have you ever experienced the world this way — unmasked and rolling in ecstasy at your feet? Do you want to experience it? When you allow yourself to be free of the burdens of expectation or judgment, what creative new life rises up to meet you?

Trusting God's Presence in Future Moments

I don’t know about you, but I struggle a great deal with anxiety. It has been a part of my life for a very long time. 

One way anxiety often shows up in my life is in thoughts and anticipation of future moments. It may be a meeting I’ve been asked to lead, a project deadline I’m trying to hit, a coffee date I have scheduled with a friend, or a simple list of tasks I need to complete the following day. 

No matter the future moment, large or small, anxiety begins to creep in and connect itself to my mind and body. Often without realizing it, I start shaking my leg. My shoulders tense, and my neck sets. Sometimes I start picking at my fingernails or chewing them. Often, I stop what I’m in the middle of doing and stare off into space, mulling over the future moment and imagining how it could unfold.

Do you ever experience this?

This morning, three future moments held me captive.

As each of them paraded themselves before my mind, my heart began racing and I grew short of breath. I wanted to run and hide. I didn’t know how I would possibly meet the very high expectations I’d set for myself in my mind regarding each one. Already in my mind, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d fail.

But as I spent time with God this morning, I decided to start talking with him about these future moments and my fears. 

And in the midst of that conversation, almost as soon as it began, an amazing thing happened. 

I realized God is already present in those moments. 

When I step into that room, God is already there. When I participate in that discussion, God is there among us. When those decisions get made, God is there. When I tackle that project that’s due in a couple days, God will be there with me as I complete it each step of the way. When I juggle various commitments on my schedule the next few weeks, God has already seen them all. 

As I realized this, a peaceful calm swept over me.

I could envision God in that room. I could see him presiding over that discussion and those decisions. I could see him sitting next to me as I completed that project. I could see him companioning with me as I live through these next few weeks. 

He is there.

There’s something immensely comforting about that. Comforting, as well as relieving.

Are there future moments you’re struggling with right now? Have you noticed the way these future moments affect your physiological reactions in the world?

Today, as you notice those future moments and the concerns they raise inside you, I encourage you stop for a moment and pay them some attention. Hold that future moment in your mind, and then imagine God in that future moment with you. Imagine him getting there ahead of you, in fact, and holding it all in hand, aware of all that will transpire and able to hold it for you and with you.

What is it like for you to trust God’s presence in those future moments?

Of Stars and Wildernesses

As an intern spiritual director, I have a supervisor I visit once a month. She is there to provide support for me in my work with individuals on their spiritual journeys, and she is truly a gift from God. 

Usually during our sessions together, we talk about my growing edges as a director, the places where I stumble or falter when working with others and the places I’m finding my stride. But this particular time, we ended up just talking about me. Not me in the role of director, but me as Christianne.

I found myself telling her about my struggles through the dying process, and specifically my struggle to feel surrounded and loved by God and others. I told her I feel alone and that I wished there were more people I could look to for guidance on how to do this. I told her that I feel the need to be strong in all my respective spheres of life, and I shared examples of how that shows up in my life right now. I told her that this need to be strong and have something to offer feels particularly pronounced for me right now.

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