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. 

A Turn in the Suffering :: Let It Take as Long as It Takes

Afternoon sun and shadows.

When I think about “turns in suffering,” my mind immediately flies back to the first major turn I encountered in my own experiences of suffering. 

I had been walking in a very intent way with Jesus for about 10 years. Ten years was about how long it took for me to find myself steeped in my belovedness, to be rooted and grounded in that identity of love. I’d spent many long years encountering the truth of my heart — learning what my heart even was, and then learning what was true of it — and then combining that with the process of learning who Jesus was and how to bring the truth of my heart into relationship with him. 

In those 10 years, I’d discovered and acknowledged the wounds in my heart. I’d been through the anger mill. I’d grieved a lot of losses. I’d allowed myself to admit what I didn’t know. I’d allowed myself to learn.

And it wasn’t until about 10 years into that sacred journey that I experienced my first turn in the suffering. I guess healing — or preparation for healing — just takes that long sometimes. It did for me, at least. 

And when it did, I was ready to receive some new perspectives. 

Let it take as long as it takes. I’ve learned from experience that the wait is worth it.

What is it like for you to let the suffering and healing process take as long as it takes?

All That Happens Is ... Perfect?

Patch of light.

I Promise

Has not the Architect, Love, built your heart

in a glorious manner,

with so much care that it is meant to break

if love ever ceases to know all that happens

is perfect?

And where does anything love has ever known

go, when your eye and hand can no longer

be warmed by its body? 

So vast a room your soul, every universe can

fit into it.

Anything you once called beautiful, anything

that ever

gave you comfort waits to unite with your

arms again. I promise.

— Hafiz

dear friend of mine included this poem in the weekly inspiration e-mail she sent out this morning, and thinking on it has gobbled up my morning.

It speaks of the very things I fiercely believe:

  • that our hearts are, indeed, built in a glorious manner
  • that they break when we cease to know the perfection of love
  • that the shattered pieces of the love we once knew inhabit whole universes of secret rooms inside of us
  • that the heart waits, even yearns, to be rediscovered and to heal and to be made whole and connected with our full selves once again

There is a bit of a sticking point in this poem, though. It says that the heart, in the way it was made, “is meant to break if love ever ceases to know all that happens is perfect.”

This implies that everything that happens is, indeed, perfect … even if it doesn’t feel that way. 

I’ve wrestled at various times, for various reasons, with this idea that everything that happens is perfect. I know wounding. I know pain. I know the imperfection of love, for sure. I know this world is pretty fantastically, grievously broken.

So, how can all that happens be, somehow, perfect? Is this poet speaking true?

I think this has to do with believing — trusting — that something greater than the pain is present even in the midst of our being grazed by it. It’s the idea that something holds all things together and has a greater, grander scope than we can see in the midst of our wounded, pain-filled realities.

This is a hard idea. I know.

And when we are in the midst of pain, this idea is the last thing we want to hear.

But here is something true.

I have come out on the other side of hell — several times, actually —  and have discovered, on the other side of it, a perfect love that casts out the fear that doubt implanted. I have discovered a more perfect love that encompasses and heals those painful, disturbing wounds. I have discovered Someone faithful and capable to hold all things, even the most painful realities I have known, in his hands. 

And incredible as it may sound, I have become thankful for the pain. 

It is only because of encounter with the perfect and intimate love of Jesus that I can say today that I am thankful for it. The perfect love of Jesus makes everything — even seeming darkness — beautiful in its time.

But I won’t pretend. This is a really hard idea to hold. It’s one I still wrestle with, in various forms, today.

Here’s a possibility, though, in the midst of the struggle. Perhaps the more we feel the pain and grope in seeming darkness toward the light of love, the more overwhelming and sweet that light will be once we find ourselves inside of it. 

I know, for myself, that the measure of my love for Jesus is inextricably tied to the very personal ways in which he has met me in my distresses. 

What is your response right now to this idea that everything — perhaps all things — are just as they’re meant to be?

It Requires Safety

Come and enter in.

Yesterday I wrote about one aspect of the good news of Jesus — that he is about the work of restoring our broken places. I so love that about him. 

But as a dear person recently reminded me, the thought of going back into those broken places is scary. Even turning around on the road to see them there behind us is hard. It can jab us with such sharp pain, just knowing those potholes and drop-offs and broken-up pieces of cement are there, can’t it? 

And the thought of going back into them, even to receive something as wondrous as healing? Terrifying. 

This is why getting to know — really know — the person of Jesus is so paramount first. 

I could not have allowed Jesus to visit those tender and difficult particulars of my life, much less excavate them and begin an in-depth reconstruction project, if I hadn’t first learned to trust him.

That’s just sanity, right? 

But the good news is that he is indeed trustworthy. It takes time to learn this for ourselves — to let the person of Jesus beecome known as real and concerned with us specifically. It takes time to learn what he is like, how he really sees us, how he converses with us, and how he holds us together.

Once that foundation of trust and safety is laid, perhaps we’ll be ready to let him heal us in the deepest of ways. I’ve come to know there is nothing better in all of life than this.

Do you want to get to know this trustworthy Jesus?

This Is Good News

Point of decision.

There are many things we could say about the “good news” of Jesus. There are layers and layers of this good news that bring us into a life we’ve never imagined for ourselves or even realized we needed like our own next breath. 

But today I want to focus on just one aspect of that good news. 

John the Baptist, when telling the people to prepare themselves for God-in-the-flesh who was coming to earth among them, said: 

Every ditch will be filled in,

Every bump smoothed out,

The detours straightened out,

All the ruts paved over.

— Luke 3:5

I have experienced this good news of Jesus. 

When I began to know Jesus in a real and intimate way, I could look back on the terrain of my life and see ruts and jagged edges and huge ditches and potholes littered throughout the whole of it. My life’s history was pockmarked with brokenness. 

I was broken, and so was my history.

In my life with Jesus, he has been about the work of filling in those ditches, of smoothing those sharp edges, of filling in all of those potholes. He has been smoothing and filling the back road of my life. 

And do you know what he’s been filling it with? Himself. 

Do you have ditches and potholes and detours and drop-off edges in your own life’s history? Do you want to experience the good news that Jesus brings to you and those places? 

This Is Spiritual Formation


God rewrote the text of my life

   when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

— Psalm 18:24

A couple weeks ago, I was thinking about the way our lives de-form us.

I was reflecting on many of the pieces of my heart — large, sweeping sections of it down to the tiny nooks and crannies — that Jesus has come in and healed. These pieces and places that he’s healed and the way he’s then reconnected me to the true self he created in conceiving me — this is spiritual formation. This is the work of God (and us) in our life with him.

This is his intent. Healing. Wholeness. Freedom. Life. The extension of the kingdom into the places where we live.

How might God intend to rewrite the text of your life? What is it like for you to consider opening the book of your heart to his eyes?

He Wants to Make You Whole

Geometry in a bowl.

From the very outset, the aim of Jesus is to make you whole. 

It’s written all over the Gospels. He came to bind up the brokenhearted, give sight to the blind, restore the ears of the deaf. Everywhere he goes, he’s bent on healing those he meets. He tells the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a doctor. I didn’t come for the well, but for the sick.”

This morning I read a line of Scripture that speaks so much tenderness of this each time I meet it: 

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives.

— Matthew 9:35-36

When you walk with Jesus, this is what he’s about in you. Healing. Wholeness.

He wants to do this with your life: Orient you in truth. Establish you in strength. Root you in love. Blossom you in joy. 

In what ways might he make you whole? 

"Man Is More Manlike . . ."

The view from here.

While reading a book over the holidays, I came across this quote by G. K. Chesterton that has continued to stay with me: 

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.

— G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I’ve known quite a bit of grief in my life. 

Some of those griefs are more obvious than others. Some made pricks with the tiniest pin at the time they grazed me, almost without my noticing, until the pain of it came cascading down in a torrent fifteen or twenty years later. 

For many, many years, such grief and pain were the major themes of my story. 

But that isn’t the case anymore.

I give full credit to the healing work of Christ’s love in my life for that. (I wrote about one of those threads of healing that happened in my life 10 years ago on the blog for Spring Arbor’s graduate program earlier this week.)

Here is something true.

There was a time I couldn’t fathom telling my story any other way than through its prism of pain. But I’ve since learned there is completely new and free and joy-filled life on the other side of sorrow, when we are met in the honest depths of our pain with love.

Such love brings about a life that eventually makes the pain small. It is a love that eventually helps us know joy as the main thing, and grief as the minor. 

Can you relate to either sides of this story — living inside the depths of grief, or emerging on the other side of it into healing’s joy? What have you learned through either experience?

What Is It Like to Consider Going Home?


I’ve just begun reading a new book by Ian Morgan Cron called Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. It is “a memoir of sorts” by the author and begins with an epigraph by Wendell Berry that says, “When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.” The first chapter begins with a quote by Robert Lax that says, “Sometimes we go on a search for something and do not know what we are looking for until we come again to our beginning.” 

Pretty powerful quotes, aren’t they? 

I’m pleased to share that the rest of the book is quite powerful, too — at least, what I’ve read of it so far. It is the author’s attempt to wade through the “harrowing straits of memory” in order to make peace with his history and sail more freely into his future. 

Right up front, the author says this about doing this kind of excavation of our histories:

“Home is where we start, and whether we like it or not, our life is a race against time to come to terms with what it was or wasn’t.”

What do you think of this idea? 

Speaking from my own experience, I find it to be true. Pretty much the entirety of my adult life, from age 19 to the place I stand now at 32, has been an exercise in going back to my beginnings to make sense of them and find healing, peace, and wholeness. 

I wrote on my personal blog last night that the first big chunk of years devoted to this excavation brought pain, anger, regret, and grief. I did not find peace for many years, but I knew, all along, that peace would be found on the other side somehow. In my experience, God had clearly invited me to visit that excavation site and hunker down for quite some time.

The excavation is still happening, really, and probably will be underway the rest of my life. But the biggest chunks of history discovered and explored in those earliest of days are now, thankfully, in the polishing phase. That is something for which I regularly give thanks.

Going home takes work. It’s hard. It hurts. But I can’t imagine a more worthwhile endeavor, especially when the invitation is offered and then lived out in the presence of Jesus. 

What is going home like for you? Does the notion appeal to you? Scare you? Turn you off? Have you ever visited the excavation site of your history with Jesus as an excavation partner in the process? 

What Are the Wounds?

Orange and yellow.

We’ve been talking quite a bit about Jesus’s passion for you and how he is coming to the places where you are. And last week, I asked you to consider whether you want to be found by him

Today, I’d like you to consider the wounds that he might heal. 

I love that in the Gospels, Jesus is all about the normal people who know their need for him. He hung out with fishermen — talk about salt-of-the-earth kind of people! He also spent time with the hated tax collectors and befriended prostitutes. 

He didn’t hang out with the highly religious folks who thought they knew everything and did everything right. 

For instance, there’s this great exchange between Jesus and a bunch of religious leaders one day who criticized him about this very thing: 

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

— Matthew 9:11-13

Jesus came to heal those who were sick. That’s the message he preached over and over — remember the very first words he spoke about his mission and ministry

And those who were sick wanted to be near him. He brought good and welcome news to them, indeed. 

What about you? Do you have the kind of experience of life where you know your need for Jesus and for healing? Are you aware of your wounds? In what ways are you sick and in need of healing?

Healing Is in His Hands

If you can’t see the video in your e-mail or RSS feed, click through to view it here.

I mentioned last week that my prayer times with Jesus lately have evidenced his deep intent to come to where you are — that he is praying over you and cares for you with a great compassion and a fierce urgency. 

As I continue to spend time with Jesus each day, I see him continuing to pray with great intent over the place you live. As he prays and prepares to enter in and find you, I am looking upon a great city and know that he will come to each and every place inside of it to find you. He will enter buildings and walk on streets and sit inside taxi cabs to encounter you and have you know him and be known by him. 

He will even come to the lost and forgotten places in the dark where you may hide.

He will not overlook a single nook and cranny. He will not give up his search for you. He will enter your dark places with the light of his love and truth. He will encounter you on the sidewalk and offer you new life. He seeks to enliven and redeem and restore all of who you are.

The song above is his promise. No matter where you are or what you have encountered, no matter what you feel or what you believe, his love for you is strong and wide and deep and high and never-ending. All the healing you need and seek is found in his capable and redemptive hands. 

Will you allow him to find you?

How Does He Heal You?

As an Easter gift, my husband gave me a copy of Henri Nouwen’s book With Burning Hearts, a collection of meditations on the Eucharistic life based on Luke 24, which is the passage about the two companions joined by Jesus on the road to Emmaus after his death.

The first meditation centers on the downcast eyes and spirits of the two sojourners were were so sad to have followed Jesus throughout his life of ministry, only to see him crucified. They spoke to Jesus, not realizing who he was, of the reports they’d heard from some of the disciples about his possible resurrection, but they’d not seen the risen Christ for themselves and didn’t know what to think. 

Through this first portion of the Luke 24 passage, Nouwen gives us an opportunity to remember the reality of our losses. He says: 

If there is any word that summarizes well our pain, it is the word “loss.” We have lost so much! Sometimes it even seems that life is just one long series of losses. When we were born we lost the safety of the womb, when we went to school we lost the security of our family life, when we got our first job we lost the freedom of youth, when we got married or ordained we lost the joy of many options, and when we grew old we lost our good looks, our old friends, or our fame.

With Burning Hearts, p. 24

I could not help but be taken back into my many losses when I read this meditation. Nouwen is right: ordinary life is one long string of losses, and it becomes easy to despair. And instead of choking out the reality of those losses, Nouwen encourages us to feel them, to let them touch us and prick our hearts.

These losses are part of our human experience. They put us in touch with the limits and agony of human life in order to point us toward the hope of heaven and make us vulnerable to love, which heals us.

This is the hope of the Eucharist, Nouwen says — the opportunity to open ourselves to the possibility and hope of healing, which we carry with us through the darkness:

As we listen carefully to the deeper voices in our heart we realize that beneath our skepticism and cynicism there is a yearning for love, unity, and communion that doesn’t go away even when there remain so many arguments to dismiss it as sentimental childhood memories.

With Burning Hearts, pp. 40-41

Despite our pain and brokenness, and in the midst of our cynicism and doubt, hope remains. And that is the gift of Christ: the reality of the grace of new life. 

This morning, I also read Mark 3, which relates the following: 

Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away [from the Pharisees who sought to ruin him]. But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them — also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon — swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn’t be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.

— Mark 3:7-10, The Message

It says, “He had healed many people, and everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near him.” 

When I read this, I can’t help but think of the reality of that statement spread far and wide throughout the course of Christ’s ministry. Everywhere he went, people followed him. Men and women sought to be near him in order to be healed or gain healing for those they loved. Even after he died, people flocked to his disciples because they, too, offered the hope of healing. 

He came to heal us from our pain of body and soul. 

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is the ministry of healing found in Isaiah 61 and quoted later in Luke 4 as Christ’s ordained mission: 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

— Isaiah 61:1-3

How can we read those words and not find hope and gladness? The one we follow, called Jesus, came to heal us of our brokenness, to forgive us of all we have done wrong, to draw us near and cherish us with a close embrace, and to crown us with beauty instead of ashes.

He wants to crown you with beauty instead of ashes. 

Do you believe that to be true? In the reality of your brokenness and despair, how have you sought the hope of healing for body and soul that Christ offers you? How might you seek after that healing he offers you today?