Dear tender Soul, I want to hear from you. So often, I fill the opportunity to hear from you with trying to fix myself. I tell you what you need to do, what you need to change, what you need to choose.
More Bible studies. More sermons. More note taking. More gratitude. More seeking advice. More pouring over books. More service. More giving. And while these are all good things, there is an unsettledness deep within me. I am filling with these and yet I am depleted. What do you want to say to me, Soul?
Less striving, more sitting.
Less thinking, more hearing.
To simply be in the presence of God, still and quiet.
I am thinking of Elijah. I appreciate his honesty and rawness. Victory one day and the depths of despair the next. When Elijah begged God to take his life, God gave him sleep; a much needed nap under the broom tree. And after his rest, the angel told Elijah to get up and eat because the journey ahead would be hard.
The angel could have told Elijah to quit his complaining, enough of the transparency, choose gratitude. But he didn’t.
I have noticed a gratitude trend especially among Christian women. Please hear me out. I believe practicing gratitude is important. Very important. But what I see happening is a quick response in the midst of someone’s suffering to tell the person to be grateful; completely silencing the person in their hurt. I read a line from a popular Christian author that gratitude changes our circumstances. I disagree. Gratitude changes my heart in the circumstance, gratitude reminds me there is a bigger picture than the circumstance, gratitude helps change my perspective during the circumstance. But gratitude does not change my circumstance. I can learn to be content in my circumstance and to be joyful, but I still have to face the circumstance no matter how much gratitude I practice. I journal my gratefulness, I speak out loud what I am grateful for, I model gratitude to my children. I have gratitude and I know there are many in worse situations, but I still have to daily live with my circumstances. If I don’t allow myself to work through the hurt and grief, and try to silence it, it will come out. In some way, it will come out.
I had a wonderful counselor that I went to after my sister died. When you are grieving it has a way of stirring up other grief you have endured in your life. We were talking about some of those other times of grief and she gently told me that it was okay for me to spend a longer time crying the tears. She had wanted to encourage me to move on, but she could tell I wasn’t ready yet. I often think about her words. Her willingness to sit with me in the mess, her willingness to allow my tears to flow without trying to fix me and rush me. This wasn’t me having a pity party for myself, staking my tent and camping out there. This was a needed time of mourning.
Oh, to be sensitive to what God is doing in the deep places of someone’s heart and to simply offer our presence rather than our advice.
Elijah cried out to God and God gave him rest and food. How beautiful. How needed.
God, you are leading me out of my overdoing for you into a place of quietly resting in You. My soul is telling me there is more you want to give me. A deeper love for you, and a deeper love for myself and others.
Dearest Valerie, this journey is hard. You don’t need to put all of this pressure on yourself to be more and do more. Your drivenness to do life the “right way” is robbing you of the life I long to give you. Rest and nurture yourself. There is more difficult journey ahead that you cannot face depleted. It is not selfish to care for yourself. It is not wrong to say no and set boundaries out of wisdom and love. You have not loved yourself well, Valerie. If you do not love yourself well, how can you freely love Me? If you do not love yourself well, how can you freely love others? Release to Me your fears, release to me self-contempt, and let me replenish you. Come and rest in Me and I will cover you with my wings.
Oh God, may I trust in Your goodness and love; to rest in the assurance of who I am to You even though I am not striving. Especially, when I am not striving. My soul is longing to be restored, renewed, refreshed. Forgive me. Like Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I work hard at removing my own dragon scales. I think I have them removed, only to find more layers underneath. Continue to come for me. All of me. Every layer. Remove my dragon scales and toss me into the waters of Your grace, so that when I emerge, I am more fully who You created me to be. Free to love You. Free to love myself. Free to love others.