A prayer for your weekend

Photo: Soft blue-grey clouds overlaid with text: Help us to remember that following Your ways is not just about how we treat others, but also about how we treat ourselves. Guide us into the love You have for us, that we might treat ourselves with gentle kindness, with loving-nonviolence. Soften our heards towards ourselves, that we might be both soaked in and pouring forth Your love.

Original photo by Tatiana Zhukova.

You always treat me with such gentleness and kindness, God.

You, who has the power to smash the earth with no effort. And isn’t that just what gentleness is? Not weakness, but strength and control.

Help us become more deft and skillful in the ways we treat ourselves. Help us to learn Your gentle love.

Show us where our hearts and minds have grown hard and calloused. Guide us towards softening.

Help us to rest in Your love, to rest in You.

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Walking the Spiral Path to Non-Violence

It’s so easy to want to just let things go, to loose my tight hold and let things spiral out of control. I feel like I’ve been trying so hard, holding myself together, doing things right. But I’m tired. I’d like to just lose myself for a little while, hit pause on life and hide away.

I thought I’d been doing so well, that I had all the little things under control. But today it just all feels like too much. And the optimism is falling away, leaving me grey.

I’ve been trying so hard to approach myself with love, with gentle loving-kindness, with non-violence, but today it feels like the claws have come back out – in an effort to hold on, perhaps – but I am too practiced at turning them on myself.

Oh God. Help me to stand in the love you have for me. Help me to hold myself as Beloved.

It’s a slow, stumbling spiral. I can see how far I’ve come, but I can also see how far I have yet to go. To force a straight line into the centre is not an act of love, but an act of violence. It is no longer gentle, and it does not build the habits I need to sustain it.

I have been moving along this path for a long time, from before I even knew that was what I was doing. But seeking a better way to live, a more loving way to live and be.

The idea of non-violence has been with me a long time. I can remember discussions in childhood about conscientious objectors. I remember as a young adult deciding non-violence was a key pillar of my political stance. And as a parent, especially of my second child who is less like me than the first, I can remember trying to find ways of parenting which work with her nature, not mine, not the way I was taught and shown, as a path of love and nurture, and non-violence.

But I never thought to apply it to myself.

And now I look back and see that my changes towards gentleness and loving-kindness towards myself, my conscious shift in my self-talk away from harsh criticism and towards loving and gentle support, my diet adaptions to work with my body rather than forcing it to cooperate, my softening towards my body when it is in pain rather than trying to force it to continue and “harden up”, – these have all been movements on this path towards non-violence, non-violence with myself.

Some days it feels like stopping my self-harm was the easy (and most obvious) bit.

And days like today, when part of my mind just wants to tear me down and destroy all my efforts, makes me realise how far I still have to go.

Photo: The idea of non-violence has been with me a long time. But I never thought to apply it to myself. What a divine gift.

Original photo by Vladimir Kramer.

But the idea of a spiral path is reassuring. The destination is a certainty, even though it feels like I am not heading towards it. It is simply: a tiny step here, then a tiny step elsewhere. Each step building on what has come before, each step building momentum across the whole of my life. No big, hard, overnight transformation. Inch by inch I creep my way towards a goal I didn’t even realise I had.

And now I’ve found a label to help guide me in it: non-violence. Gentle loving-kindness.

I can use it as a lodestone, so I don’t have to respond to anxiety with a harsh cropping of my hair. Instead I can lavish love on myself, I can choose the opposite. Instead of scratching at a scar which never quite seems to smooth over, I can gently rub in some coconut oil, I can remind myself that I am worthy of love and care, that I don’t need to take out emotion on my physical self. But that I can wrap myself in kindness and support.

In fact, I am uniquely equipped to be doing just that: I am always right there, available to myself, and I can best know what I need (or at least know if an action isn’t having the intended loving, supporting effect).

And the more I treat myself with non-violence, with loving-kindness, the better I am at refusing the opposite – from myself and others, and the better I can be at offering love to others as well.

Jesus said that we are to love others as we love ourselves. And when we love ourselves well, it easily flows out to others. When we love ourselves well, when we allow ourselves to receive that love and gentleness from ourselves, we have an abundance of love which overflows into the lives of others.

It is not selfish to treat yourself with love and respect. It is not selfish to listen to your body’s voice and needs over what “the professionals” say you “should” be doing. It is not selfish to listen to your inner voice over the voices of others and let it guide you towards wholeness.

It is wisdom.

And it is love.

And it is a divine gift to both yourself and to the world.

 


twitter-greyEasy tweetables for you to share.

The more I treat myself with non-violence & loving-kindness, the better I am at refusing the opposite. (click to tweet)

When we love ourselves well, it easily flows out to others. (click to tweet)

It is not selfish to treat yourself with love and respect. (click to tweet)

The love that is non-violence is a divine gift to both yourself and to the world. (click to tweet)

 

Trusting the coming Spring

The trees around me are laden with life. Still heavy and full with blossoms, the fresh green of new leaves fills out their branches even more. There’s no taking their sweet time with them, they are rushing headlong into this new season, not even pausing for a moment to look back.

In comparison, I feel heavy, sluggish. As if I’m wading through setting concrete. But inside me, inside I’m nearly bursting open with life. The expanse of my soul is full of sweet blossom and fresh new life, duplicating, multiplying, just waiting for me to give it an opening to burst forth.

It’s time to stop holding back. It’s time to let it all come.

Even if I don’t quite know what it looks like yet. Even if I don’t know what it will mean and how it will transform my life (because transform it, it will).

There is a need for a deep trusting here. Of myself, of God, of the gifts and abilities I have been given. I’m not sure that I have enough, but I’m willing to surrender to it anyway. I’m ready to let this life open up and surprise me with its abundance, its fullness. I’m tired of trying to stay in control and to cover all the bases. I’m tired of running off expectations and ‘should’s.

Spring is here around me. And I want my Spring too.

I’m starting to believe it’s possible. That I can come alive and be supported for it, in it. I’m starting to believe it will be (whatever it is) so much more than my meeting all the ‘should’s could ever be. I’m starting to see the strength in myself as I embrace myself and carve out my own path.

I’ve been listening to stories, lately, of other women who have done it, broken open to God and themselves and let life spill out. It has been feeding the hope that I can do it too, that I can make a life for myself by doing it too.

There is a caution in me, a part which holds me back. It’s the voice questioning, “But what will it look like? How will my needs get met?” and, “How will it pay the bills?” And I don’t know, I don’t know, but there is no other path for me now.

In part, not knowing what comes next for me, for my family, after my PhD has been holding me back. I have let the fears in me rule that future space. I let the unknown be dangerous and intimidating. But the grace of this unknowing is the open expanse of it: it can be whatever I choose to make of it. And I refuse to let it be boring. I refuse to let it be staid and confining.

Photo: I don't know what is coming, and I don't know what it will look like, I don't know what changes it will bring to my life, but I know I will need to surrender and trust. And I'm willing.

Original photo by Raul Petri.

I’ve always associated myself with the word ‘deep’, but lately, that sense of myself has been changing, it has been growing into an expanse, an open space held sacred within me. It belies my physical form. It runs completely contrary to the smallness I have pressed myself into year after year.

But it’s there.

And it wants out.

It wants to be present in the world, not just hidden inside me. And I don’t know what it will look like, and I don’t know what changes it will bring to my life.

But neither did I know when my belly grew with the expanse of pregnancy, with either of my pregnancies. I didn’t know what I would birth into the world. A gentle and fragile blossom? or maybe a world-changing hurricane? But I knew that I loved each of them, that I would love each of them, however they were and whatever they brought into my life.

I surrendered, I embraced. And this is the same, over again. Just like I trusted my body to know what it needed and what it needed to do to birth my daughters, the time is coming when I will need to trust my soul to do the same. The time is coming when I will need to surrender and trust. As my husband reminded me not two days ago, I have everything I need within me.

And I’m willing.

 


twitter-greyEasy tweetables for you to share:

It’s time to stop holding back, time to let it all come. Even if I don’t know what it looks like yet. (click to tweet)

There is a need for a deep trusting here. Of myself, of God. I’m not sure that I have enough. (click to tweet) 

I don’t know what is coming, but I’m willing to surrender and trust. (click to tweet) 

 

Honouring what comes

I’m writing in a state of anxiety, agitation stirring beneath my skin, making me want to claw at myself – my flesh, my mind. It’s easy to want to hide away from this, to lose myself in a book, in the ever-on-running depths of the internet, anything but my own being. Who would want to stay present in this, to this body of pain, this mind slipping, spiraling out of control?

I don’t blame myself for wanting to be somewhere else. We live in a culture of avoidance, offering a plethora of things to distract us from our lives, to numb ourselves to the things we don’t want to face, don’t want to give voice to. There is a whole pantheon on gods we can turn to, we can offer our lives to, when it all just feels too much and too hard.

It’s easy to separate off our attention from our bodies and their discomforts, their dis-eases, to shut off their voices longing for wellness. It’s easy to cut our attention off from our minds and our values, and what choosing to live in line with them might actually mean. It’s easy to bypass our spirits, to put off that soul work another day, to rest on the laurels of having faith instead of living it another day.

It’s so easy.

But where does it say in our Bibles that our God wants our lives to be easy? And doesn’t this ‘easy life’ so quickly begin to feel hollow? There are so many ways this ‘easy life’ doesn’t live up to the promises of God that in Christ we will have full and abundant life.

I see it again and again in my own life; I see it again and again in my research into the depths of self-harm and the recovery from it. Self-harm is just a flashing neon light, highlighting the societal problem; it’s the eye-catching signal which shows us our collective focus on avoidance and control.

When we avoid what is real and what is true, when we put off the hard things for another day – some vague time in the future, just as long as it’s not today – we squash that fullness, we limit what is possible. God doesn’t call us into a life of avoidance. God didn’t give us the depth of emotions we have just so we could numb them out and skip back into happyville.

No healing comes when we refuse to face what is wounded.

There is no story of Jesus coming up to someone and saying, “I know you’re refusing to admit that you’re ill or broken or desperately in need, but I’m gonna heal you so you don’t even need to worry about it.” No! We are told story after story in the Gospels of people crying out, desperate for Jesus’ intervention, breaking open roofs, pushing through crowds, breaking rules and social norms.

It takes guts, especially in this culture of avoidance, this culture of positivity at all costs, to look straight into our wounds. It takes guts to stand firm in the path of anxiety and let it come. But the only way out is through. The only way we can live well with our woundings is to be present with them, to face them straight on and welcome them as part of our lives.

We perpetuate our suffering by not meeting our wounds eye-to-eye, by pushing them away, by refusing to see. We risk wounding others when we refuse to admit that we, ourselves, need healing.

There can be no fullness of life if we are refusing to experience half of it. We cannot claim to be living the full life God desires for us if we are living out the denial of our physical form, or the fact that we are emotional beings, or that there are multiple dimensions of ourselves which we need to learn how to harmonise. There can be no empathy or fullness of love for others when we are refusing to love our full selves and refusing to welcome the fullness of our experiences. To live fully, to experience fully, we must be grounded in our bodies, open to feeling our discomfort, our awkwardness, our pain.

This might mean we need to learn new skills, such as how to be present to our emotions, how (and when) to act on them, how to live in a body with pain or dietary sensitivities. Or we might need to learn more about eating a healthy diet to provide the nourishment our bodies need, not the effects our minds want in order to numb our feelings for another few hours, and to relearn how to move our bodies in healthful ways. Maybe we need to learn all of it and more.

Are you willing? You don’t need to get it right straight away, you just need to be willing to take the first step, and then the next.

Photo: No healing comes when we refuse to face what is wounded.

Original photo by Zachary Staines.

Stop putting it off. Just turn and face one thing today. Turn and greet it with a hello or a welcome. Maybe try asking what its message for you is. If you’re not used to doing this, you might need to do some coaxing, but be patient and gentle, like you would be when asking hard questions of a small and shy child. These parts of our lives are not used to being listened to, that’s one of the reasons they seem to yell so loudly. But you might be surprised by how much your own life wants you to live in wellness and fullness.

You don’t have to do it alone. Ask a trusted friend to stand with you; pay a counsellor or psychologist to hold space for you. And most importantly, know that God is with you in it. We don’t just have a god of the happy times and the sunshine. We have a God who knows the despair, who knows the storms, who intimately knows the brokenness, and loves us in it.

So, here’s a challenge for you (and I’m challenging myself too): can you love yourself in the broken parts? Can you love yourself enough to face them? And when you do, can you treat yourself gently and with kindness, trusting that God has you safe in Her hands?

Our liberation in Christ does not mean we are free from all the things we try so hard to avoid. It simply means they cannot hold us, that they do not have the final say in our lives. We are invited, not into a life apart from death, but deeper into life itself. We are invited into greater and fuller life, but only by entering with Christ into the death which has held us. It is by turning our eyes to our Messiah, dead on a cross, that we can also see the resurrection life.

So, look into your wounds, look into our collective wounds, for it is there that we can find a fullness of life which will never be possible in a life of avoidance.

And today, when I finally stopped trying to avoid my anxiety, when I invite her to speak, I receive this:

“This PhD is such important work, and you need to do it well, I want you to get it right.”

“Thank you,” I reply, “I agree and that is what I desire too. Thank you for the reminder to hold this sacred work with tender hands.”

And anxiety can rest, knowing she has been welcomed, heard, and honoured. And I am free to do the work we both want.

 


twitter-greyEasy tweetables for you to share:

No healing comes when we refuse to face what is wounded. (click to tweet)

There can be no fullness of life if we are refusing to experience half of it. (click to tweet) 

To live fully, we must be grounded in our bodies, open to feeling our discomfort, awkwardness, pain. (click to tweet)

Our liberation in Christ does not mean we are free from all the things we try so hard to avoid. (click to tweet)