Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Canyon

Evening quickly approaches as a deep darknesses settles upon the ravine floor.

The journey has been long. Here in the cold, stale air, the ravine walls invite you stay forever. To give up hope of finding your destination. To fall asleep forever and let the earth reclaim you. There is something sinister in their presence.

Mists swirl around your ankles, specters of a bygone time. They clutch at you, as if their condensation on your skin could raise them back to life. Their hands gently brush up against you, and a cold more dark than the night penetrates deep into your skin.

Many trials, dangerous and fierce, lie behind you, but they hardly feel like victories now. Rather than heroically campaigning through the adversities, you barely managed to keep your life as you ran, stumbling and tripping on the earth that seems bent on failing you. Where you ran, others stood, and they have been given glory and medals. Those heroes have been celebrated time and time again in taverns warm and hearty, and here you sit; alone in the rubble desperately trying to start a fire with damp kindling.

After a meager meal, you lie your head down and listen for sounds of life around you. Yet not even a wolf would dare venture between these cliff faces. The silence is deafening. You can see the glow of the moon casting its rays just past the lip of the tallest ledge, but none of its light reaches you. The stars are all but blocked by the towering canyon walls. You close your eyes, and you are greeted by the same darkness that met you with them open. As you shiver, you slowly fall asleep, wondering what would come of you in the night.

Light begins to peek over the canyon walls.

A bird, chirping, flits over the canyon, high above your head, heralding the coming of morning. Stiff, you roll over and brush off the gravel that is pressed into your skin. You know from the past few days that the light will not reach more than halfway down the ravine, so deep is the canyon. Even still, the sight of the golden rays imbues you with hope.

The warmth of the porridge you've made for yourself fills your body with strength. The fire is warm, and the dark of the night that seeped into your heart begins to melt away. Have you failed more than you succeeded? Perhaps. But the thoughts of the night before seem far less significant to you now.

"Although I've never won, been heroic, or faced the most difficult of evils, I've yet made it this far," you think to yourself. It is a triumph to simply stand where you are. Simply to stand in living defiance of the cold, lifeless cliff faces on either side of you. You haven't accomplished much, and yet, you've accomplished it all. As you breathe, you are reminded with each pull of oxygen that the earth hasn't claimed you yet.

The morning mists – instead of remaining still and swirling around your disturbances, as in the night  before  roll forward into the canyon before you, almost as if the travelers that have come before you now urge you forwards. You begin to pack up your things, and begin to appreciate the adversities you have overcome. You aren't inadequate, a failure, worthless. You've carried on, pressed forward, and pushed through. In the face of such difficult things, the fact that you still stand is incredible.

If no one else sees it, trust Me when I say I do: I've walked this cold, dark, long road too. I know how it wears you down and chips you away. It may not be like killing monsters or fighting armies, but the slow relentless fading is almost more dangerous than any of those other things. It has claimed far more lives than monsters or armies ever have, and yet we act as if it does not exist. We give ourselves no grace, and so we also give others none. And yet ignoring the creeping darkness, the sense of failure, the feelings of inadequacy is what feeds it even more.

Traveler, you have made it this far. You STAND. What a beautiful triumph! To lose is to sit and die, to win is to press forward, no matter the ways that you do. If it is running, walking, stumbling, or crawling, your defiance against giving up is itself a grand and victorious thing. I applaud your relentless courage. 

I urge you forward, deeper into the canyon, for on the other side you will step into golden sunlight  the day is ever nearer. Your weapon is not your sword, but your courage. The night holds no sway if you remember your worth  immense and immeasurable, unable to be counted. So much so that if the earth claims you, the rest of our kind loses a great loss. Because of you, we are better. Simply the life within you is enough of a gift to fill a thousand chests. 

You are beautiful, strong, courageous, and absolutely incredible. And when the night falls on the canyon again, listen for My voice, whispering the only words you ever need to hear: I love you.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Self-Compassion Matters

Self-compassion can be really, really hard to grasp sometimes.

Sometimes having an incredible amount of faith isn't moving mountains, but allowing the light into the dark areas of your life. It takes so much faith to tell the Lord the things that make you feel ashamed, lonely, condemned, and broken and yet trust Him to not leave.

And yet, self-compassion is allowing yourself to feel those very things. To be vulnerable with your emotions. Faith is trusting the Lord to stay by your side, no matter how worthless or inadequate you feel.

Easier said than done. The burden of shame can be a mountain of its own.

The lyrics of the song "You're Gonna Be Okay," by Brian and Jenn Johnson are very helpful to me:

"Hold on, don't let go.
Just take one step closer,
put one foot in front of the other.
You'll get through this;
just follow the light in the darkness.
You're gonna be okay."

When I'm facing a storm of shame, and it's hard for me to have faith, it is so comforting to know that I don't need to cover all of the ground at once. I don't need to magically have the answers or feel better. I can take my time. I can heal. I'm allowed to take one step at a time.

Giving yourself the permission to be imperfect is the first step to healing. It's okay to take a long time, as long as you are making progress. Be patient with yourself. Some things take a long time.

Have a friend who has earned your trust walk with you. Having someone who is there to help you slay the dragons is incredibly comforting and encouraging. Have them remind you of who you truly are.

Do as much as you can. Sometimes it's hard to read my Bible because I'm afraid, and so I'll just pray instead. The Lord knows your ability and sees your effort. He is glad for that.

God sees and hears you – He doesn't mind it if you question Him. When you express your doubts, He not only has compassion and grace for you, but is thrilled to hear your voice. You are precious to Him.

"You are always enough."
"You are always worthy."
"You are always loved."

These are three truths we should not forget.
These are three truths we should be speaking to others.
These are three truths we often need spoken to ourselves.

Self-compassion is birthed out of a sense that we are worthy of love. When we believe in our own inherent, God-given value, we open the doors for healing. We can begin to speak and believe the three truths about ourselves.

"I am always enough, so I can stop trying to be more."
"I am always worthy, so I can stop trying to increase my value."
"I am always loved, so I can stop performing for affection."

We are the same, you and I. We share a common humanity. So let me leave you with the most encouraging words my mentor has ever told me: "You are exactly where you need to be right now."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Moon

Tonight the moon halo shines bright.
Alone under the great eye of the night,
I stand little and small in its gaze.

Am I afraid in its sight?
No, I'm comforted to be in its light.
I'm reassured to be seen.

My realities shift like the sands on a dune,
my anxieties are secret, but known by the moon.
And like a rock that hates to be hewn,
I fight against the hands that would open me.

But the moon listens;
the moon knows;
the moon sees, and
the moon understands.

A halo forms the iris of the night,
and the deep dark of its eye is
illuminated by the small twinkling
of billions of galaxies distant.

The moon demands nothing of me,
expects nothing more, sees nothing less.
I am naked, bare, and exposed under its eye,
and it feels good to be finally seen.

The moon is not brilliant, but soft;
not incredible, but humble.
And in its humility it lights up our entire world
in its cool, all seeing dimness.

And I wonder, sometimes, on a night like this,
Who hung the moon in the sky? 
Who gave a source to its knowing light?

For maybe He is able to see me too.
Maybe He is able to make me unafraid.
Maybe I can stand naked, bare, and exposed in His sight,
and risk no condemnation at all.