NOTE: The following is a featured post from 2016 which first appeared on my former creative blog, Scrappy Storyteller. I’m sharing this as a way of embracing my past creative self and sharing ideas she had that, well, still matter today. Enjoy!
Anyone who knows me well knows how much I hate the process of revision.Ideas tend to flow through me like freight trains, complete thoughts barreling down the track that is my early phases of writing. They’re coherent and prolific. This blog post itself is mostly a first draft, composed on-the-fly with a few stolen moments of time.
Generally after composing such a first draft, I walk away satisfied that I got my meaning across. This is probably the only real reason I write: not for the beauty of language itself, but to get something off my chest.
And that is where things start to get messy.
Because the process of polishing my thoughts is never as straightforward or simple as the getting them down in the first place. I hate chaos, so there’s something inherently horrific to me about taking my neatly ordered ideas and tearing them up. Why un-make and re-make again what was decently adequate to start with—especially when it involves such violence?
To me, revision feels like a death: my beautiful first drafts get torn up into “little paper pieces” and scattered on the wind. Why can’t I just write it well the first time?
This is of course the purest form of creative impatience. Nothing on the planet (not even my words!) show up in the world fully formed. It must be shaped and fashioned, nurtured and evolved. Many sentences and paragraphs must die and rise again in new forms before the final product emerges.
That’s just not how the creative process works in real life. I think the same can be said for our inner stories as well.
A few weeks ago, I wrote aboutThe Other Side of Storytelling. In this post, I explored what it now means to me to refashion my personal narrative of my own life experiences—so I can actually livewithmyself and move forward. Author Jean Houston has called this the process of “re-mythologizing your life.”
Just as cultures tell themselves stories to make meaning of their collective experience, so we individuals do the same. Just perhaps, more unconsciously. But as I’ve learned since I wrote the post, re-mythologizing an inner reality is much closer to the traditional process of creative revision than I imagined at the outset.
Revision is nothing more than a process ofGetting Your Story Straight. To get your story straight, you must be willing to revise it, a thousand times if necessary. You must not fear the violence of ripping paper or the whine of the shredding machine. You must, in short, be willing to tear every unsatisfactory draft up into tiny paper pieces and scatter them to the wind.
Oh, the mess it makes!
Despite this mess, over the past few months, I have been blessed with so many angelic individuals coming into my life to help me “see” myself properly and retell my story at a crucial moment. Some of them are friends. Some are clients. Some occupy other capacities altogether in my heart and mind. But they all share one thing in common:
They have, each one of them, forced me to tear up and rewrite my story—again.
Every time I am tempted to settle for a less elegant rendition of what has happened in my life, or put up with a self-destructive turn of phrase, they pull out their red pens and call me on my bullshit. It’s editorial license of a breathtakingly destructive kind.
The funniest—and perhaps most grace-filled—part of it, is that most of these editors don’t even know they’re on the job.
They don’t know how many times I go home from being with them, feeling like my soul has been ripped up, ripped out or ripped open. They never see the tears I shed, or the long journal entries in which I force myself to reframe experiences that I have always naturally avoided, or seen in a particular, self-destructive light. Inspired by their nudges, I’ll start writing my story again, thinking this time I’ll get the final healthy version down pat.
But it just doesn’t work that way.
There’s always another draft I need to write. And pronto.
Despite my frustration with the slowness of this process, there is hope. In my most private moments I find myself gradually being filled up with a story that (while different from the one I originally wrote) is probably far stronger. Yet in the presence of my editors, I still find myself frequently at a loss for words, or saying the wrong things, or losing my power of self-expression altogether.
I do not have just the right turn of phrase to replace the part of my story they just redlined, or marked up with that dreaded bit of commentary: “Unclear. Rewrite!”
Paper pieces start showering down everywhere, and no matter how fast I chase them with broom and vacuum, I can hardly keep up with the mess.
Of course, I hate the mess. And I worry that my friends and clients and others in my life will soon grow impatient with all the flotsam in my wake. Don’t they hate breathing in wood pulp? Don’t they get tired of red ink-stains on their fingers? And aren’t they going to revoke our contract when they get another horrible mid-revision draft that’s just north of complete drivel?
Then I remember, that they don’t see what’s happening in my soul. They aren’t inside my process of re-mythologizing my life.
The paper pieces are likely invisible to everyone except me.
My mess, self-made, is also only self-seen.
So this is a thank you to all those brave souls out there who engage with me at a level I’ve never experienced before. You know who you are. You know how much you matter.
What maybe you don’t know is just how painful (in the best of ways) your kindness is.
I’m reminded of a quote fromA Course in Miracles, which states, “Discomfort is not the final result of your perception.”
I trust wholeheartedly that this time of new perceiving of myself, and of rewriting my understanding of my life, will bear fruit in the years to come. I trust that the discomfort of my new perception, inspired by your collective kindness, will be rewarded with a great joy that I can give back to you a thousand fold. I trust that the sea of red ink you help me splash all over my internal narrative will deliver us at last a clean, fresh story that is satisfying all the way to “The End.”
I trust this, yes.
And still , I grieve a bit every time a new draft splits into a thousand useless scraps.
Then again, maybe re-mythologizing not about getting the story “just right.” Maybe it is not about the death of the old drafts at all, but the celebration what might come in the next. And maybe—just maybe—that’s where I’ve always gone wrong with revision.
One can view the act of writing as a tearing up of the old, or as the welcoming in of something brand-new and wonderful.
Little paper pieces, I suppose, make their own kind of confetti.
NOTE: The following is a featured post from 2016 which first appeared on my former creative blog, Scrappy Storyteller. I’m sharing this as a way of embracing my past creative self and sharing ideas she had that, well, still matter today. Enjoy!
Every year I have great plans for February. And every year, they get totally derailed.
Like it or not, for me February seems to be the month when I’m called to hibernate in my own soul, mulling things over. I feel like that bear in a cave, slowly burning off the fat of her last intellectual meal so that when she awakes, she can stretch and crawl out of her cave in search of a good trout and a handful of berries.
The reward for my hibernation, however, is rarely a sense of well-restedness. (I actually slept terribly this month.)
It’s a sense of renewed understanding and purpose.
As I explored inmy last post, there are apparently phases to this thing called the creative life. The early phases are so exciting! You watch concepts you heard and read about unfold before your very eyes.
But once the excitement and glitter are past, you’ve got a long road of hard work ahead of you.
And as it turns out, that is where our storytelling skills most come in handy.
You see, in the middle of all my intellectual machinations and internal questioning this month, it occurred to me that our storytelling skills really are so much more important than we think. And not just for the creative endeavors we might be pursuing.
They’re critical to the living of this thing called life.
This month it occurred to me—possibly for the first time ever—that the story truly must come first inany endeavor, not just in art but also in life.
So often we want to rush into action, or see change happen, without getting the story straight first.
Every day, every hour, I’m shaping a narrative inside my own head about how my life is going, whether I’m the hero of a comedy or tragedy, or how close I am to achieving my goals.
The most important story I’ve been telling all of my life isn’t one of my many specific fictional tales. It’s the story I’ve been tellingtomyself aboutmy life.
I am my own first (captive) audience. I am also perhaps my own most important audience.
And like the reader of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, I will ultimately decide how the story turns out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting I have ultimate power over my own life, or some kind of omnipotent edge that can merely think away obstacles and fly to the moon. But Iamsuggesting that I do have the power over how I react to, respond to or view what happens to me.
That internal narrative is just as important—maybe even more so—than any external one I’ll ever write.
As I was lying awake many nights this month, thinking over many things, or letting my mind wander as I doodled in my art journal . . . I realized that the creative life really is not about being in the “right place” with the “right people” or the “right work.”
It’s about telling yourself the right story about yourself, your place, your people and your work.
This is not to say that we should never make changes to our external environment, or pursue new opportunities, or perhaps finally lay that languishing project to rest. But perhaps we’re just too quick to look around us, expecting the change to happen.
We look to the details of the story to change magically on their own, rather than asking the Storyteller to change the plot.
I am the Storyteller. So are you. If we don’t like the story . . . all we have to do is change it.
After all, isn’t that the beauty of a story? It’s not completely random? There IS a Teller out there somewhere, shaping our understand of what’s happening, and helping us to make meaning of the events as they unfold.
In the case of life, we rely on ourselves to make meaning of what’s happening to us. It’s one of the sacred tasks we’ve been given.
So I’ll ask you the question I had to ask myself:
Do you like how you’re shaping the story of your own life?
If not, you always have an opportunity to shift the narrative inside your own head, and in doing so, to transform your reality.
That’s what stories are all about, anyway: the power of transformation. The transmuting of a soul from one state of being to another—whether literally in the physical realm or figuratively in the metaphoric one.
(I didn’t tell you we’d be delving into alchemy today, now did I? Well, every good story has got to have a plot twist anyway . . .)
A story starts off in one place and must alway end up in another. If there’s no shift or movement, there has been no story.
The bottom line for us is: transformation is possible. And it starts in our own heads.
So as we enjoy this unusual extra day in February, and prepare for March (already?!), I hope you’ll remember with me that we really, truly are the story that we tell ourselves.
If we don’t like the story we’re living, the problem isn’t usually in the story. It’s all about the telling.
This is why movies go south. Novels flounder. Graphic novels fall flat.
The telling of the story just wasn’t as grand as the original idea.
Our own less-than-effective telling is why the story of our life sometimes turns out as less than we’d hoped, too.
But the problem is never the story itself.
The narrative we spin inside our own heads, about our own lives, is quite possibly the most important narrative we’ll ever write.
It’s about time we got absolutely clear on who we are, what’s happened to us, and why it matters.
Because when we get our story straight, the rest (of life) will always follow.
Recently while reading my Bible, I came across the story of a woman’s healing that really gripped me. I’ve read it before, many times, but I never saw it the way I did this time around. It gave me a brand-new way to understand emotional healing that freed me to a whole new level … and I hope it blesses you, too.
“As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.” – Luke 8:42-42 (ESV)
If you’re read the Gospels, you may recognize this as the story of the woman who had “an issue of blood.” Basically, this means she was plagued with some kind of perpetual bleeding for twelve years that could not be treated effectively by the medical wisdom of that day.
This story appears in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:42-48. Two of three of the writers note that this woman had spent every penny she had on physicians, but nothing seemed to help. In other words: she was desperate.
Immediately I recognized myself in this text—even though I don’t have that woman’s same physical problem, for many years, I was plagued by emotional challenges that never really seemed to improve. I also thought a lot of other women might share my discovery by recognizing themselves in this story, too.
The “issue of blood” doesn’t have to be physical. Think about it in terms of any ongoing physical or emotional condition you may be experiencing: migraines, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, eating disorders, negative self-talk, self-doubt, a tormenting lack of confidence: any condition that has robbed you of time, life and (of course) money going to rounds and rounds of doctors’ or therapists’ visits that never seem to heal to the real issue.
That’s what’s made this story suddenly so compelling for me: its complete hopelessness at the outset. This woman had gone out to experts, seeking solutions for a dozen years, and she’d never been able to get them.
And she’d bankrupted herself in the process.
There’s nothing more frustrating or disempowering than having a problem—any kind of physical or emotional pain—that turns into an endless prison you can never get free from. You go to “expert” after “expert,” walking away from each hopeful appointment with a progressively lighter wallet and heavier heart.
Can you relate? Does this resonate with you? It certainly does with me.
When I was struggling with the worst of my physical, emotional and spiritual pain following my divorce—which was really just the crescendo that woke me up to a lifetime of un-addressed trauma—I felt like all I did was try solutions that didn’t solve anything. I lost a ton of money in the process. And though I now walk now in total financial victory and freedom with God as my Provider, part of what He’s providing for right now is for me to pay off some residual debt associated with all those rounds of “treatment.”
In this state of poverty and hopelessness, the woman finally came to see Jesus.
“She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” – Luke 8:44 (ESV)
Such a simple recounting of a monumental event! The Mark version says, “She felt in her body that she was healed of the disease.” Our woman friend came to see Jesus. She touched nothing more than His garment. And instantly, she was whole.
Can you imagine? Actually sensing with your physical body the moment of release from your prison of pain?
Here we have this woman, who experienced the two-thousand-years-ago version of our modern treatment marathon. The text doesn’t say what her emotional state was, but she must have been desperate, because the Matthew version records her saying to herself, “If I can just get to Jesus, and touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”
If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is. Other versions record that there was a huge crowd thronging Jesus the day He passed by the woman. She had to fight with the noise and the press of bodies. I doubt she was the strongest woman there that day, especially given her health issues, and yet, somehow, her desperation gave her determination. She strong-armed her way through the crowd and made it to the place where she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passed by.
Think about that for a second.
She must have crouched down and reached between the ankles of people at the front of the crowd, just to touch a few threads of Jesus’ garment as he passed. Maybe it had a fringe, or tassels or some other kind of embroidery at the hem. Maybe that’s all her straining fingers could manage to brush.
Yet somehow, she made contact. And that single instant of contact changed her future.
Desperation also led her to take the most efficient action. She didn’t have money this time for more treatments. She wasn’t looking for a physical or psychological explanation for her pain. She just wanted the healing. Straight-up wellness, with no more hooplah, no more ten-step plans and no more excuses.
She just wanted to be well. And it shows … in the desperate measures she took to reach the last person she thought could help her.
I think that’s fascinating, actually, because I noticed in my own healing journey that there were times when I wasn’t really ready for 100% healing. I was ready for an explanation of my pain. I was ready for a treatment plan. I was ready to “do the work.” But I wasn’t really, truly, ready to be completely RELEASED of the weight I had been carrying around. Mostly because I had no idea what life would look like on the other side of my pain.
You might say, “Lisa, that’s crazy. I just want to be free of what I’m suffering in my body, mind and heart.”
I get that. But do you want it, really? Are you fully prepared for what your life will be like when you actually get free?
Sometimes the reason pain prolongs in our lives is because we’re holding on to it. We “get” something out of remaining in the situation we’re in. For me, I “got” a sense of comfort and identity from my pain. I got a twisted sense of safety. It was all I knew.
Inside my pain, somehow, I felt in control of my circumstances. The cage was comfortable and know-able. Everything on the other side was not.
The idea of living in total victory on the other side of anxiety, shame, low self-confidence, gastrointestinal disorders, weight fluctuation and everything else sounded good, yes. But in reality I was terribly afraid of a world where I didn’t face these things. It was the only world I knew.
The rounds and rounds and rounds of treatment—whether provided by a professional or undertaken by me in the form of self-help courses, support groups and hours of experimentation—kept me busy and feeling like I was moving forward. But in reality, they weren’t fixing the issue.
Can you relate?
“And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’” – Luke 8:45-46 (ESV)
So our woman friend is desperate. She goes to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and somehow succeeds. The text says, “And Jesus perceived that power had gone out of Him.” Some of the versions also say that He looked around and asked, “Who touched Me?”
His disciples thought He was crazy—because so many people were touching Him in the throng that day. How could it possibly be clear, who had touched the hem of His garment?
This desperate woman finally abandoned all the treatment plans and went straight to the Source of physical, emotional and spiritually healing. And Jesus, the Son of God, knew immediately when she had tapped into His power.
He was busy, but not too busy to notice her need and deliver the answer she sought.
Wow. That really hit me hard.
When we abandon our reliance on “treatment plans” and go straight to the Source of healing, He will know. Instantly. He’s not too busy to notice we’ve reached out to touch the hem of His garment. And today, with “instant access” to Jesus through prayer, we don’t have to push through a crowd to do it.
Please understand, I’m not saying you quit your doctor-approved treatment or stop going to your support group. I repeat: I am not encouraging you to go cold-turkey on your healing activities. I believe 100% in many healing practices, share them here and practice then myself.
But I am asking you to examine your heart and question whether, deep down, you truly believe that Jesus can free you from everything you’re facing, to the point that you will no longer need those healing practices or treatment plans in your life at some point? And whether you’re ready to let go of that pain so your hand is empty enough to reach out and touch Him?
So much of our physical pain has a root cause in our dis-ease of mind, emotions and spirit. As we allow Jesus to heal those root causes, many, many physical symptoms will ease or disappear completely. It happened to me, and it’s happened to many other women I know!
It might not happen instantly as it did for this woman. But by reaching out for the touch of Jesus, we ignite something powerful that will ultimately result in our healing if we submit to the process. And eventually we’ll feel the healing that’s happened deep inside.
That’s what happened to our friend, the woman. She felt that the disease (or dis-ease, as I prefer!) had gone out of her body.
Think about that.
Rarely in the Bible is it recorded that someone felt the healing. We hear that they got up and walked. Or that they could suddenly see. Or they could speak and praised God. But the feeling level is not often recorded. Not in the way it is here. As women we are so much more attuned to our feelings, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this woman’s story is one of the few in Scripture where we read that she felt the healing.
Jesus felt the power go out of His body. The woman felt the healing come into hers. And it was that feeling, that sense, that encounter-from-a-distance that finally brought them face to face.
“And when the woman perceived that she was not hidden, she came trebling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” – Luke 8 :47-48 (ESV)
The Scripture records that Jesus stopped and asked who had touched him. In this environment, the woman was quickly forced to come out of hiding in the crowd and fall down at Jesus’ feet and confess what she had done. To me, the way the text is written, it suggests that the woman wanted to remain hiddden. Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition, or she was fearful He might reprimand or punish her for “stealing” a bit of His power.
Ultimately, however, she could not remain hidden. She had to ‘fess up in front of everyone. And when she does, Jesus treats her with compassion and even honor. Instead of reprimanding or embarrassing her, He blesses her for her faith.
“Go in peace, Daughter, your faith has made you whole.”
Your faith has made you whole.
Interestingly, Jesus never says, “My power made you whole.” Or “Your faith and my power, working together, made you whole.” He says, “Your faith has made you whole.”
What if the only thing standing between us and the healing we seek—for our minds, our emotions, our spirits and our bodies—is the faith to believe it’s truly possible?
What if we’re going everywhere else for answer, because deep down, we don’t really believe Jesus can provide the healing that we seek? And direct us to the exact people and resources that can help us heal?
I didn’t truly believe that for a long time. I intellectually knew Jesus as Healer. But I ran everywhere else for the treatment I needed instead of going straight to Him. This is strange, because there’s no crowd between me and Jesus, as there was for the woman. I can go directly to Him. And yet I didn’t.
I let all the other “healing stuff” stand the way–not as tools to be used by Jesus in my life, but as substitutes for Him as the Source.
As I said, today I believe wholeheartedly in many different methods of healing, and I teach them here on my blog and in my private counseling and coaching. But if it isn’t all coming from Jesus as the Source … it’s just not going to have long-term transformative effective.
This spring, even as I’ve experienced a tremendous season of shedding in my life, I’ve also taken huge leaps forward. I’ve opened my heart back up to life and to really, truly, fully living in a place beyond fear. And this story means more than ever to me now.
Despite the continual uncertainties I live with as a single expat woman in an expensive Gulf country, where I’m dependent on my employer for my visa and have a lot of needs to meet with one paycheck each month, and a lot of other challenging circumstances in my life … I have total peace.
Why? Because Jesus is my Source. It’s touching His garment in faith that delivers everything I need …. physical, emotional and spiritual.
So ask yourself today, “Where is my dependence?”
Is it in the doctors and the treatment plan? Or the next ten-step healing program? Have you gotten so caught up in healing modalities and all the things you need to “do” to heal, that you’ve forgotten to go straight to the One Who wants to heal you from the inside-out, with complete victory and no residual “side effects?”
Perhaps at the most basic level, do you really, truly believe you can be healed at all?
That’s perhaps the most powerful thing about the woman’s story. Despite everything she had been through with doctors and treatment-induced poverty, she still believed it was possible to live completely free of the condition that was literally leeching her life source–her blood–out of her.
If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble to get to Jesus.
Healing from any condition only becomes possible on the day we take the limits off. And we do that by having faith in the Only One who truly Iives beyond the limits of this world.
When you do, you may not experience instaneous healing in your body, but you will begin an amazing process of healing that will lead you, step by step into a life beyond your “label” and a calling that overpowers your “condition.”
Touch the garment of Jesus. Let Him call out to you face-to-face, and you most certainly will find more freedom in your body, mind and emotions than you ever thought possible.
I know, because it happened to me.
When I let go of all he treatment plans, and decided I did really want to live beyond my condition, and that I believed Jesus could do it … things changed. Radically. My flow of pain became a flow of healing and power.
So can yours. The flow of blood …. or negative thoughts, or gastrointestinal pain, or emotional heartache … or whatever “issue” is robbing you of your life force today …. can become a flow of health, healing and purpose beyond your wildest dreams.
Jesus is passing by today, beautiful woman. Will you reach out to Him?
“I consider myself a stained-glass window. And this is how I live my life. Closing no doors and covering no windows; I am the multi-colored glass with light filtering through me, in many different shades. Allowing light to shed and fall into many many hues. My job is not to direct anything, but only to filter into many colors. My answer is destiny and my guide is joy. And there you have me.”―C. JoyBell C.
“If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Have you ever looked really hard for something you were sure must be available, only to give up your search? Perhaps it was a last-minute Christmas gift when all the racks are picked over. Or the perfect dress you needed—but couldn’t find—for an upcoming gala. Nothing’s worse than a search undertaken under pressure. The clock is ticking. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, it will soon be too late.
Life can feel like that sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I am often in a frantic search for purpose, significance, creative inspiration and (yes, let’s be honest) more money. I’m keeping my eyes peeled everywhere I go for that one “magic thing” I want. My search for a marriage partner was like this for many years. Can you relate?
It’s like keeping your eyes peeled for an oasis on a torturous trek through the desert.
If only we can find that thing “out there,” we’ll survive the heat.
Or so we think.
Lately I’ve come to realize more than ever that the search for all of this is never outside of ourselves. It’s always within. The next book, the next course, the next man, even the next gathering at church—all these are good things that can become our own personal definition of a mirage because they won’t slake the thirst we feel.
What if you’re wasting your time wandering around like that, looking for something you’re never going to find outside yourself? If you are a believer, God has already provided everything you need to feel significant, purposeful, loved, creative and financially free. And what if, as a believer in Jesus, you already have all that inside you through the Holy Spirit?
It would be a shame to keep searching for the mirage, growing fainter by the moment, when you’ve got a freely-flowing fountain deep within (Psalm 36:8-9).
And yet, that’s what we do with God. We forget the Holy Spirit is always with us, ready to guide us into all truth, if we’ll just ask (John 16:13). It’s so much easier, after all, to focus on what’s in front of our faces. And if we’re being honest, searching for the answer is addictive in itself.
You can be so hooked on searching that deep down, you’ll do anything to keep yourself from really, truly finding. So what if you bought one less course, went on one less date and cancelled, yes, even that church bowling event—just so you could spend time drinking at the well that is already within you?
In my own search to assuage the pain inside and make sense of the chaos of my life, the running only stopped when I decided to stand still.
The less I did to solve my problems, the more God presented the solutions I needed.
The less I chased people or opportunities, the more God put the right ones in front of me.
The more time I spent with God, the better my experiences became in the outside world, and the more creative I began to feel.
When my inside “woke up” to the reality of the authority, power and provision God had already planted deep within me by His Spirit, my outer world began to take care of itself.
This was most evident in my search for love following my divorce, which was really a three-year journey to heal my own love wounds from childhood through adulthood, and become a clean channel, able to receive the full flow of God’s love to me and give it back to others. (Still a work in progress, but I’m happy to say I’ve come a very long way!)
In this journey, I was convinced once I had successfully created another union with healthier patterns than the last one, I would arrive at the oasis. As a girlfriend, fiancée or wife again, I would have a chance to rewrite my story and change the future for myself, my new husband and my eventual children.
But you know what?
None of those efforts worked out.
No matter how much I changed myself, refined my thoughts and behaviors or stepped outside my comfort zone to embrace healing … all of which was amazing and helpful, by the way … I still didn’t get the results I was looking for.
Then one day, I realized: there was nothing to fix. Jesus took the penalty for all my mistakes on the cross. And He would carry the wounds from my childhood if I asked, so I didn’t have to anymore. I was already loved unconditionally, accepted fully in the beloved; I just wasn’t living my life as a loved, accepted woman (Ephesians 1:6).
And the real reason none of those relationships (including my marriage, I believe) lasted?
Because God loved me so much, He did whatever it took to bring me to the point where I was dependent on Him for love, and not on another human being. Even if it meant allowing the dissolution of relationships I had cherished—even ones that are supposed to last a lifetime.
What felt like pain was really the most amazing form of “tough love” designed to bring me into greater levels of life. The day I recognized my true worth, and the level of love and acceptance God already has for me, was the day I found my freedom from the past and finally stepped beyond the limits of my own need for companionship. My three-year journey to learn how to love culminated in the reality that I was loved already. There was nothing to find, improve or create (Psalm 136:26).
Would I still love to be in an amazing partnership? Absolutely. I still pray and believe for this outcome in my future. But I don’t “need” to be in a relationship to slake the thirst inside, or to heal my past love wounds.
I am God’s amazing daughter, and I walk right now in more radical love, acceptance and provision than any human could deliver me. And I always will, from now until the end of time.
I’m not waiting for the oasis to show up on the horizon.
Sometimes, on the healing journey, it can feel impossible to believe that you will ever be free of what happened to you. You’re a goal-oriented woman, and you love to have a target to aim your arrows toward, or a finish line to run for. But when it comes to your emotions and healing from your past, that target, that line, always seems to move.
Some days are okay. Some days are terrible. You’ve been told it will “get better,” but what does that even look like? How will you KNOW when you’ve reached a place of freedom?
At one level, freedom is a lifelong event, and it’s entirely personal. Each day, we can make choices that take us closer to God and closer to total surrender and joy in Him, which will naturally break off the bonds that have held us back. That exact path may look different for each woman, of course. But the process is the same.
However at another level, I can testify from my own experience: you WILL know, that you know, that you know, when you become emotionally free. You WILL start waking up each day with the significant conviction that you are no longer moved by what happened to you: that your life is blank slate now, not a museum to the past.
Believe me, it’s the best feeling in the world.
“But wait,” you say. “I feel like a one-woman triage unit every day of the week, and that still doesn’t give me a lot of help.”
I totally understand. I did too, when I first started this process. Here are seven (concrete) things that you can also expect to happen when you break away from the pain of the past and allow yourself to be totally renewed. If you haven’t experienced these, don’t feel bad. Rejoice that this is what you can look forward to, and keep walking forward on your healing process.
1) You have no desire anymore to talk about “what happened.”
The biggest hallmark of emotional bondage is the fact that your pain will always come spilling out of your mouth—not matter how hard you try “not to talk about it.” Ask your girlfriends; if they are honest women, they will tell you if every coffee or wine date devolves into your personal trauma session. When I was in the worst of my pain, I instinctively looked anywhere I could to get relief. (Anywhere, that is, except to God!)
Stopping yourself from speaking when you are dying inside is not what I’m talking about. When you are in the midst of your pain, you must speak about it long and freely to whomever will listen. But the MARK of having received full healing is when your past wounds no longer define your present reality.
When you get to the place where you are truly no longer moved by what happened to you, and you rest in total peace that God has transformed your pain for good, you won’t even remember to talk about it. People will bring it up, and you’ll be thinking, “Wait, what? Oh right, that thing …” You might even be startled when people bring it up, because your former pain no holds you in a vice-grip deep in your soul.
Please note: I am not referring to activism on behalf of abuse victims, giving your personal testimony, or other types of important “speaking out;” I am referring to the obsessive need to share your pain with others in order to somehow get healing “from” their attention. The attention can’t heal you; only God can!
2) When you think of the people who wronged you, you feel only compassion.
Yes, what happened to you was terrible. Perhaps it was a collection of “somethings” that happened and there’s a parade of perpetrators a mile long: at home, at church, at school, in the community, etc. You may struggle to believe it will ever be possible not to feel the rage and grief that rise up every time their name or face flashes before your mind. But believe me, beautiful woman, it is.
You will know God has healed you emotionally when you can remember these people in your life or walk past something that triggers their memory and yet feel nothing but compassion for them—because you recognize that their own tremendous pain drove them to what they inflicted on you.
3) Your IBS, upset stomach, digestive issues and anxiety heal themselves.
Please keep in mind I am not a doctor and cannot give you medical advice. However, I can offer the laywoman’s observations: in my own life, and those of other women I watch heal emotionally from the darkest, most painful events you can think of, I have witnessed physical symptoms completely break off of those women as they reach healing.
In my own life, when I was in the worst of my emotional pain and disempowerment, I struggled with stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, digestive issues and unstoppable anxiety. As I submitted to the healing process by opening up to God’s love, taking control of my thought patterns, shifting my diet, incorporating gentle yoga, praying daily, etc. I began to notice a drastic reduction in symptoms. Ultimately, this resulted in several miraculous healing experiences. Today, I am symptom-free … without the aid of doctors, surgery or expensive drugs.
4) You naturally stop self-medicating with TV, greasy food, social media or shopping.
Many women tell me they admire my choice to eat meat-light and wish they could do the same—but they say they can’t keep themselves from “cheating” with junk food. If staying consistent with healthier eating choices, managing your spending, limiting your TV and social media time is hard … then you can mark it down, you are still in emotional bondage.
Each of these “indulgences” is perfectly okay and enjoyable in moderation but can quickly become an excuse to get our good feelings from somewhere other than God and ourselves. Needing anything outside of ourselves, exactly who God made us to be, to feel good is by definition a form of bondage.
When you are emotionally free, you won’t “need” these things any more and/or can enjoy them in moderation. Or choose to give them up altogether and not feel deprived at all.
5) You reclaim “painful places” and create new memories in them.
How did I know I had fully healed from the pain of my divorce? When I sat for two hours in the very same coffee shop where I had my last private conversation with my ex-husband … and didn’t even remember that event for about two hours of sitting there. I was SO in the moment, enjoying my work, the coffee and the space, that I did not even recall that my marriage had essentially dissolved in that space. This was not an act of disrespect to my marriage or that conversation; it was a marker that I had finally move on to create new memories in that space.
That is what it truly means to reclaim a space for your own after trauma has marked it. When I came back to my hometown, Milwaukee, after nine months of traveling, I felt that my emotional “set point” had been reset, because I could walk into places that preciously were emotionally loaded from my marriage and divorce, and feel totally free to “own” them again and make new memories that aren’t mixed up with what happened before.
6) Other people’s poor choices no longer affect your joy.
This is a fairly simple one, but wow is it powerful! When you become emotionally free, you reach a place where you realize that YOU are the only person you are responsible for. Yes, you can pray for others. You can seek to be a positive influence. You can give of yourself. But at the end of the day, you are the ONLY person you can truly change.
When you relax into that space where you are no longer responsible for everyone else’s well-being, you can truly release your emotional bondage and your attachment to the idea that other people need to change … which is nothing more than a distraction from how YOU need to change.
7) You feel genuinely happy for no reason.
I know, dear heart. I know it’s hard to imagine this when you are in so much pain right now. But the day will come when all those “weights” on your heart will come lifting off, and you will float down the street, truly in love with you life, no matter what is going on in your material, lived experience.
This will be possible because you will know, that you know, that you know, that your Redeemer lives, and that you are being held by the Everlasting Arms, in the grip of the Everlasting God who never faints or grows weary. The ancient yogis spoke of BLISS, and I believe this is it: the ability to dance your way through life, amid sunshine and rain, because what is happening inside you is no longer contingent upon what is happening outside.
Reading this list and feeling like you could never scale this impossible mountain of emotional healing? Wondering how to let go of the weights that are holding you back — so you can enjoy these seven signs of emotional freedom?
For most of my life as a woman, I didn’t really feel like a woman.
I dressed like one. I tried to act like one. I checked the “female” gender box on forms. But deep inside I felt like all the other girls had that special something, and it had passed me by.
It wasn’t until after my divorce, as I was healing my sexual dysfunction, finding my way to emotional freedom rediscovering my creativity, that I began to wonder if this sense of alienation from my feminine self might be part of the whole problem. As I traced each challenge or “heart ache” I felt to its root, I kept coming up against that same thing:
I wanted to be joyful, open, receptive, free, magnetic and relaxed … like the women I knew who seemed most “women” to me. Yet I found myself more unhappy, shut down, closed off, chained up, stressed out and unseen. Was there a way I could “turn on” that energy flow inside me and access my womanhood, too?
I am grateful to God that He took me a long journey finding my way to my real, authentic feminine self (who, it turns out, was inside me all along). On the way to meeting her, I learned there are many ways to start tapping into that energy. Do this long enough, and It will begin to feel like the default flow in your body.
Eventually, operating in your feminine energy will feel completely normal—and you will realize you truly do feel “like a woman” now, deeply and fully within.
Here are a few of my favorite practical ways to tap into the feminine life flow that makes you uniquely you:
1. Dance, dance, dance
This is the number one go-to secret I teach all my clients: when you’re stuck up in your head and trying so hard to figure … it … out, switch on your favorite tunes and rock to the beat. You don’t have to be a great dancer, just feel the rhythm and let it move your body and soul. Nothing lifts your mood and makes you feel sensual (and sensuous) like your own private dance party.
2. Stop to smell the roses.
Tempted to race through your day on your latest mission? Stop. Wind all that anxiety and striving energy back in. Tell yourself, “It can wait a little while.” And seriously … if you like roses, go smell some. Or have a cup of tea. Or read a chapter in a novel. Whatever feels like a little relaxing luxury … start indulging in that daily. It’s like a mini miracle cure. Seriously.
3. Receive someone’s offer of help.
One of the biggest struggles for me as I began working with feminine energy was to stop always trying to save myself. Yes, you might not want to be a damsel in distress. But if no one can ever help you or see you in need of help, no one can get close to you. And emotional connection is the true gift of feminine energy. So when your friend offers to watch your kids, or your boyfriend wants to fix your car? Say yes. A thousand times yes. And then bless them with your joyful spirit.
4. Say “yes” to when your ego says “no.”
Along with Number 3 … you know when you are shutting down possibilities and saying “no” out of fear. You’re scared to go to that class with a friend because you’re afraid of what she’ll think. You don’t want to get up and say anything at the PTA conference—even though you’re a great speaker—because what if they laugh at you? Any time you feel yourself coiling up due to pride or fear, relax a bit. Unwind. And say “yes.” Whole worlds expand for me every time I do this.
5. Wear what feels good.
My life changed the day I quit wearing what I thought I should wear and started wearing what actually felt good. Look at your wardrobe and ask yourself, “What do I really feel beautiful in?” Wear those things. And only those things. Find reasons to put on your favorite jewelry or lipstick “just because.” When you start treating yourself as special, beautiful and worthy of adornment … you’ll start feeling exactly that way, too.
6. Find things to really be thankful for.
A grateful spirit makes for a radiant woman. No, really. Is your daily conversation—both with others and with yourself internally—full of gratitude? Or full of complaining? If you’re more in the latter camp, don’t fear. You can shift that narrative now by taking time every day to SAY aloud what you are thankful for or thank people or God audibly when something good happens. Honestly, you may not be able to afford fancy makeup … but a thankful, happy heart will make your face shine like no cosmetic ever could.
7. Pamper yourself.
It’s really okay to have that bath, or take the night out for yourself while a sitter watches the kids. It’s okay to have the more expensive dish you’d rather have, and carry a purse you really like. When you give yourself these small gifts, instead of saying “I have to wait until I achieve this or that impossible goal,” you are saying I am worthy right where I am, as I am. And that alone with one of the most relaxing, freeing states to be in.
8. Discover what relaxes you.
Not sure how to pamper yourself, because you’ve been living in Stress Land so long? Then take it in bits and pieces. Try a new latte today. Walk a new street tomorrow. Try on a dress you never would have considered before. As you do these things, you will begin to find new things that bring you pleasure and joy. And over time, you’ll have a whole new set of strategies for raising your mood and helping yourself feel happy.
9. Let yourself off the hook.
Things didn’t work out with him? The presentation wasn’t perfect? You blew it this time? Okay. Well, that happens. One of the ways we as women keep ourselves trapped in unhappiness is with our incessant need to batter ourselves for everything that didn’t “go perfectly.” Perfection is not your birthright; transformation is. You learned something. Now let it go. I have literally seen women shed years off their bodies by letting go of this emotional weight.
10. Swing your hips when you walk.
I know, this sounds cheesy. But really … your hips (sacral chakra area, if we’re getting technical) are the locus of your feminine, creative, reproductive energy that is your life essence. When you hold them rigid, it’s as if you’re trying to hold in the energy that is moving and alive. And how well does that work? I remember when I first discovered the freedom of letting my womb energetic center sway naturally as I walked. It gave me a whole different connection to the energy in that space. And somehow, yes, it made me finally “feel like a woman.”
11. Tell yourself you’re beautiful until you believe it.
So much of the battle for our feminine essence is in our heads. For years, I didn’t believe I was beautiful … and looking back on it, my dress, hair and makeup followed my assessment. Then I changed my thinking. I got serious about seeing myself as God sees me and speaking words of life over myself. When I began to believe I was beautiful, things really changed outwardly. Most people looking at pictures of me from five or eight years ago versus now see the marked shift. I can see it too—and I know it goes back to my decision to be beautiful. Decide what you are, and it will be so.
12. Indulge in some “girl time.”
Maybe all you need is just a good old fashioned “Ladies’ Night Out.” Get a sitter. Send your husband out with the boys. Call your best girlfriends who encourage and build you up (not those who tear you down or discourage you). No money to spare? Then just eat in at home, sharing something fun from everyone’s fridge. Got a little to invest? Go out for dinner, or just for the glass of wine and chocolate. Laugh. Get dressed up, if that’s your thing. Let all the cares go and have fun.
“Little girls are sugar and spice and everything nice …”
From the day you were born, you were everyone’s darling.
The frilly dresses. The cutesy toys. Daddy adored your dimples and Mama fussed about your hair. As you grew older, they bragged about what a “beautiful young lady” you were becoming. They applauded all your accomplishments and went to great lengths—perhaps even personal sacrifice—to ensure you had what you need.
Or perhaps your experience was the opposite. Maybe you knew everyone else’s needs st home came before yours. Maybe you spent a lot of time propping up other people’s emotional insecurities. Maybe you had to keep it together, at least on the outside, because no one else could have coped if you really, truly needed something.
From all this attention, or lack thereof, you learned one thing early, and one thing only:
Being a good girl was the best and most reliable way to make sure you had a good life.
“Survive” might be a strong word. But let’s face it: the human brain is wired for survival. Perhaps you never went hungry or felt like your physical safety was truly at risk. But there were still emotional risks in your home. A lot of them.
Maybe it wasn’t really as happy on the inside as it seemed from without. Maybe you watched your mom “perform” for your dad in order to get acceptance and attention. Or perhaps their relationship was truly great—but as strict disciplinarians, they made sure you knew that you had better comply.
Whatever the reason, the verdict is clear. You were a certifiable Good Girl for most of your life.
The problem is … did you really ever stop?
The “Good Girl Complex” is common. If you identify as someone who has shaped her identity based on the needs and wishes of others—what makes them happy and therefore keeps you emotionally safe—you are not alone. And indeed, being a woman of integrity who follows God and brings joy to others, as much as she can, is an admirable goal.
But the Good Girl Complex is so much more than that. It’s not about a heart overflowing with gratitude to God. It’s about a performance based on what other people want. If you’re stuck here, you already know it. You don’t need me to give you 25 more signs to help you decide if that’s you.
The biggest clue is really this: can you say with 100% confidence that you are who God made you to be … Or would you have to admit, instead, that who you are is really more whom you allowed others to shape you to be?
If you are experiencing this peculiar (and insidious) form of emotional bondage, you know exactly what I am talking about.
The endless stressing about what others think of you.
Striving to meet impossible goals for your body, love life, family and career.
A perfectionistic obsession that drives you to insane levels of achievement—without much sense of fulfillment.
The constant shaping of your words and actions to accommodate what you think other people want to see and hear.
I can only write this article because, for much of my life I was a Good Girl, too. I learned very early that the way to get love in my house was to comply. Without compliance, there would be no affection. And the older I got, the more my compliance earned me.
I complied at home and got adoring parents.
I complied at church and got adoring friends.
I complied at school and got adoring teachers.
I complied in my marriage and thought I had an adoring husband–but this is where all my masks ultimately fell away, when I realized how unhappy he was with (among other things) living with my masks.
By the time I was 30, I had built up what looked like a really great life … but inside, I had absolutely no idea who I was. I and felt it. I lived constantly with this sneaking suspicion that I was not even half of who I was meant to be, but who was that even? Would I even know the Real Me if she walked up to me on the street corner—and slapped me in the face?
For many years nothing changed. But when I decided that I would no longer tolerate being someone other than who God made me to be, everything shifted.
This was a big moment for me. I came to a point where I was sick of my own compliance, sick of saying ‘yes’ when I wanted to say ‘no,’ sick of looking and acting and sounding like ‘someone else.’
So for perhaps the first time in my life, I decided I would do … not simply what others wanted me to, but what God truly desired for my me and my life.
This was the shift that changed everything.
Now please understand: I am not advocating AT ALL that you simply blow off your spouse or significant other, family and friends, and leave on a world tour just because you feel like it. There is a VERY fine line between self-discovery and selfishness.
However, all those caveats aside, most of us as women don’t really know ourselves or who God made us at all. As a result, we can’t possibly love ourselves by basking in His love for us. Our lives and relationships suffer deeply because of it.
When I decided to do what I wanted for a change, I wasn’t simply looking into my own selfish heart and chasing whatever I found. Instead, I asked God to show me the desires HE had placed in my heart, that I was completely ignoring.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I had always loved this verse, but I never really understood it until I made that big decision. It wasn’t that God would give me everything I wanted, if I delighted in Him. It was that by delighting in Him, I would discovery all the desires He had already tucked into my heart.
THOSE desires are not the selfish desires. They are the ones He has given us for big, real, awesome purposes because of the plans He has for us.
And I can pretty much guarantee you: those plans are the direct opposite of what your inner Good Girl thinks you should do. And probably the direct opposite of what people in your life are expecting you to do based on past experiences, and the unwritten “code” of how your relationship with those people operates.
Now, I wasn’t able to make this switch overnight. Mostly because I had been so busy pleasing other people for so long, that I had no idea what I really wanted anyway. First, I had to ask God to strip away all the layers of detritus so I could actually find those genuine, godly core desires.
When I asked Him to do what He said He would, He delivered more than I ever could have thought.
Of course, this shift also totally rocked the life I thought I had. It showed me all the ways I had built my life on a false foundation of other people’s expectations—not on who I really was in Christ. Now, I was stepping into my true identity in the love and purposes of God. And that was, essentially, like taking a jackhammer to the foundation of everything I thought I had built.
I’m no engineer, but even I know, under those circumstances, the structure in question is destined to fall.
So I’m not hear to tell that if you lay down everyone else’s desires, Good Girl, and start chasing the ones God has purposed for you, that it’s always going to be easy.
It might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
But if you know the pain and emptiness of being a Good Girl who’s really just a shell of the YOU God created to you be … you know that sometimes, as Anais Nin says, “The pain of remaining tight in a bud is greater than the pain it [takes] to blossom.”
You can break your Good Girl habit, my friend. But only when you drop what everyone else has handed you and ask the living God to help you open your hands and let Him fill them.
The Good Girl Habit may feel safe, but it’s really just the long, slow death of your beauty, joy, passion, prosperity and purpose.
Break that habit … and quite possibly, you’ll lose your life as you know it.
But run to Jesus, and you will find the life your soul craves.
It takes a great deal of courage to tell your story.
In my old life, before Nothing, the suitcase and cross-continental moves, I used to do a lot of coaching for women. Telling your story was something I preached and taught. And to a certain extent, I lived it.
But I did not understand then what I have come to see since: that telling the story you have lived is so much easier than telling the story you are living.
When we start out on this journey, with God toward greater intimacy and vulnerability with others, it feels like a “big thing” to finally talk about the parts of our story we may have kept hidden for years.
I personally found it revolutionary to speak of the night God spoke to me in Tuscany, of my healing journey with sexual dysfunction and many other aspects of my story. Receiving love from others and knowing that they still cared for me despite what I had been through was revolutionary for me, given where I had come from.
Yes, vulnerability comes in layers. And telling the story of the past is one layer. If we are not willing to start there, we will never find any other form of intimacy in our lives.
There’s a leap that must be taken, and the leap from the past is perhaps the most accessible.
But telling the story of the present is another kind of leap entirely.
Intimacy with others—the healthy kind, where we feel truly seen and known and loved in spite of what has happened in our lives, and also because of it—is a such a rare gift. And it prepares us to get braver, say more and let others see more of us, too.
Though sharing the story of our past is indeed one powerful form of intimacy, it still allows us to stay hidden. We can craft a narrative of transformation and change which may be genuinely true … but enables us somehow to still avoid speaking about the mess we are currently facing.
The story of our past transformation, if we are not careful, can become a beautiful image that unlocks for us admiration, not connection.
There is a powerful difference between those two which I cannot overstate. But it’s taken me years to recognize it.
Admiration is an external quality. People stand beside or around us and gaze at us, loving the qualities which we have carefully put in front of them for their review. It’s a good healthy start to something more in a relationship … but it’s also just that. Only the start.
If our relationships never get past admiration—and that’s very easy, by the way, for those of us “good girls” who know how to placate everyone by doing what they want and need—they will perpetually leave us unsatisfied. Because admiration does not require true understanding, or a sense of empathy. It only requires awe.
Awe is so much easier to manufacture than understanding. Just ask any of the world’s dictators. Or celebrities…
Connection, on the other hand, is a much messier proposition. It requires a great deal more courage, because to speak of the mess that absorbed today, is a heck of a lot more challenging than to speak of the mess tha absorbed the last decade. Or even the last week.
As a writer, it’s easy for me to write about last week’s or last year’s or last decade’s mess. But to write about the tears I shed last night (yes, I actually did) over the love of my life I lost fifteen years ago? And the aching realization that I never …. really never …. got over that relationship?
And that at age 35, I have somehow only just realized I still desperately need the healing of Jesus for a huge mistake (which I could be so bold as to call it a “massive fuck-up”) that happened at age 20?
Dear God, save me from having to admit that to anyone.
And yet … I need to. And I did.
Because the story I lived is just my narrative. The story I am living now is my battleground. And wars are rarely won alone.
So maybe it’s time we stopped. Trying to win them alone, I mean.
Maybe it’s time that the story we lived becomes a platform for telling the story we are living. And that we recognize that all the wounds we drag ourselves back home with, and all the wounds that have never healed properly, whether from the actions of others or from all those “massive fuck-ups” of our own, are the very stuff of which real relationships are made.
When we refuse to share the story we are living, we cut ourselves off from having a warm hand in ours, and feeling the safety of a human hug, and the sweet relief of a voice that says, “Me too. I’m there also.”
At the end of the day, the only person who can deny us this sweet relief is … us.
The stories we choose to tell will determine how connected we feel. But perhaps the biggest mistake of all is not to realize that you can tell your story, and still stay completely hidden.
Maybe it’s time we came out from hiding behind our stories of triumph.
The unfinished, unedited next chapter is so much more powerful.
You’ve been working on yourself for some time now.
You go to counseling. You’re in church regularly. You’re seeking God, following all the self-discovery and self-care practices you’ve been taught, and making some radical shifts to how you “do you.”
But it doesn’t really seem to stick. You know what I mean? You feel good, eat right and go to yoga for a week, then the next week you binge out. You pray and seek God often, but you still struggle with tremendous bitterness about what you’ve been through. T
he new friends you’ve made are strengthening you … but for every one of them, there’s ten from your old life whose energy drags you down every time you open your social media feed.
Life change is elusive, Sister.
I know you know this. You wouldn’t be here reading this blog if you didn’t sense it in your bones. Know it in your soul. Feel it in the wet fabric of your pillow each night.
I get it. Totally. I was there for more years than I care to admit. Things shifted, yes, but nothing radically CHANGED until I got clear on one small truth that I kept wanting to overlook.
To get and become everything you want, you must say yes to ‘nothing.’
For most of us, I think we come to this healing journey because we desperately want more. More than the oppressive emotional pain. More than the broken relationships. More than the dead-end career or struggling business that is our daily reality. And I do believe God wants more for us. He is calling us to MORE, which is why He has led us to pursue the changes we are trying to make.
And yet …
Sometimes we re not fully ready for the impact of what we are asking for.
You see, God knows that it’s impossible for us to have what we really want while we are clutching so tightly to what we actually don’t want. Half a life shift is no shift at all. You cannot have a legitimate resurrection without a legitimate death.
But who really, honestly, actually wants to DIE?
If you find yourself stuck in the middle of your healing journey, trapped halfway between who you were and who you want to be, mark it down. THere is something that must die before you can be reborn. There is something you must drop from your grip so you can receive your destiny with truly open hands. There is a nothing you must submit to so that you can step into everything.
Okay, you get that in theory. But what does it look like?
In my healing journey, there is one simple “trick” God gave me to help jettison myself out of every stuck place. And that was just a simple question:
“What is the ‘empty space’ I am resisting today?”
Invariably, there was a “loss,” a “death,” some kind of emptying I was resisting to. Instinctively, I knew that in order get where I wanted to go, I was going to have surrender that place: to step beyond it and leave whatever was there behind, so I could get to the next level of my destiny.
There’s nothing harder than letting go. Which is why we resist. Do everything else we can. And ultimately, remain stuck.
What could that empty place be for you? I have no idea; I suspect you already do. But in case you’re truly stumped, here are some “nothings” I had to face, in order to receive everything:
The “nothing” of space: Cleaning out a lifetime of emotional clutter in the form of stuff in my house that was emotionally dragging me down.
The “nothing” of relationships: Releasing boyfriends, exes I still had a “thing” for, and toxic friendships—as gently and kindly as possible—that I kept stumbling over.
The “nothing” of dreams: Closing my dream business and giving up on achieving my deepest desires, so that God could put brand new better desires in my heart.
The “nothing” of social expectations: Following God’s call into things and places that I knew my friends and family would look down on and reject me for.
The “nothing” of self-image: Letting go of my obsession with losing weight, perfecting my skin, getting the right wardrobe and anything else designed to boost my image to others, in favor of practices that made me feel good inside.
The “nothing” of finances: Submitting every dollar I had to God, watching Him take it ALL away, and trusting that He would provide for me.
The “nothing” of meditation: Returning daily to practices like meditation and yoga even when I struggled to quiet my mind inside, believing that the practice would yield rewards in time.
Did any of these resonate with you? I’m sure there are many more kinds of “nothing!” But I bet you can see something on that list that speaks to at least a part of your situation today.
Any time we are stuck on the healing journey, it’s only and ever becuase we are holding back, unwilling to release something we have been clinging to.
Let’s face it: the empty space can be terrifying. Who wants to sit alone with their thoughts (during meditation), sit alone with four bare walls (after decluttering), sit alone with themselves (after jettisoning the toxic job), or sit alone at the coffee shop (when others reject your choices)?
And yet …
Though your healing journey is perhaps the biggest gift God will every give you, the “dirty little secret” of emotional freedom is that you will be required to lay it all on the altar.
Freedom never happens when you’re dragging your past around with you, or a toxic present, or excessive expectations about the future.
True freedom happens when you drop everything you’re clutching so tightly, and submit to the terror of the empty space.
Make friends with Nothing, dear heart, and you will find the change you seek.