Monday Meditation: The Tree and the Invitation to Remain

Monday Meditation: The Tree and the Invitation to Remain

Two weeks ago, I shared that my word for the year is remain and that it arose out of Jesus’ metaphor of the branch and the vine. Last week I shared that one of those breadcrumbs is the image of a buoy.  This week, I’d like to share another breadcrumb: the image of a tree, deeply rooted in rich soil.

The Tree

One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is the prayer Paul prays for the Ephesians.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19

I love the image of being rooted and established in God’s all surpassing love.  What a truly freeing and sustaining foundation for our daily lives!

I wrote recently about my fascination with trees and how watching them as they lose their leaves reminds me that letting go is a necessary and natural part of life:

The roots grow down and down, far below the surface, deep into darkness where all that has fallen away and died has seeped in and enriched the soil to feed the tree.

Where the roots are planted determines what nutrition the tree takes in.  A tree planted by water looks very different from a tree planted in the desert. Consider how different the evergreen is from the maple, the willow from the joshua.  The soil influences the health of their branches, leaves, and flowers or fruit.  In fact, the quality and makeup of the soil even helps determine what kind of tree is capable of surviving in it.

Trees are inspiringly resilient.  They survive for decades and even centuries despite drought, fire, storms, and human encroachment.  Although they may twist and bend with the wind, lose leaves and branches along the way, and bear the battle scars of natural disasters, they survive and even thrive because of their roots.  Their roots are strong and deeply embedded in the rich soil–a soil enriched by the natural disasters they manage to escape.  On the surface things may look tenuous, but underneath the tree is firmly anchored and grounded.

The Invitation to Remain

And so, my fellow pilgrims, I continue to pray that we would all have the strength of heart and the gentle attention necessary to remain in God’s love no matter what obstacles we encounter on our journey homeward.

As we walk this way together awhile, I’m curious: what grounds you, roots you, and nourishes you from the bottom up? In what are you being invited to remain?

Monday Meditation: The Buoy and the Invitation to Remain

Monday Meditation: The Buoy and the Invitation to Remain

The Vine

Last week I shared that my word for the year is remain and that it arose out of Jesus’ metaphor of the branch and the vine:

A branch that remains in the vine is fully satisfied because all its needs are met: food and water, connection to the source, part of the whole, fulfilling its purpose by bearing fruit, being fully itself–what it is made for.

As I reflected on this invitation to remain in God’s love, I began to notice the many ways God has already been drawing me down this path in the past 10 years, dropping metaphors like breadcrumbs for me to follow. I’d like to share some of those breadcrumbs with you in these next several weeks.

One of those breadcrumbs is the image of a buoy.

The Buoy

Imagine you are standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  The sky is gray, and the wind is loud, ripping through your clothes and hair.  The sea below you is choppy, white-tipped waves crashing into one another at the mercy of shifting winds and rushing undercurrents.  As you look out over the water, you notice a small red-and-white buoy caught in the battle of wind and current, tossed carelessly in one direction and then another by the relentless waves.

As you watch the buoy being cast about, you begin to notice something.  The buoy is never dragged out into the open sea; it is never washed up on to the shore or carried down the coastline out of view.  The buoy shifts easily in the choppy water, flexing in all directions, sometimes bending so far that its tip touches the surface, but it does not move–not really.  It is anchored, holding firm and grounded in one place down deep at the bottom on the ocean floor.

The Invitation to Remain

And so, my fellow pilgrims, my prayer is that we would all have the strength of heart and the gentle attention necessary to remain in God’s love no matter what obstacles we encounter on our journey homeward.

As we walk this way together awhile, I’m curious: what anchors you? In what are you being invited to remain?

Monday Meditation: Now remain in my love

Monday Meditation: Now remain in my love

The Vine

I wasn’t looking for a Word this year.  A word that defines, inspires, and focuses my spiritual journey for the present.  In past years, I have sometimes chosen a word or had a word, image, or Bible verse capture my attention for a season.  But not this year.  The last several weeks have been particularly and overwhelmingly chaotic for me, and I just hadn’t given it any thought at all.

But then, in a recent prayer time, a word unexpectedly chose me: remain.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  – John 15:4, 9

A branch that remains in the vine is fully satisfied because all its needs are met: food and water, connection to the source, part of the whole, fulfilling its purpose by bearing fruit, being fully itself–what it is made for.

The branch can take the vine for granted.  It can take and take as much as it wants from the vine.  The vine never runs out of resources and never gets fed up with providing for the branch’s needs.  That is what agape is.  The branch’s only role, its only way of giving back, its only participation in the relationship is the choice to stay connected, to remain in the vine.   Even bearing fruit is not something the branch must do but a natural result of its right relationship with the vine.  All that is required of the branch is to trust in the vine’s faithfulness by choosing to remain connected.

The Invitation

The past several years, perhaps even the past 10 years, have carried a central theme of transitory living.  I mentioned in my last post that I have been well acquainted with waiting in these recent years.  I have lived in a constant state of flux, always anticipating the next change but never knowing exactly when it would come or where I would find myself living next.  As a result, I have so often felt alone and isolated.  Each time I began to feel connected to a town, a church community, or a job I was working, the next change would suddenly whisk me away. I would be left having to start all over again.

Now, I am being invited to remain–not in a physical location, not in a person or community, not in a particular job or occupation–but simply and completely in God’s love.  God’s infinite, inexhaustible, abundant, fulfilling and satisfying, comforting, faithful love is being freely offered to me.  I have only to reach out and take it into myself.

I have only to choose to remain in God’s love. Wherever the next change takes me, I can never lose that connection.  I can hold onto the promise that, as I choose to remain in God’s love, so God chooses to remain in me.

So, my fellow pilgrims, as we walk this way together awhile, what connection are you being invited into? In what are you being invited to remain?

Do you have a Word for 2017? What word defines, inspires, and focuses your spiritual journey for this next season?

Monday Meditation: We Begin with the Waiting

Monday Meditation: We Begin with the Waiting

Advent is my favorite season of the liturgical year.  I have always identified most with its themes of darkness and waiting.  As a night owl, I have always found the darkness and solitude of the middle-of-the-night hours to be the most creative, inspiring, and restorative.  As a destination-oriented person, I have struggled to learn to live out and lean into seasons of waiting in my life.  Advent so deeply resonates with me precisely because the waiting has a purpose and an end-point.  It is a season of joyful expectation of the new thing that is about to come into being.  It is a season of hope.

When I created my Advent wreath several years ago, I chose to use the color blue instead of purple because of its association with enlivening hope.  Advent teaches us what it is to have faith that what is promised to come will in fact come:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

Seasons of waiting are inevitable and indeed vital in our lives, which Advent reminds us of again and again, yet we hope in that as-yet-unseen realization of purpose that we have been promised.  In seasons of waiting, we hope for change.  We hope for renewal.  We hope for fruition.  We hope for enough hope to sustain us all the way through the curve.

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse:

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.

Our faith–our hope in what we have not yet seen but joyfully anticipate–is the firm foundation that we build upon.  It is the rich soil of love that our roots grow down deeply into.

That is why, I think, the liturgical year opens with this particular season.  We begin every year not with the celebration of the birth of the Emmanuel but with the waiting with hope in joyful expectation that soon, so very soon, our God-[will be]-with-us just as we have been promised!  We begin every year with this reminder, this invitation to return again to the beginning, the beginning of our story, the beginning of the story of God.  Just as St. Benedict encourages us still with his centuries-old wisdom, we are always being invited to begin again.

As we enter this last week of Advent, amidst all the busy last-minute shopping and preparations for gathering together in the coming celebration, we are continually reminded that we are, after all, just beginning.  We are reminded to slow down, to pause and reflect, to lean into these last days and hours of darkness and solitude with hopeful, joyful anticipation.  We are invited to begin opening up the deep places in ourselves, creating space in preparation for what is coming.

Because we know what is coming.

And when it comes, our hearts will have been made ready to receive yet again and still ever more deeply this always-accessible gift of the presence of God, intimately involved and engaged in our lives and within our very selves.

Personally, I can hardly wait! How about you?

Monday Meditation: Driving the Long Curve

Monday Meditation: Driving the Long Curve

I remember my first day of driving school.  It was a Wednesday, and it had been pouring rain all day long.  As I walked through the rain from the school building to the parking lot where my private driving instructor–a retired highway patrol officer–waited for me in the little white car with “Student Driver” displayed in large block letters across the rear fender, I was filled with anxiety and dread.  Why did it have to be raining so hard on my first day?  Surely, I was being set up for failure.

But my driving instructor was calm and cheerful, shockingly confident in my fledgling driving skills.  Learning to drive in the rain was the best way, he assured me.  If I could drive in the rain on my first day, then I could drive in any conditions.  I had no choice but to trust his judgment, and I was strangely buoyed by his trust in my untried capability.  I carefully followed his instructions as we made our way out of the parking lot and through the neighborhood to the main road.

The Long Curve

Before I knew it, I was driving in a part of town I had never been to before.  The straight road I had been following as we practiced changing lanes slowly began to curve–and curve and curve some more!  I had never driven on a road that was not straight before, and certainly not a wet, unfamiliar, not-straight road.  I panicked and began to turn the wheel too far into the curve.  I still remember his large, wrinkled hand reaching out to steady the wheel, gently guiding the car back into our lane.  He kept his hand on the wheel as he calmly explained that driving on a long curve was not like turning a corner.   The wheel would need to be constantly and gently corrected to keep the car following along with the curve without veering too far into the inner wall or too far out into the oncoming traffic lanes.  We kept driving that way–three hands on the wheel–all the way through the curve so I could feel the incremental shifts he made to the left and to the right as we guided the car together.

The Tension of the Curve

I’ve shared before about the beauty of walking the labyrinth:

As I walk the labyrinth, I gradually realize again and again that the invitation of the labyrinth is to embrace the nonlinear journey: full of twists and turns and doubling back, circling right back to the starting point–but not quite. Although I feel like I’m back in the same place again, I’m actually still moving forward along the same path, the only path, the only way to the center–where the presence of God is waiting to reveal just a little more of the true self.

Similarly, I think walking our spiritual path can sometimes feel like driving a car on a curving road.  In order to keep moving forward along the curve, we have to do a lot more work, constantly–yet gently–correcting the wheel as we go.  Jerking the wheel or turning too far one way or the other can veer the car too far and cause a crash.  Balancing and holding in tension are needed to keep the car moving safely and continuing to follow the path laid out ahead.

The Letting Go

There is also an invitation to let go of the desire for the path we are on to be straight.  We can’t control whether the path laid out for us is straight or curved.  We are not promised an easy life devoid of difficulty and suffering.  The path we are invited to take is in fact narrow and hidden, often overlooked even by those who are searching for it–perhaps simply because the path does not turn out to be what they expected.

The obscurity of the path is in itself an invitation to seek out companionship as we journey.  Driving on a curving road requires confidence and a gentle but firm hand on the wheel.  Sometimes we may welcome a third hand stretching out to help us get a feel for what that balance is like.  And sometimes, that third hand may be ours, stretching out to another wheel to lend our confidence and trust in a fellow pilgrim’s capacity to learn to hold in tension what is necessary to keep following the curve all the way through.

As we continue our journey in this season of Advent, consider the curves in the path laid out for you.  What are you being invited to hold in tension as you gently correct your wheel?  How are you being invited to support and trust your fellow pilgrims as you grow into your capacity with confidence together?

Monday Meditation: Learning to be Safe

Monday Meditation: Learning to be Safe

If you’ve been around Sacred Pilgrim for a while, you might be aware that my husband and I adopted a second puppy upon moving to Kansas and named her Eleven after the character in the TV show Stranger Things.  Like her namesake, our little weirdo has a history of neglect and abuse in her first short months of life before we adopted her. Ele, along with her older sister Starbuck (so named for the rambunctious and rebellious yet tender-hearted character in the TV show Battlestar Galactica), is learning to hold space with me both in spiritual direction sessions and when recording new episodes of the Daily Lectio Divina podcast. (You may hear them in the background of the recordings from time to time, sniffing and sighing, as they learn along with us what it is to attend patiently to the presence of the Holy in each sacred and ordinary moment.)  I am often led during these times to reflect on the unexpected ways these sweet, energetic puppies draw my attention to or mirror or even teach me about something in my own spiritual journey.

When we first met her in her foster-mom’s living room, Ele was a tiny, terrified, frozen-pup.  She would not let us touch her.  She would not let us sit near her.  So, of course, we just had to take her home.  Four months later, Ele is an entirely different dog.  She is unfailingly happy and playful, hopping spasticly all over the place and entertaining us with her helicopter-wagging tail.  She has learned that when we leave we always come back. She knows we are her family and that this is her home.

There is trust, but it is incomplete.  There is still work to be done.

Starbuck is an infinitely friendly and social puppy who loves attention and always wants to touch some part of her body to some part of ours–a head on the knee, a paw on the foot, her entire body strewn across a lap–when she naps.   Ele, on the other hand, wants to be close but struggles to drop her defenses. Although she initiates closeness with us, she discovers that the feeling of being close triggers resistance and fear that overwhelm her.  Ele sees by Starbuck’s example that we can be trusted, but she is still learning what experiencing trust feels like.

These days, Ele likes to slowly inch her way across the couch until eventually her head and front paws are resting in my lap while the rest of her body is next to me.  She will curl up in the crook of my arm where she can rest against me without being in my lap.  She will look up at me with her sweet puppy face and lick my chin before resting hers on my arm.  If I move toward her to pull her closer, she hops away with great haste, but then she creeps back.

Sometimes we let her run away and just wait for her to come back and try again to be close.  Letting her back away and then decide to come back teaches her that she has a choice and that, no matter what she decides, we will not behave any differently toward her.  Other times we force her to tolerate being held when she wants to run away; we ignore her wiggling until she finally gives up and goes to sleep.  This teaches her that when we do choose to hold her, she has to accept our decision, which allows us to keep her safe when circumstances require it.  Both ways of relating to Ele foster trust between us and help her establish a healthy understanding of her role in our “pack.”  Both ways teach her that she is safe and that we will keep her safe, whether she is physically near to us or not.

How like Ele I feel when I draw close to God.  I long to be close–but not too close!  Sometimes I dictate the terms of our relationship, and God patiently waits for me as I back away and then try again and again to come back.  Other times, I am overwhelmed by God’s closeness and struggle to let go of the resistance and learn to rest in God’s presence that is stubbornly with and within me–impossible to escape!

As Ele is learning to trust us and to find her safe place in our family, so I am still on the journey toward trusting God and finding my safe place in God’s family.  I am learning to notice and name the resistance and the fear as they arise within me. I am learning to identify what I am holding onto that I am being invited to release.  I am learning to lean in and to rest even when I want to back away.

There is no safer place for Ele than in my presence and in my arms.  There is no safer place for me than in the presence and arms of the One who will never let me go.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe. – Proverbs 18:10

What characters in your life’s story might God be using to teach you something about yourself and your relationship to God?  How might God be inviting you to experience closeness and safety for just this moment?

Monday Meditation: A meditation on trees, for Advent

Monday Meditation: A meditation on trees, for Advent

Autumn has come late this year.  We are nearly to the last month of the year, and the vibrant reds and yellows are only now emerging in our little corner of the mid-west.  Many trees have lost most or all of their leaves with no more than a muted tribute to this season I love the most.

It’s ironic how much I love this season, nicknamed fall, given my generally vice-like grip on the things that it is time to let go of.  I wish I could enjoy all the colors of the changing leaves without ever having to grieve their dying and watch them drop curled and dry and grey-brown like the hard, cold ground they cover.

This metaphor of the tree is a dear recurring companion on my spiritual journey.  I’ve written about it before.  In a recent prayer time, this phrase caught my unsuspecting attention:

Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. – Ephesians 3:17, NLT

I began to think about this season of letting go, of releasing those elements once so vital to nourishment and growth that have since served their purpose and become unnecessary as the environment slowly changes.

Trees: A Metaphor

Losing the leaves–like all times of transition–can be an uncomfortable time of vulnerability and exposure.  As the leaves drop, the branches once hidden are suddenly revealed.  The tree does not release all the leaves at once; each leaf has its time, yet they all eventually fall away.  Sometimes a strong wind hurries the process along sooner than expected, loosening the last tender connection in a shocking motion.  Other times the leaves remain dying on the branch too long, drooping and drab alongside the bright colors and stark branches of other trees.

A tree that has let go of all its dying leaves may feel naked and bare, but it has a remarkable beauty all its own.  All the knotted, wobbly, twisted branches are revealed entirely as they are–as they have been created to be.  We see the tree’s true shape and form, standing tall, reaching out and up, braving the harshest conditions with resolute stillness.  The branches have nothing to hide or protect them for a time, but this season of rest and preparation is necessary for new growth to be possible again.

Even when the leaves change and fall to the ground, even when the branches are exposed to all the elements, even when the ground itself freezes all around the tree–the roots remain, sustaining the tree with unchangeable consistency through seasons and storms and fires and decades and even centuries.  The roots grow down and down, far below the surface, deep into darkness where all that has fallen away and died has seeped in and enriched the soil to feed the tree.

Death Enriches the Soil

I began to think about all the parts of myself that have died to bring more life.  All my unpleasant experiences and wounded places and discarded, outgrown understandings of God and myself–each sacrificial, necessary, inevitable death only enriches the soil of God’s love in which I am deeply rooted and out of which I grow and change and become.

I am a tree, rooted and established in the rich soil of God’s love, and I am strong.

So, my fellow pilgrims, what are you being invited to let go of in this season of change? What new growth might you be invited to anticipate in the darkness and waiting of this Advent season?

Meditation Monday: The Spiritual Practice of Wine Tasting

Meditation Monday: The Spiritual Practice of Wine Tasting

This week, I thought I’d share an old post from HBT’s The Spiritual Practice of… series.  I originally published this post in October 2013.  Enjoy!

Spiritual Practice of Drinking Wine (or how wine tasting taught me mindfulness)

Since moving to the Santa Barbara area more than two years ago and living so close to wine country, my husband and I have enjoyed the luxury of trying a variety of higher quality wines at a relatively lower price point than other parts of the country.  And being surrounded by wineries and wine drinkers has made the wine culture more accessible.

Here are some things wine tasting can teach us.

1) Prepare. Since I am nothing close to a wine connoisseur, I always like to read the descriptions that usually accompany a wine tasting and ask questions of the server about what the winery is known for, the process of making the wine, and what experience they want me to have.  I pay attention to key words like “earthy” or “finish” and try to prepare my palate to experience fully the wine I am about to taste.

2) Breathe. Experienced wine tasters will tell you the first thing you do when you receive a glass of wine is swirl the wine around a little in the glass to aerate it and then stick your nose in and breathe deeply to experience the wine first with your sense of smell.

3) Taste. Wine tasting is not really about drinking wine at all.  It’s about tasting.  When you taste wine, you don’t just drink it.  For one thing, you usually get at the most about an 1/8 of a glass of any wine on the tasting list.  That’s not even enough for one gulp.  Tasting wine is about really, really tasting it, taking a small sip of wine in through your lips, rolling it around in your mouth so that it touches all parts of your tongue, and even sometimes slurping or gargling a little before finally swallowing.  The point is to engage your sense of taste fully with every sip.  Some dedicated wine tasters will even spit out the wine after tasting it so the alcoholic effects don’t hinder the next tasting.

4) Notice.  Here is where mindfulness really comes in for me.  At every point in the process of tasting a particular bottle of wine, my attention is fully claimed.  From the moment the wine enters my glass, I am observing the color, feeling the weight of the glass in my hand as I swirl, breathing deeply to smell as much as I can from what the description tells me to expect, and then finally taking a small sip onto my tongue to contemplate the flavor as it slowly makes its way to the back and down my throat.  I savor.  All my senses are engaged. With this sip of wine in my mouth, I am fully present in this moment in an embodied way.  Then, before I take another sip, I consider the finish and the aftertaste. I compare it to the other wines I’ve had and to my expectations from the description.

5) Repeat.  And then, slowly, I go through the process again.  Do I pick up any nuances I missed on the first sip?  Is my palate more discerning on this trip than last time? Can I appreciate the wine more fully than I did last time?

6) Share. Wine tastings, like many activities, are more fun with friends.  Since my husband and I often go together, I like to ask him about his experience of the wine we are tasting.  What did he notice? How did it compare to other wines we have tasted? I find that sharing in his experience and sharing mine with him creates a greater depth.  My wine tasting experience would be incomplete without this opportunity to share with and learn from each other.

7) Change. I have found that since I started wine tasting, I accidentally apply this method to other beverages I try.  New blend of lemonade on the menu? Let me swirl it around in my glass and breathe it in first.  It’s led to some odd looks from dinner companions, I’ll admit.  But that has only further impressed upon me the benefits of drinking wine as spiritual practice.  Slowing down and allowing our activities and experiences to fully engage us in the present moment—fully engaging our bodies, minds, and spirits—helps us cultivate a valuable and lifelong habit reminiscent of Brother Laurence’s practicing the presence of God.

So, fellow pilgrims, what activities in your day-to-day life might be used to usher you into the present moment–where God is waiting for you?

Monday Meditation: Welcoming the Stranger Within

Monday Meditation: Welcoming the Stranger Within

When I was in first grade, my aunt would to pick me up from school each day and drive me home.  Before I had even settled in my seat and closed the car door, I had already launched into a steady stream of stories about my day that continued all the way home.  She hardly got a word in!

A couple of years ago, my aunt reminded me of this season and told me how much she enjoyed those daily drives with me, hearing all about my day through my unfiltered seven-year-old experience of the world.  She told me how much she admired my carefree speech, unburdened by the self-consciousness she knew I would grow into as I got older.

And she was right.

I became self-conscious earlier than most kids do–partly due to my personality and partly due to my family situation.  I began to adopt more adult attitudes, shunning childhood and adolescence as “juvenile” and holding myself to a higher standard.

The Drive for Perfection

This conversation with my aunt came back to me in a recent prayer time, and I realized how many negative attitudes and feelings arise when I think about my childhood self.  I noticed how much pride I felt growing up for always being more responsible and more correct than my peers.  I noticed how hard I always pushed myself to behave perfectly, to have perfect grades, to be perfect.

And I noticed how much resentment I feel toward myself when I am faced with imperfections in myself, with these areas now being uncovered that still need healing, with the same lessons I thought I had mastered coming back around again.  I thought about how I can so easily sit compassionately with others as they walk difficult paths toward healing and wholeness and wondered why I seem to feel so undeserving of that same compassion.

I discovered Christine Valters Paintner’s Abbey of the Arts several years ago and was inspired by her writings to become a Monk in the World and join the Holy Order of Dancing Monks (you can, too!).  I have been able to begin to live into all the commitments of her Monk Manifesto except the second one:

I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.

I am terrible at making space for the unclaimed parts of myself and showing myself compassion. It is so much easier to be compassionate toward others than to myself.  When confronted with the child in myself, I would rather force her to grow up than to accept and value her as she is and be willing to integrate her into myself.  But without her, I cannot move toward wholeness.  Without her, I cannot become my true self.

Faith Like a Child

My invitation in this season is to adopt a child-like posture toward myself as I walk this path toward healing.   I am being invited to begin to approach my healing journey with all the curiosity, lightheartedness, and playfulness of the unselfconscious seven-year-old who still exists within me–patiently waiting to be acknowledged and invited along on the journey.

That little childhood piece of myself is not the shameful burden I treat her as but a wise and willing companion.  I have only to reach out to her, feel her little hand in mine, and continue together on our way.

Come on, little one. Let’s take just this next step together.

Monday Meditation: Uncovering and the Wall

Monday Meditation: Uncovering and the Wall

Healing is a messy business.  It’s gross and slow and at times tenuous and prone to error.  It’s also miraculous, largely self-sufficient and autonomous, and a basic element of what it means to be alive.  Without the ability to heal, we would all die of paper cuts and colds and stubbed toes.

During the healing process, there is a time when covering the wound is necessary and a time when uncovering the would is also necessary.  Covering the wound protects it from negative influences that might cause infection and delay or thwart the healing process while uncovering the wound allows it to breathe and prevents festering.  This marriage of protection and vulnerability is necessary for healing.


I’m realizing that the season I’m in these days is one of uncovering, of exposing, of revealing the woundedness that has been covered over and protected for too long in my deep, inner hidden places.  That woundedness that has been silent (perhaps, silenced?) for so long is now making itself known in unhealthy ways because I have ignored it, leaking out of the broken places I have tried so hard to hide.

It is an unpleasant season, this time of uncovering.  Full of uncomfortable emotions and surprising reactions that I thought myself beyond, I find myself once again in the same place I’ve been before, circling right back to the starting point–but not quite.

Because I have been here before.

The Wall

It was my spiritual director who first introduced me to The Critical Journey and The Wall we must face on our Journey Inward.  I was nearing the end of my seminary degree and found myself in an unfathomable season of pain and loss.  And here I am again, years later, faced once more with the wounded places in myself.

Only, it’s not quite the same after all.  This time, I bring with me into this season the knowledge and experience I gained from my last visit to this particular spot on my journey.  I remember how–with the help of wise and patient people who so generously companioned me–I learned that I could not scale the wall, dig under it, or go around.  I could only slowly and painstakingly begin to dismantle the wall, brick by brick, until I could make a way through.

Welcoming and Leaning In

The invitation in such seasons is one of courage to step out into the light and keep walking, vulnerable and exposed, trusting that something new and beautiful is waiting to be revealed. The invitation is to welcome the uncovering, to lean in with anticipation and expectation of what is about to happen.

As we submit to the uncovering, we create space for the healing that has begun in us to continue to its completion.  Then, in that vulnerable moment, the true self begins to be revealed, to be birthed, to come into being.  But first we must be willing to walk the hard path that leads us there, back and back again–footsteps upon footsteps–back to the place we started. Only this time changed, this time new, this time carrying with us all that we learned and experienced before.

So, what is being uncovered in you, my fellow pilgrims? How might you welcome it and lean into the healing you are being invited toward?