I have found myself irritated and judgmental lately. Quick to erect relational walls and a internal sense of defensiveness. This summer I have sat with other mothers in varieties of places, and somehow I am only able to hear their insecurities, their sense of pride that covers their deepest fears, their disdain for the “other” that dresses different, believes different, upholds different standards. I find myself angry and ready to go live my life as a relational hermit, only leaving my home for the bare necessities.
The frustrating realization is that their attitudes are mirrors into my own soul. These same judgments are festering in me, leaving me unloving and ungracious and unkind. This relational fruit usually grows from my heart when I am in a prolonged season of feeling afraid and unworthy of love.
A woman who drinks in Love is one who pours out love. I am empty.
I am reading Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak. The book is small and short, just over 100 pages, but packed with wisdom and truth that may take years to ponder. In Chapter 5, he discusses the features of a spiritual journey and that it will take us inward and downward toward the hardest realities of our lives:
“Why must we go in and down? Because as we do so, we will meet the darkness that we carry within ourselves—the ultimate source of the shadows that we project onto other people. If we do not understand that the enemy is within, we will find a thousand ways of making someone ‘out there’ into the enemy, becoming leaders who oppress rather than liberate others…Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.”
For about a year, I have been experiencing a “dark night of the soul”. A shadowed place where I know by faith that God is with me but I don’t sense Him or connect with Him in the ways that have always brought intimacy. This spiritual season has been one of questioning, frustration at a shaken spiritual identity, and conclusions on how much uncertainty there is in the faith journey.
In Brené Brown’s Living Brave course, she pointed to research that shows that the brain hates uncertainty and will make up stories about what happened to us or what people’s motives are towards us just so that it can feel certain. The “story” the brain creates to frame our experience may not even be true, but the brain cares more about certainty than truth.
I am seeing that in my faith journey, I latched onto certainty and dogmatic theology because of fear not necessarily for truth. Mystery and faith walk the roads of uncertainty but with a belief that God is certain and that I can trust Him and His character even if I can’t figure Him out.
So in this “dark night of the soul” of spiritual vulnerability and uncertainty, I am scared. And fearful people don’t love well. We judge and look for others’ weaknesses to try to build up our own shaky identity. I am shaky. I don’t like it. I like solid and certain. Certainly I am loved but I often don’t believe it.
But in my shaky spiritual spaces, I do know that I am willing. I am willing to penetrate my own inner darkness and recognize again my oneness with humanity. A deep core value that I hold dear is freedom. I desire freedom from my own oppressions, my own fears, and am willing to look them in the eye. My truest self wants to lead others to places of “hidden wholeness” and that requires walking my own dark inner path towards light and healing.
So as we are confronted with the foibles and shortcomings of those around us, may we be willing to humbly look inward and downward. May we ask the hard questions of our own hearts and find that we are “one with humanity” and all of us need the unconditional care and unfathomable grace of God.
We middle-mothers have the same flesh and blood, the same struggles and fears, same identity issues, same hearts that are desperate for love and acceptance.
May we receive the grace of inner healing, willing to look at ourselves with honesty and grace as forgiven and loved women. May we pass these kind truths around like candy to everyone we meet starting with husbands, children, friends and the women who sit near us in our arenas. May we be those that find “hidden wholeness” and lead others on that same path, through the dark and into light.