Unwell…

As my life has unfolded before me, there are certain authors I’ve clung to and learned from who have impacted my views in hindsight and my hope for my future so deeply that I couldn’t untie myself to their work if I tried.  I have found so much freedom from Dr. Dan Allender’s work as a therapist, teacher and author. I’ve read the majority of his works and I listen to his podcast on a regular basis.

I think what I love about Allender-beyond the healing and help his work has offered to me-is how honest he is about hurt. In one breath he can cry curses over the pain of this life, the evils of this world, and in another he can proclaim the richness of God’s beauty and goodness. I am still learning how to hold both pain and joy to the glory of God. Allender’s work is an encouragement and a guide to how to do that humbly and hopefully better with time.

For all of you Parks and Rec fans, I do realize I sound like Chris Traeger discussing his therapist, Dr. Richard Nygaer. (Thankfully, I have other authors I love too like Brenee Brown, Shauna Niequist, Beth Moore, Ruth Haley Barton, Richard Foster, Tremper Longman, John and Stasi Eldredge,….you get the picture?) But joking and amazing sitcoms aside, Allender is an amazing resource if you are a Believer in Christ looking for a book about marriage, parenting, leadership, abuse, trauma, finding your path and more. I’m beginning to think the only thing Allender hasn’t written about is fly fishing!

In one of the most recent podcasts from The Allender Center, he discusses how communities of believers hold one another when we are not well. More specifically, the discussion focuses on the person who is admitting that they themselves are not well to others.

11141293_10153426144503933_2051468299558528271_oIt’s so easy to be the one to step in and help when trouble and hardship loom, but it often takes even more courage to be the one admitting that you are not well and you need help. I’ve shared my story here about how God began the good work in me of teaching me my need for control and how avoiding my need for help was a hindrance to my health and spiritual wellness. The post I linked to was a pivotel moment in my life that I will never forget. God used that time to teach me how to begin to be honest with others when I am not well. It began the long journey of allowing other people to help me and to acknowledge and receive such a gift.

From the podcast, “Not Doing Well” Allender and Clinton discuss the difference between powering through a hard time and admitting the truth of being unwell when the desire is to either withdraw completely from community or self soothe with a variety of potential addictions; “In so many of these patterns there is a false nobility. Whether we’re trying to shoulder all our pain and carry the weight of the world, or we’re removing ourselves from others, convinced that our absence is better for everyone when we are unwell. This sense of nobility and martyrdom is intimately wrapped up with our most well-worn structures of addiction and sabotage. Dan: “The process of disruption is the gift that actually begins to stop you.”

I’ve experienced that disruption that began to stop me from martyrdom and the sense of nobility withdrawal and self soothing brought to me.  I’m so grateful for the gift that it was in my life. It altered the path I was on in large ways that will forever impact my future path.

Holding the realities of both the deep beauty and joy of this Earth as well as the profound brokenness we carry and enact as broken people is not something a heart was designed to do alone. We need people who will be brave and disrupt us in our addictions, sabotaging, willfullness and martyrdom. This podcast that is available is only part one and I am intrigued to see where Allender and Clinton take the next episode. But for all of you who might be unwell, who might be in a season of deep sorrow and sweat pants, I want to offer you some interruption with gentle love and care. As another favorite author, has said, “Tell the people you love what you need.” Brenee Brown.

Blessings on you as you walk with Jesus, even when you are unwell. Thank you Jesus, that you are the Healer.

https://theallendercenter.org/2019/03/not-doing-well-1/

Other works by Dr. Dan Allender:

To Be Told
The Wounded Heart
The Cry of the Soul
Leading with a Limp
Bold Love
The Healing Path
How Children Raise Parents

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Rx for A Soft Heart; for You and for Me

Occasionally, life sneaks up on you. At least, that happens to me. There I am, trudging along distracted by my list of things I want to accomplish, and BAM! I come to an epiphany about an obstacle that has been blocking my forward progress; one which I didn’t even realize I was continuously butting up against.

About two years ago, I read Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly”. It challenged me in a lot of ways-so much so that I find myself rediscovering many things years later. One such thing is in regards to experiencing and stifling joy in our lives. Brown describes the way that young mothers often sneak into their sleeping babe’s bedrooms at night. They gaze at their precious children and feel overwhelmed with all the emotions motherhood can bring. Then, suddenly, they envision something horrible happening to their child. The joy is stifled and fear comes over them. “Something could happen to my child and all I love would be gone” begins to run through the young Mother’s mind when just seconds before, she was standing in a place of overwhelming joy. But now? That joy has been replaced by anxiety and fear of the unknown. The joy is gone.

Brown’s point is that we can easily get stuck in living life with the thought, “when’s the other shoe going to drop” at the forefront of our minds. The problem is that the more we do this, the more we squash our ability to experience joy. If our hearts are hardened against pain, then they are also hardened against joy! The shutting down of one is the shutting down of the other.

That spoke to me. Her challenge was to stop those thoughts in their tracks and go back to the joy. To push those thoughts out and fight for the good. It reminded me of something I heard John Eldredge say many, many years ago when I was a college student. At a seminar for Campus Crusade for Christ, Eldredge told us that Jesus Christ is the only God who will ask us to lean in and remain vulnerable in the midst of pain. Suffering is a key element of Christianity.

And why? Because if we can’t experience pain, we won’t experience joy. Our hearts will be too hard.

In a quiet reading time recently, I came across something along these same lines from Isaiah 6:9b-10. God is speaking to the prophet Isaiah and he says something to him that is so profound, as he is about to send Isaiah out to the people (who are engaged in idol worship) to warn them. He says,

“Listen carefully, but do not understand.

Watch closely, but learn nothing.

Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. 

That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.”

As I prayed and meditated on these verses, I realized that if you switch it to the positive it is

“To turn to the Lord and receive healing, you need a soft heart to understand, listening ears to hear and open eyes to see.” I would even add to that “humility to learn”.

Hardened hearts block our healing.

As Brown explained, when our hearts are shut down to pain, they are also shut down to joy. I love to laugh and have often told my husband in hard times that what I really need is a good sleep and a loud and long laugh. Joy is what makes life beautiful. So isn’t it interesting that a hard heart,a lack of vulnerability, is what steals our joy and shuts down our experience of a joyful life?

Opening ourselves up to pain, to suffering, sounds wrong, costly and counter-intuitive. But what a shocking thing to learn how self protection leads us down the very wrong path in the wrong direction; it shuts down the joy we are offered each day and the path to a life of understanding, eyes to see and ears to hear. The price is high, but the risk of a hard heart and a life without joy isn’t exactly worth that price.

heart of flesh