*Visiting the Archives this Holy Week, as I really needed to hear these messages again. I pray they bless you, too. Every time you see an * you’ll know I’m updating with thoughts I’m experiencing here in Holy Week 2021. This is what I love about life with God:
- He never changes (Hebrews 13:8).
- His Word endures and “stands” forever (Isaiah 40:6-8).
- He invites us onto paths that shine brighter & brighter, even if for a “season” it gets a little dark (Proverbs 4:18).
Holy Week is a very special time in my faith tradition. I really love it.
It invites my wintered soul to experience a bit of renewal and ultimately, resurrection.
This week, I invite you, too, to journey with me. Maybe have a brand new Jesus encounter, like the one I write about in my new book.
A Jesus Encounter can and will change everything—for the better.
And that is what I want for you.
Enjoy these thoughts and join me over in our private FB community group for more discussions and conversations and meditative exercises.
A Difficult Conversation
*I wrote this blog post in Spring 2016, Holy Week.
When life stretches your soul or matures you as a spiritual human being, say so. Be honest. Allow people to companion alongside of you on your journey. We are faced with paradoxes of life—issues that are hard to explain or understand. We want to resolve paradox. Yet, we have to live into it. Look at it. Face it. When you begin to write, be sure to remember you don’t have all the answers. All you have is the right (hopefully) and the gift to raise the question to the level of spiritual dignity and allow other people to pursue it while you pursue it.”
-Sister Joan Chittister, All Together, Huff Post Religion
This past week I encountered a very difficult conversation in which I really fell flat on my face. At least I felt as though I did. During this conversation, I was asked some very pointed theological questions. Taken a bit off guard, I began to internally panic.
My New Normal
It had been a very long day in which I was with people all day.
I didn’t realize at the time that my new normal is changing. The old Janell who could go and go and do and do and talk and talk has to change. And we all know how easy change is, right? Achalasia affects not only the esophagus, but the area surrounding the esophagus, i.e., the diaphragm, the trachea, and the pharynx. So, the more I talk, it seems the more stressed I feel. Go ahead, it is a moment to smile. And, the result is an odd pressure that builds up, creating frustrating, nagging fatigue, both mental and physical, and an annoying sense of discomfort.
- *(2021) Interestingly enough, this morning while on a walk, I had a very serious esophageal spasm. With only 1/2 bottle of water—the one antidote I’ve found to be helpful—I had to turn around and get home fast. Frustrated, yet again, at this silent disease, which shows up at the most inopportune times, I made it home, drank loads of water, did some reflective yoga postures that help calm my body, and took the rest of the day to recover. How do you “manage” or “handle” unexpected, jarring circumstances? Do you fight against it or give it your best shot to move through it with some semblence of grace?
By the time I reached my appointment, I was spent. Perhaps I should have rescheduled, but I didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it ended up being. As the theological questions began, shockingly, my mind went totally blank.
Blank as a white sheet of paper.
I couldn’t put two words together.
My mind raced. Janell, get it together, here. This is important. You know this.
A serious case of déjà vu overwhelmed me. Voices from the past echoed in my ear. Voices that pressured me to try and be someone I am not. Voices that told me I would never be a scholar. Voices that said, “I wouldn’t have guessed you could write a sentence.”
I’m a highly practical, “nuts-and-bolts” kind-of-faith-girl, theologically, and for the life of me, just can’t seem to express myself in any other way.
A fumbling, bumbling mess of words ensued, while I tried to reach into my mind for the right words. Words like justification and sanctification, integration and holistic, etc.
I did my best to “sound smart.”
All I could do was offer a sincere, heartfelt, albeit shame-filled, apology. I’ll work harder on this.
Janell’s default: work harder, study more, in order to impress more….ugh. So exhausting.
The Ride Home
Thankfully, the conversation ended.
I got in my car and drove home in silence. At least outward silence.
Inwardly, I was shaming myself to death. My default mode immediately heads down the road of my past, saying, “Yep. You are never good enough. You can’t even explain what you believe about God.”
I’m really talking about that kind of warm wash that we experience of not good enough. You know, I always say that shame drives two primary tapes: not good enough, and who do you think you are? So to me, it’s a very formidable emotion. Its [shame’s] survival is based on us not talking about it, so it’s done everything it can do to make it unspeakable.’
-Dr. Brene Brown
Why Do I Share?
I’ve never hidden my struggles from you. As Sister Joan exhorts, we are to companion alongside one another. We need one another. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I share because I hope that somewhere inside my struggle, you’ll see yourself and find hope and courage to keep moving forward.
The next day, while sharing my story with both a client of mine, she said one sentence that really put my heart to rest: It’s simple, you don’t test well.
A-ha! Yes! Eureka! Light bulb moment! I don’t test well. Never have.
Somehow her words centered me.
Sometimes we will fall flat on our faces. Fail a test. Screw up. Make a mess of things.
The secret, though, is to overcome our default mode of thinking, i.e., for me—shaming myself and implement reformative thinking, i.e., I will make mistakes but I am not a mistake.
Shame says, “I am bad.”
Guilt says, “I did something bad.”
An Invitation to Holy Week: Experience Transformation
- *(2021) Here we are some five years into the future of that “difficult conversation.” Perhaps you heard echoes of voices in your past as you read my story. Voices of oppression or hurtful words or even nonverbals that try to diminish your value, worth, and dignity. Today, this Monday of Holy Week 2021, rise up with me, open your hands and heart and mind, because you are going to experience the transforming power of a Jesus Encounter as we move through the week. If I had only known then what I know now, just five years later, I would have implemented my newfound healthy assertiveness (Tool 5, Stronger Every Day, pp. 133-151) and put into practice The Five Keys to Finding Your Voice (Tool 5, Stronger Every Day, pp. 146-149). In light of last week, I decided to set apart some time and sacred space to both consider and write down what I believe about God and why I believe it.
It’s been fun planning my week. I’ve discovered several really great tools to lead me through this personal retreat. Be sure to visit and listen to “Pick Up Your Pen,” as you move through your own Holy Week journey.
Will you join me? Maybe you have some thinking to do, as well. Some growing to do.
Let’s “companion alongside each other” and experience both personal and community transformation.
Listen to “Today’s Heartlift with Janell” Podcast