“The more you relinquish your stubborn need to maintain power, the more you will get in touch with the one who has the power to heal and guide you. And the more you get in touch with that divine power, the easier it will be to confess to yourself and to others your basic powerlessness.”
Henri Nouwen continues to mentor me through this journey. I’m going through his book, The Inner Voice of Love . His stuff is dense, so I read one entry each day, all week. His entry, Acknowledge your Powerlessness, has met me this week in this next leg of the journey.
I have a strong, independent spirit. It has led me to believe that control is no longer a thing for me.
That’s a lie.
I’m aware that the the constant open doors and stimulation my brain feels is about control. I have trained my mind to keep all the doors open with an activated mind and body. I work, tirelessly, at times, to figure out what will make me feel most safe. Time management, word choices, planning outings, body language, budgeting; All good things, but they are motivated by a distrust and autonomy that avert me from the insecurity the feelings of powerlessness and loneliness bring.
My insecurity often changes shape. Changes in my body, my credibility in my work environment, parenting three young children, and relationships, are the loudest places of present insecurity. To counteract the insecurity I fill this space with the loud.
I do the things.
I like the girl that does the things. She gets more attention and that feels a little safer. I’m also noticing how she leaves me resentful and worn. Her pattern is not different then what many before me have done, dating back to Eve. We forget who God is and try to do it our own way.
I want to forgive that girl. She’s trying her best. When I allow myself to sit in that place of gentleness with her, I sense the Spirit of God and feel a sense of awe and peace. She quiets the little girl. Her spirit reveals the redemption playing out in my own story and allows a few of those brain doors to softly shut.
The spirit of God is exposing spaces where I need to keep nurturing that girl. Forgiving her. Allowing space for her to grieve the sense of powerlessness and loneliness she faced in being a gentle soul in a hard world. And giving her permission to allow life to reenter those spaces.
But I sometimes get stuck.
When trauma happens, our brain has a hard time distinguishing or having a sense of time. So the girl who felt like an outcast after moving schools 5 times before 7th grade, has a hard time distinguishing her loneliness then from the present moment. She shuts down when she is in a new place going outward or inward on herself. Trauma does that to us.
Whether these are capital T traumas or lowercase t traumas, things trigger us, trigger me, bringing us back to places of pain. John Bradshaw lists ways we have encountered trauma in our lives. While these may not equate to a clinical diagnosis like PTSD, they may expose our buttons and explain why things like my feelings of powerlessness and feeling alone, are so triggering. I would argue that most, if not all, of us have experienced at least one, likely multiple of these.
- By actually physically leaving them
- By not modeling their own emotions for their children.
- By not being there to affirm their children’s expressions of emotion
- By not providing for their children’s developmental dependency needs.
- By physically, sexually, emotionally and spiritually abusing them
- By using children to take care of their own unmet dependency needs
- By using children to take care of their marriages
- By hiding and denying shame secrets tot eh outside world so that the children have to protect these covert issues in order to keep the family balance.
- By not giving them their time, attention, and direction.
- By acting shameless
Melody Beattie wrote, “Shame has its roots in our childhood and its branches in our lives today”. While not all inclusive, the list Bradshaw presents, opens up a whole category of places to grieve and awareness to build. It is that shame that has bound me to being dismissive towards and angry with the little girl.
I have resistance to Nouwen’s and Bradshaw’s invitation to let go of my desire to enter the roots of my control, and enter the shame Beattie speaks of. It feels safer to be seduced by the security of the familiar, but, as my anger reminds me, this neglect comes at a cost.
I don’t think she needs to be as angry as she has been these past 10 years. She does need to be nurtured, though. This season is inviting her towards re-exposure, in a way that allows her to encounter God and others in new ways. While it opens up uncertainty in these new places my confidence in her is growing. She is strong enough to hold the tenderness of her pain, while heading into unknown spaces of the present moment, moments that hold richness.
Getting kissed by a llama. Seeing a duck crossing front of my car. The light of the sunrise filling my room alongside the sweet voice and snuggles of my two- year old.
Creating room for that creates room for me to own and confess my shadow. That gets to hold space too. There is a level of discomfort and unfamiliarity that still brings. It exposes spaces where I don’t trust God will bring me through and where I am actually terrified to let him bring me through. This space is another I want to release.
I’m aware of how much wreckage my resentment has caused. How it was projected onto my spouse, and created a demanding atmosphere that left little space for me to be curious about my spouse, respect him, and offer him grace. It significantly contributed to the breakdown of our marriage. It pushed the little girl down even farther and caused me to resent her and others. Though insecure, she is very much kind, inviting, and compassionate and she went underground in her closest relationships. I cursed her when I actually needed to face her, forgive her and learn to love her, so I could love.
So I’m relearning the basics to this thing called love and I want to camp out here.
To invite more quiet in my world where God meets me. Space to sooth my body, mind and spirit. More yoga. More simple. More nature. More snuggles. More candles. More walking. More windows open. More sunshine. This space creates room to receive love and give love. I want that for me and others. And I see I still have lots to learn and practice in that space.