My spiritual director (aka spiritual guru/ama/spirit-channeler/wise-one who helps me listen to what God is doing in my life) recently published an invitation to a spiritual practice for us to consider for the new year. In it she invites us to listen for a word that God might send us as an invitation, a challenge or encouragement. She said to ask God to send the word to us and when it came, to spend time with it – thinking about it, reflecting over it, studying it, listening to it.
Truth be told? I ignored her advice. I read it – thought it sounded good in theory, but then in the back of my head, let my knee-jerk, “who has time for that?” response rule the day.
God sent the word anyway. Even though I didn’t ask for it. Even though I didn’t invite it to come. Even though I definitely didn’t have time for it. A week or two after I first read that invitation, a word came to me and despite my many efforts to leave it alone, it won’t leave me alone. Which makes sense, because that seems true to its character, for my word…
My spiritual director shared that one year her word was rest. I like her word. Would gladly barter a trade, but I am pretty sure divine-delivered words don’t work like that. My guess is there also isn’t a return policy on this package dropped on my mind’s doorstep. At least all of my attempts to make it disappear so far, don’t seem to be working. So, instead, I’ve had to finally stop, and listen, to this word from God, because y’all, it’s…
At first glance (or listen) relentless is what I am feeling about life right now. I found myself on the phone with my sister (aka best friend/super-hero/wonder woman/person who knows me better than most and isn’t afraid to call me on my junk) who was sharing some tough news from her own life, and I lamented with her, “Life is just relentless, isn’t it? Like a fire hose turned on full blast that just won’t stop?” It’s what I have been feeling as of late. A little pummeled, mixed with a side of can’t come up for air, finished off with a course of when will this ever stop.
Life is feeling overwhelming at the moment, because everywhere I turn there is something else that needs to be done – there isn’t enough time in a day – the work never finishes – there is always something clamoring for my attention. Dirty dishes to clean, pigs to feed, laundry to wash, field trip supplies to buy, kids to drive, weight to lose, sermons to write, people to call, dogs to train, birthday parties to plan, a football team to cheer on (Go Chiefs!)…and y’all, I’m just scratching the surface with that list.
Here’s the thing – my life always looks like this. So much of what is on this list, what fills so many of my days, are things that I love (okay, so maybe not the dishes, but you know what I mean). My life is always full – I choose full – intentionally. This list isn’t abnormal for me. Yet, it doesn’t always feel relentless.
So, what’s different now. Why, relentless?
I’ve just started a sermon series that’s inspired by social scientist Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. The first TED talk Brené ever did is so very much worth a watch. In it she lays out the research and core findings that led her to write this book. It’s a book that was eye-opening/life changing for me when I first encountered it a handful of years ago.
For in it, Brené names something I deeply believe to be true. That the purpose of our life – what gives it meaning – is connection – real and authentic connection. She says that we are hard-wired for it – for love and belonging. Yet, so often, what keeps us from fulling living this life, is our fear that we won’t get it – that we will be judged unworthy of it – rejected. This is the birthplace of shame in our lives and shame is a destructive force. We try to avoid it, she says, at all costs. So, a lot of us spend a lot of time and energy trying to prove that we are worthy. She calls it the worthiness hustle – where we try to perform, please, perfect and prove – in order to avoid shame and earn our worthiness. This keeps us from being our real and authentic selves. It makes us run from vulnerability. It keeps us from experiencing the very things we are hustling for – love and belonging. The hustle makes us miserable – which in the end only makes us hustle all the more.
Life is feeling relentless right now, because I am hustling again. I’ve hustled for most of my life, but because of a lot of hard work (and therapy and spiritual direction and prayer and the Holy Spirit doing her thing) I have in the past few years had stretches of life when I had left the hustle behind. When I had learned what it felt like to live in my own skin and be comfortable there. To own my weaknesses, my imperfections, and to not be afraid that they would cost me my worthiness – instead being able to trust that it is something God-given – something no failure, or mistake, or imperfection, or outside judgment can take away.
Lately, I’ve picked up old dance moves – fallen back into old patterns – and I’ve let fear worm its way back into my life. It’s happened because as a result of the healthier patterns I was living, I was trying new things, willing to take some risks, crawl out on some limbs – and once I got out there – old fears came roaring back. What will people think? What if I fail? What if I don’t meet people’s expectations? What if this tiny limb I seem to be standing on cracks and I fall to the ground? All those old tapes started playing in my head again, and the soundtrack got me dancing that old dance once again. I’ve been hustling. And y’all, doing the hustle? It’s exhausting and it sucks the joy out of life, which makes life feel…
The other morning, as I was sitting in early morning prayer – struggling to stay focused and not jump to the “to do” list that was clamoring for my attention as it was forming in my head – God sent that word to me one more time, but this time there were a few more with it.
My grace is relentless.
My love for you is relentless.
It will not stop.
It will never stop.
I will keep sending it.
You, my dear, are worthy of it.
My Spiritual Director was right.
God had a word for me – and it was one I very much needed to hear.
What’s life look like, feel like, for you right now?
Feel like there might be a word out there you need to hear?
My guess is God’s got one for you too.
For this God of ours is relentless.
God longs for us to live – to really live – the life God has for us. It’s a life Brené Brown has characterized as “Whole-Hearted” in her work – a life that begins when we learn to trust that we are worthy – worthy of love and belonging – which leads us to powerful and meaningful connection. And y’all, that connection really is what this life is all about.
Each Sunday in January and February, I’ll have lots of words (hopefully God-sent ones) talking about what we have to let go of and what we need to cultivate in order to live our lives not out of fear of shame, but instead with our whole hearts.
Hear what word God just might have for you.