On holes and wholeness

I’ve been quiet this past week.  

It’s mostly because I’m still struggling with reentry, with being vulnerable, and with seeking God, and not feeling whole.  I didn’t post because I keep worrying that this refrain is bothersome, tired, and a little too heavy for the blogging world.

Fall leaves in Princeton, New Jersey.

In fact, I keep worrying waaaaaaay too much about what everyone else thinks…except for God.  I mentioned awhile ago that I’d been hanging onto others’ pieces of advice a little too eagerly and that my own chokeholds, my negative self talk and my efforts to intellectually solve or parse these problem of cultural coherence, grief, and loss just aren’t working.

They’re not working because my body tells me things my mind doesn’t even register.  They’re not working because I’m living in a life full of holes I can’t see, but I feel palpably and powerfully at the most inopportune moments.

And I’m discovering that this illusion of control that is such a powerful, productive concept in theory amounts to unpredictable, unexplained, and sudden expressions of emotion in practice, that make me feel very awkward, embarrassed, and well, out of control.

It’s not a good feeling.  

And it reminds me of the many times in my fieldwork when these amazingly solid, stoic women would burst into tears and reach out for me momentarily, only to literally, push me away, out of that fleeting embrace, making me wonder whether it had really just happened.  I realize, perhaps some of my own condescension and arrogance, in wanting those embraces to last longer, especially as I now realize we are all out of control, we simply express it at different times, and in different ways.

Comforting a woman in Yunnan province, Nov. 2010.  Photo by Leslie Santee.

I’m realizing the hard way that I can’t fight these feelings or this process, and when I do it simply pushes God and others farther and farther away.  This morning I felt God telling me that it’s all okay, this messiness of learning how to love again, be loved, and to receive, and there’s nothing that will be lost along the way that can’t be recovered.  I hear God also reminding me how good God is at loving me, if I will just let that be my priority in this season.

A week ago I thought I was finally getting really good at accepting my brokenness, but it’s going to take some time to really get there.  What’s paradoxical about the spiritual journey is I continue to believe that brokenness really is the path to wholeness.

It’s going to be hard to do this, to be present with God, but if I can just focus on one thing, let it be that, not peace, or excellence, or books, or productivity.  Those things will come.

New York City on a recent fall evening.

But in the meantime, I gotta believe that there’s enough grace out there for me, too.

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5 thoughts on “On holes and wholeness

  1. I needed to hear these words this morning; you have no idea how much. You are a gracious and thoughtful minister, even more so because you’re willing to share out of your brokenness and vulnerability.

    And what do you mean, too heavy for the blog world? 🙂 I’m writing about poverty, for heaven’s sake, all month long! I like having such great people with me in the deep end of the pool!

    1. J.R., I owe you an email. Sorry I took so long to respond to this comment, too, because your response about needing to hear these things so affirmed me when I felt pretty raw and vulnerable writing this post. Thanks for the encouragement. And for the record, I loved your poverty month…does that make me heavy, too, or just kindred again?!

  2. “I continue to believe that brokenness really is the path to wholeness”

    so true – the more i embrace my brokenness, the more freedom i find! but my independence screams at the thought of surrender. thanks for your thoughts 🙂

    1. I hear ya about that sticky independent streak. The more I think about it, though, it’s not an all or nothing, it’s about recognizing the strengths we have (ambition, self-reliance, etc.) without worshipping them, since we’re meant to live into our brokenness and find our ultimate acceptance and affirmation in God. Thanks for your thoughts!

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