This summer I will turn 55 years old. To be honest, there are things I thought I would’ve outgrown by now, but haven’t. Apparently, outgrowing is messy.
Friday morning last week I was listening to a TED Talk Podcast while running (uncharacteristically, before sunrise - Cyndi made me promise to get up when she did if I kept her up Thursday night). The talk was by University of Houston Professor of Social Work, Brene’ Brown, who described her first visit with a counselor, making this demand: “Here’s the thing. No family stuff. No childhood s**t. I just need strategies.”
Like Ms. Brown, I’ve spent my adult life seeking out strategies rather than causes.
I remembered back to 2003 when it took me three attempts to finish the book, Wild at Heart. Why would it take so long to read a book that has turned out to be a major influence on my life? Because I kept grinding down at the topic of personal wounds and spiritual attack. I thought it was psychobabble. I wasn’t interested in wounds. OK, so I was sure I had deep emotional wounds in my life just like everyone else, and I could even identify the results of those wounds from my own behavior, but not the wounds themselves.
My question to God was, “How should I deal with this” rather than “What are you saying to me; where am I hurting.”
It has taken eight years for me to understand.
I finally manned-up enough to pray, “God I want you to dig into my heart and show me the truth. You have my permission and cooperation.” The first time I heard back from God was late one Sunday night (Apr 2009), with this statement: “I am always second-string, never anyone’s first pick.” I understood immediately. That thought had lived in the back of my mind since childhood. I prayed: “What was that about?”
Three days later I heard the second message from God, while in the shower at Gold’s Gym: “I deserve better than I am getting.” And, immediately following: “If I don’t have a chance to win, I won’t play the game.” Again I knew in my heart those statements were true about me as soon as I heard them. Maybe they weren’t truly true, but they were truly from the deepest recesses of my heart. I prayed: “God, tell me more about this. Keep talking to me.”
It was a year before I heard another message (Aug 2010), this time it came during yoga class: “The wound you have been looking for all these years is this: you were THE second choice.” It felt frighteningly close to the bone.
The next day I spent a lot of time writing it all out in my journal. I sensed healing in the air and I didn’t want to miss the moment. Yet, what I wrote in my journal was something I would never have admitted out loud, something I would’ve argued against ... until, it flowed out of my pen onto the page of my Moleskin: “When I depended on God most, He let me down. God cannot be trusted.”
Writing that with real ink in a hardbound journal was so raw and real, it took my breath. I had to sit back in my booth to settle my pounding heart. Yet, it felt true the minute I read it. Not true about God; true about me.
Old stories in which I thought God had let me down started flashing through my mind, flapping rapidly like someone thumbing a deck of cards. In that instant I saw them all. It was true. I’d never trusted God completely. In the deepest part of my heart I was convinced that God would let me down when I needed Him most.
The thing is, I never thought of myself as the guy who didn’t trust God, and I would’ve argued vigorously against that. Yet, I also knew I was not alone. The attack against my heart - that God cannot be trusted - is the oldest attack of all. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.
And another thing, when it comes to spiritual attack, there are no coincidences. The Enemy knows exactly when and where to hit us, to do the most damage, to take us out of the battle. Yet, I was reminded that it’s possible to rescue someone else even in the middle of a darkest wound. That is the grace of God.
It took a long journey down a crooked road for me to learn that I didn’t really trust God all those years. It also took a long conversation with a valued friend to find the peace I needed. Clarity is important, but it isn’t enough. Strategies aren’t enough, either. We also need community. We’re too close to our own stories, and we have too much at stake, to see clearly on our own. I needed someone else to listen, someone else to know. I’m walking lighter in my shoes now, relieved that I don’t have to carry my story alone. I have help.
And so, my daily prayer has become: “God, teach me to trust You.” I pray it several times a day. Every time I feel unstable, or misunderstood, or second-string, I pray, “Teach me to trust You.” I don’t want to spend the rest of my life fooling myself. I want to be the man who trusts God.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org