Experiencing your past and the deepest parts of your heart in His sweet, yet stern and exposing light... Encouragements, suggestions and ideas to process.
Hi my friend. Welcome to Part III.
So far, we’ve talked about the fallacy of finding pure joy and worth in relationships, be they platonic or romantic. I’ve encouraged you to dive into prayer and to think about what this process looks like for you - the process of coming to a place wherein you can stand in proclamation that you are content without romantic pursuit. I’ve encouraged you to explore what it looks like to have Jesus romance you before exploring romance with a partner.
So… How’s that all going?
I’d imagine you may have just let out quite a sarcastic huff… Good. This part is really, really hard. The trenches, one might call it. If you had asked me this same question early in my journey, I would’ve probably winced and gave you an uncomfortable laugh as well.
During the beginning stages of this exploration we’re on, some growing pains may start to surface. It seems only natural - does it not? - that when you begin to allow a perfect God to pursue you, sensations of unworthiness arise. When you bravely decide to let Him into the deepest depths of your heart, perhaps memories that exist as a sort of false proof to that unworthiness will reveal themselves. On top of it all, you're doing exactly what the enemy HATES by stepping into healing and seeking guidance from Jesus. This means you are opening yourself up for severe spiritual attack.
Hear this: the time to sift through your heart and distinguish what is truth and what is a lie has never been more critical. I implore you: don’t stop praying over this.
The end goal of this article, Part III of Becoming Her, is simple: to provide encouragement, resources, and stimulating thought processes during a difficult time in which we force ourselves to be still and contemplate heart wounds that have for too long gone unnoticed. I hope to remind you that in what can seem like a very dark place, He is still there. Though things may feel chaotic around you and there may be turmoil in your heart, Jesus has you safe. You are brave by being here, and you are allowed to let go of your past and experience healing.
Now, for you visual learners - let's talk about what this portion of the journey might really look like.
A Painted Picture: Exposed & Covered.
The Trenches are tough. Without a doubt, I'd like to think this is the hardest part of this emotionally celibate, self exploration journey.
But why call it "the trenches"?
By definition, when a soldier is deep in the trenches, he is relatively safe from outside attackers. The trench is his fortress - his safe place amidst the chaos. That does not mean, however, there is not a war raging around him. In fact, he can hear and see everything swirling around him, and yet still, he is safe.
The reason I phased this part of the season as "The Trenches" is because you are at war more now than ever before, yet you are safe in the Father's arms.
I must warn you - because you have opened yourself up for fullness of healing from Jesus - He will stop at no expense to show you your wounds. But He will do it kindly. Gently. Compassionately. And at a pace you can handle.
During this time, the Lord may begin to gift you with new eyes to see subconscious or unconscious memory that has been pushed down for no telling how many years. This is an abnormal phenomenon that typically occurs when trauma of any kind is suppressed out of self protection. He may bring about conversations with unlikely people at random moments that trigger one memory to the next. Nights from upwards of five to ten years ago may come flooding in - as the Holy Spirit works outside of the constraints of time and begins to shift faithless times into sobering memory.
You may see some ugly things. Motives you never knew you had behind actions taken blindly and reactively will serve to humble you. Childhood memories, the good and the bad, beginning to reveal explanations for daily tendencies, tics, and tactics.
During this journey of self discovery, you might just find out a lot more about who you are than you ever thought possible… and it very well might be the most humbling thing you have yet to experience.
Can you hear the bombs going off yet?
Your anger problem.
Bitterness towards her.
Resentment towards him.
That one night in college.
Those years of college you don’t remember.
The years you wasted.
Your relationship with your mom.
Your relationship with your father.
Being a victim of sexual assault.
Sexually assaulting someone.
That lost friendship.
Your first exposure to pornography.
Your addiction to pornography now.
How what happened when you were 5 years old dictates what you do every day today.
How what happened when you were 15 years old dictates what you do every day today.
Living in victim mentality.
That thing you said so many years ago to your sister or brother that you can never take back.
The day or night of your rape.
Cheating on her.
Cheating on him.
Being cheated on.
Hating your body.
Being obsessed with your body.
I could go on for pages. The point is:
What. Is. Coming. Up?
What's your war zone look like?
What are you finding out about yourself with Holy Spirit-refreshed eyes as you dedicate yourself to a season of little to no relational distraction? What are you finding out about yourself, how you’ve hurt others and how you’ve been hurt by others, as you stand in the presence of a holy God?
More importantly, how do you feel about these things? How do you view yourself in His sweet, yet stern exposing light?
I could imagine, a mix of excitement for Jesus to heal, but pain in mourning the side effects of sin. Similar to a soldier's rushing adrenaline and eagerness to fight and conquer the enemy, yet an ever-present anxiousness in fear for his vulnerability to an attack.... Is it not?
Light in the Cracks.
The first three months of this process was filled with a lot of hard truths coming out that I never thought I’d have to hear. The beginning was by far the worst. It began with a sobering panic attack, feelings of shame, connecting dots that had gone seemingly randomized for years, remembering things I had pushed far out of memory, conversations coming up with family members and friends that I didn’t realize needed to be had.
It was brutal, yes - but it was necessary.
It was in these moments that I realized all too often, I had been acting out of wounds that I didn’t even know existed in my heart. Pains that I had been living with for so long that they didn’t hurt anymore - they were just my new normal...
The wounds had unknowingly become the natural place out of which I operated every day.
I once heard an older woman in a church group share something along these lines: “Our habits go far beyond what we think of when someone says ‘it’s just a bad habit.’ When we do something over and over again, neurological pathways begin to form in our brains - paving the way for us to do it again more efficiently in the future. It makes sense then, that new habits are difficult to start. We have to pave a new pathway. Like a hiker making his own way through an unpaved path, he pushes through a dark jungle of brush and debris, hacking away just to get one step forward. Likewise, stepping out of a habit is much more than stepping out of ‘just a habit’ - it has become our natural operating system that we need to consciously rewrite and reform. And that takes far more energy, skill and determination than had we just stayed our comfortable path."
This is profound.
I’ve heard before that if you throw a frog in boiling water, it reflexes immediately and jumps out of the pot. On the contrary, however, if you were to place the frog in a pot of room temperature water then slowly turn up the heat as you bring the water to a boil, it will become accustomed and familiar to the warmth. All the while, unbeknownst to the frog, its internal temperature is quickly reaching a lethal level. Within a few minutes, the warm water that once brought comfort becomes the frog's torture mechanism and cause of death.
Though this is a morbid illustration, I can’t help but to draw the parallel to how often we live like this to the pain of our hearts - the pain of our pasts. All too often our pain becomes numbing. We no longer feel it, but instead we live it, day in and day out, as it slowly becomes our new operating system out of which we act and justify our tics and tricks. We find comfort in our "old ways," as they begin to eat away at our relationships and pave all-too-comfortable pathways to destruction.
Though it may hurt now to bring things to the light, it will only be a matter of time before a new pathway is formed and a healthy operating system will become your new normal. Though the trenches are a scary place, you are safe. You are formulating your battle plan so that when the time comes that you are ready to jump over - you will overcome with Jesus by your side.
During the first 6 months of this journey, I had more “ah-ha” moments than I have in my entire adult life combined. Though overwhelming at first, it slowly became invigorating. It was as if every day I knew Jesus was going to show me something - something hard but good - about my heart.
With every "ah-ha" - came three gentle reminders:
1) He knew me profoundly - more than I thought I even knew myself.
2) He loved me enough to show these hard things to me.
3) I had the choice to obey or disobey, in doing something about the damn thing or not.
While it may be challenging to step out from the road you’re on and write a new path, and it may feel like you’re blindly running through a dark jungle with a machete trying to pave new pathways in your brain... You may feel lost, tired, or stuck at time. Please... just keep going.
Take comfort in that one can only find healing when a wound is fully exposed and fully cleansed. This is necessary should you desire a healthy heart. You have to tend to your wounds in the trenches before you can properly fight out on the battle grounds once again.
Do not be afraid to open yourself fully to the God that wants to bring healing to every microbe of your heart.
Do not be afraid to fall apart in front of Him.
Do not be afraid to make a new operating system.
Do not be afraid to be exposed and broken down, only to be made new again.
As Leonard Cohen’s song, “Anthem” says, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in...”
It is only when we face and tend to our deepest wounds that we begin to fully understand our sonship and daughtership to the Father. Our romance with the King. Our fullness in the Body. Though we will never reach a place of fullness of healing on this side of Heaven, I believe that spending intimate, intentional time with Jesus (at times I’ll admit, forcefully) to work through every inch of your heart just might pave a strong way toward getting as close as we can.
Our desire to turn to something or someone for our worthiness outside of Jesus is a symptom of a deeper rooted issue in our hearts. I could not implore you more to understand this one simple thing: there is a war over your heart. Find the source of distraction, infiltrate the supplier and make a new path: one that leads to Him rightfully on the throne. And let's try to laugh at ourselves a little bit along the way, shall we?
Explore with your community what is coming up this week in your heart. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
This is the time to DIG into your heart. DIG your trench. Make your safe place with Jesus.
Set aside the same time every day to approach and ask God, unhurriedly and not distracted: “What do you want to reveal about me now? Today, and only today, what do You got? I’m choosing to trust you with my broken heart. My convoluted mind, and my yearning soul today and today only.”
The next day, you can make the same proclamation.
"And this time will be made known to come to an end when you have peace in the deepest parts of your soul."
I highly encourage you to select a few people for your intimate tribe during this processing season… And to pick them well. This journey is not meant to be walked alone, nor is it meant to be shared with the world (I admit, a humorous comment I might add as I write an article series based on these experiences of mine through this journey of self discovery and healing. Regardless - the details of my experiences have remained confidential and that is purposeful).
Perhaps you have never been mentored before, or perhaps you have! Wherever you are, that’s okay and you’re right where you’re supposed to be: you are not "behind" nor any less worthy of being led if you don't currently have a mentor in your life.
Regardless of where you're at, I’m certain that one thing remains true among all of us: there is always roughly 2% of our story that we keep from telling our mentors or communities - sometimes even our therapists.
I once heard it said well that most of us in Christian circles are more than happy to admit our sin - so long as it’s only 98% of the whole story. There is always that extra “2%” we like to keep to ourselves - that little extra bit that the enemy tries to speak to us: “This is far too shameful. You cannot share this with them. They will not view you the same, and you better keep this quiet if you want to be liked or better yet - loved.”
Let me be clear: this is a lie. To say that you are "too dirty" because of any one aspect of your past would be to discredit all that Jesus did on the cross. He died for your 98%, and He rose again for your 2%.
Confess the 2%.
And share it wisely.
Pick the tribe who will see your 2% and love you deeper and better because of your honesty. To cut to the chase, during my exploration of this time, I found it incredibly life giving to pick 3-4 other women I invited into this space (and a Christian counselor). Those three women naturally fell into these categories:
A Spiritual Mama (noun): an older woman (recommended age: mid 50’s-60’s) who has been in your shoes in some way, shape or form that can speak into your life through the narrative of her personal experiences and healing process with Jesus throughout the years.
My Spiritual Mama during this time was/is a woman named Fuller Harvey. Fuller - much like her name - is full of life, joy, and wisdom. Our connection was immediate and divinely orchestrated. As a mentor of my mentor, Fuller lived in North Carolina and I in California and Texas during the time of the season I walked with her. To this day, we have never met in person. Even still, I would’ve thought there had been a mix up in Heaven as she soon became my second mother. During our first call (which never lasted more than 20 minutes or so), I felt so known and loved that I began confessing things I had forgotten even happened in my life. Details and portions of my daily struggles began to pour out as I brought her up to speed to the season into which I was stepping. When my heart was all sprawled out on the table to a stranger over the phone, her sweet voice pierced through as she calmly, yet powerfully spoke: “Oh sweet Jess, I feel as though I’ve known you forever. My soul sister… My soul daughter, you need to know that this has no power over you, but I completely understand your pain.” After this, Fuller shared her story - and I knew immediately that she truly did understand. That would be the first of many phone calls over my journey. A Spiritual Mama is unique in that she is able to speak from a place of extremely refined and powerful wisdom, namely - 30/40 years of walking with Jesus through wounds similar to your own. Though we only talked maybe once every 1-2 months, her impact was profound and I could not have imagined doing this season without her. Where to find one? Start asking your community to pray if they know of anyone who could step into this role for you. Jesus will provide her.
A Soul Sister (noun): someone in your tribe who has similar past experiences and is healthily seeking healing from the Lord to mend these wounds. Someone with whom you can be your full self and connect with seamlessly. Someone with whom you can laugh until you cry about the absurdity that is this healing process, and then cry until you laugh about how sweet Jesus is mending your hearts.
My Soul Sister during this season (and always) is a woman named Diana Singh. Though she began as an appointed ministry staff mentor during my senior year of college - come graduation - we both knew we needed to continue on in our friendship. Diana was the kind of woman you could literally tell anything and she wouldn’t bat an eye. She carried a grace like Jesus - any part of my story that I thought to myself: “Surely, this will make her think less of me” - only served for her to love me better and point me closer to Christ. Diana understood my pain in ways many of my other friends couldn’t, for she too shares a similar past and is passionate about finding healing from Jesus from the wounds it had caused. No struggle was too little or too big to share with Diana. She was, and always has been, an embodiment of the grace of Jesus. She was a true side-by-side partner in this journey. You will know when you find your Soul Sister.
The Challenger (noun): a friend who keeps you accountable - even when it sucks.
Ah, this one is fun. My Challengers were two women named Hailey Hite and Lillie Hale, also known as badass, truth seekers, question askers, and some of the most logical and nonreactive human beings I’ve ever met. Hailey sticks to her word in a way that makes you stop and ask: “How can I be more honoring to my decisions? How are my daily, little micro decisions adding up every day in a way that is bringing glory to Jesus? Or are they not? Alright - now how can I improve that?” THAT’S a Hailey Hite mentality, as we soon coined the phrase throughout college. Lillie is the kind of woman who sits you down, looks at you with her piercing blue eyes and says, “I love you, but you need to hear this…” And finds a way to sweetly say, “Yeah… What the heck are you doing, sis?’” and you know sure as hell well that you’re not doing what you set out to do. Her kind, yet stern voice directs you back to looking upwards. Find your Hailey Hite; find your Lillie Hale. Find your women who will hold you to your word of sticking out this season, even when you don’t want to and when it gets tough... Even when you think you’re good and you’re not. Even when you want to call it quits. Even when you’re being pursued by a man and your heart wants to go back to tangible and visible love, but you have been called to obedience in this season of a sweet romance Jesus. I promise, these things will happen. Make sure you’re setting yourself up with accountability from your tribe during these moments. Make sure you've got your Challengers.
Love y'all. Here to talk if you need, you know where to find me.