God talks to me. Very Joan of Arc, I know. But I’m not special in this. He speaks to you and to all of us if we’re paying attention. As parents, we communicate with our children in unique ways, according to who they are and individualized by our relationship with them. God speaks to each of us in ways that are specific to us and to his unique friendship with us. The more we listen for him and learn how he speaks to us, the easier it is to recognize his voice. When my mom or my husband call me on the phone, they don’t have to say “Hi Ellen, it’s Mom!” or “Hey babe, it’s Marc!” I talk with them all the time, so I know their voices. It’s the same with God.
I am a words person. I require a lot of words to explain my thoughts and feelings and when others share their words with me, it helps me to feel loved. I might know in my heart that you love me and appreciate me, but when you tell me with your words, spoken or written, I really get it. Interestingly, I rarely hear words from God. Epiphany often occurs for me in the form of an image or picture in my mind; something visual that unfolds into analogy or allegory. Occasionally, there are accompanying words. In His kindness, and in knowing how wordy he made me, I’m convinced this is how he keeps me from mixing up all of my thoughts and words with his.
An image that he showed me many years ago now, was of a large, older house; an expansive and stately home with high ceilings and spacious, well-appointed rooms. It was so beautiful, and I was eager to explore. As I wandered through, it seemed that many of the rooms had been closed up, like a summer home prepared for a vacant winter season. Room after room, shutters were closed on windows and dark drapes were drawn. Furniture was hidden under dust clothes. Discarded, broken items cluttered surfaces. Lights were extinguished and there was an absence of heat. Cold and dark. Uninhabited. Eventually, I found one room which was lived in. In the whole of this glorious house, one small space had light and heat and life. The house, as it turns out, was me. And the accompanying words said “Live in all the rooms of your house.”
Many times, though God’s intention is for us to live in a spacious house with many rooms, we end up shutting things behind closed doors. Perhaps we want to escape painful experiences or memories. Shut the door. Maybe we feel ashamed when we remember something we’ve done or that was done to us. Shut the door. Thinking we know better than God and choosing to ignore His voice. Shut the door. A relational breakdown that is never resolved. Shut the door. Refusal to forgive and bid bitterness good-bye. Shut the door. Hopes deferred and dreams in decay. Shut the door. Before we know it, we find ourselves in a small space; existing in one meagre room, though the whole house is ours to inhabit.
It can require massive amounts of courage, but we need to open the doors. We need to walk into the rooms we’ve closed up and turn on the lights. Throw open the heavy drapes to illuminate what we’ve tried to hide or forget or ignore. We cannot live whole-heartedly when we’re afraid of being found out, when we’re hiding things or when we’re unwilling to deal with the hard stuff. Full freedom comes when we turn on the lights and see the monsters for what they are: not real, not powerful. To paraphrase the brilliant thoughts of Brené Brown, if you numb the hard stuff, you numb the good stuff. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could carefully select the feelings we will feel? Throw open certain doors and windows, but keep others locked up tight? But we can’t have it both ways. When we attempt to limit pain, fear and embarrassment, we unwittingly shut down joy, peace and gratitude.
But, hang on! Before you go applying the Jaws of Life to all of the chained and dead-bolted doors on the rooms in your house, remember that God is kind and compassionate. When you ask him, he’ll guide your process. Sometimes he will gently call memories to resurface. He’ll draw our attention to something specific and we can simply respond with: yes. Sometimes, we might need to be more intentional and go after things…especially the things we KNOW still have a hold on us. We can ask him to walk us through it and invite his Holy Spirit to heal us. NOBODY loves dealing with their pain, but there is no way through it but through it. And it’s so worth it. As you’ve no doubt heard, courage isn’t an absence of fear; it is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
At the risk of sounding prescriptive, there are many things we can do when God directs us to open a door. I actually ‘schedule’ time. We HAVE to have time for process. We’re often so busy and preoccupied with life that we rarely have quiet. Spend time with God. Write in your journal. Ask him to talk to you. It’s when we’re quiet that he will put a finger on something and draw it to our awareness.
Feel your feelings. If you have discomfort or pain about something, listen to it. Feel it. We need to get comfortable sitting with our pain. Open one of your closed doors and walk into the room. Sit there for a while. Cry. Groan. Be ANGRY. Stay, even when you want to run out screaming. God’s Spirit will meet you there and he is the only one who can bring true healing. Vulnerable admission: Sometimes I get really loud when I’m in my car by myself. I yell, I pray out loud, and sometimes I even groan…because, friends, though I love words, sometimes words cannot express what needs to be said.
Ask someone to pray with you or for you. Prayer is miraculous. That thing that is SO hard or loud in your head can be rendered mute when we pray. Whether it’s from trusted friends or family, or at church, ask for help. Take advantage of invitations for prayer. If you feel God nudging you, acknowledge and respond. If you and I actually live in the same part of this world, I’ll pray with you! Anytime. Come and find me.
Forgive. You HAVE to forgive – forgive others, forgive yourself. Forgiving somebody is NOT a way of saying “what you did is okay.” It’s saying, “I’m unhooking myself from this heavy thing; it will no longer weigh me down or have a hold on me.” And it’s not a friendly suggestion; if we want to live fully, it’s imperative.
Another thing that I find helpful is to talk to someone, whether a trusted friend or a professional. Counselling is my favourite! Honestly, what could be better than someone who is being paid to listen to you? And they can’t tell anyone else anything you say! And they ask you really good questions! There are no inane reasons for counselling. We all know that there are worse things in the world than what we are experiencing, but your experience is your experience. You’re allowed to wrestle with it. This spring, I spent time talking with my counsellor about many things, but one of which was that my excessively urinating dog was bringing out a rage in me, the likes of which I have never experienced! True story. See, no dumb reasons.
As daunting as it may seem to open long-closed doors, the beauty is, when it’s done, it’s done. You don’t have to be afraid that if you go into the room, you’ll never come out. Sure, God may take us through a deeper level of healing on a same or similar issue at another time, but the more we face our hard stuff and experience the mental, spiritual and emotional relief that comes, the more we understand it’s worth it.
YOU are a hugely gorgeous house. You have many rooms. You were made this way. No more living like a hoarder in one small space because your whole house is filled with garbage. Fling wide the doors. Clean it out. Let in the light. Live in your whole house.