It was 2016 and the end of the 2-day gathering was nearing. I was facilitating a local experience of an international women’s event and I was weary. The year prior, the first time I was leading, I was constantly distracted as my eldest daughter was in crisis and we were in the midst of hospitalizations. This year, the “trauma-versary” of that time of desperation and heartache was in full swing and I struggled to stay connected to the material and to meeting the needs of the attendees that had gathered from all over Los Angeles.
The theme of 2016 was the ministry of Jesus as he walked among humanity and during the times of teaching, prayer, and worship, I continued to come back to the power of PRESENCE in his ministry. Not that is was just “he was there” but that he was ACTIVELY there. He was attuned. He was connected. He wept. He empathized. He validated the experience of those around him and didn’t give a glib response to pain.
In my weariness, my guard started to come down, which is slightly terrifying for an 8 on the Enneagram, but the rawness the last year had beaten me down a little bit and eventually, I allowed myself to wrestle with what was being revealed to me in that space.
What had happened the year before was the most difficult thing that I have lived through to-date (although nothing has actually resolved – I’ve just adapted and learned to fully rest where I need to). I’m not going to go into details at this time, but the short version is that injuries hurt my daughter’s brain and it wasn’t allowing for her to function and participate in a safe and healthy manner, so we had to parent differently for a year while we pursued intensive treatment. By the time the annual conference rolled around in 2016, my daughter had returned home only a few months before and we were trying to re-establish connection, attunement, and felt safety. We were trying to ensure safety for all in the home as we had moved to a new location and had to figure out this new dynamic and paradigm as we continually sought effective and appropriate in-home treatment plans. It wasn’t going so well, but we were constantly researching, advocating, and learning in an effort to help her stay with us. Everything in me was pointed to trying to create a place where my daughter (who had only been with us for less than 5 years at that time) could not only heal from these new injuries but make sense of the traumatic past that had brought her to us in the first place.
I’m a pretty stubborn person. If I look back over my life, I have a fairly good record of “putting metal on target” when I decide to do something. That stubbornness, or persistence and passion, as I like to think of it, serves me well and serves our family well, because WE DO HARD THINGS. It’s a motto. So when we tell our daughter that we are never going to give up on her, that we will love her no matter what, that no matter where she sleeps she is still our daughter, it is said with absolute conviction that I feel from the tip of my toes to the top of my head.
I will not be moved.
Did you know that to be in warrior mode like that may also lead to armoring up, pulling up the drawbridge, and becoming hypervigilant? Do you know what might be hard for someone to do when they are in that state?
Be like Jesus – present, attuned, loving, serving, open, empathetic.
So as I sat at the event, the dissonance between my stance of how I was going to stay present with my daughter and the stance of Jesus as he loved with everything that he had, well, it was stark and a little devastating. It’s not like I loved my daughter any more than Jesus loved humanity. We were both invested in loving relationship. We were both passionate to the core about meeting needs. We were both willing to die for those that we love.
The difference? While my stance may look powerful from the outside, all hardness and strength and will, the truth is, that armor was there because of FEAR.
I was terrified of being in the state of love. I knew that I loved my husband and children fiercely, but life had taught me, over and over, that it was not safe to function IN LOVE. From childhood hurts to church hurts, to best friend betrayals, I had been conditioned to accept that it was not safe to love too much. That I had to hold back and stay safe.
But then we had just spent a weekend looking at this Jesus person, who knew the pain that was coming, who knew betrayal and being forsaken was just around the corner, but who still lived with an open and connected heart. And I realized that I couldn’t sustain in the armor. That it might make me feel strong and able to dig into the healing work that I was doing with my family, but it was also keeping the best parts of me away from the people who needed it the most.
At the end of these gatherings, there is always a tangible takeaway moment; a marker that something has happened in this time and space that needs to be remembered. That year, we wrote what we were hearing was our next step in living like Jesus.
And what I wrote on my little domino was what you saw in the picture above.
Be IN Love.
I wanted to move into whole-hearted, fearless love with my family. Knowing that it meant more hurts, more betrayals, more pain, but also knowing that I couldn’t sustain in my fortress, constantly watching the horizon for danger or threats.
It hasn’t been easy. It has been painful. I have grieved so much over the last two years. I have had to fight to keep myself out of my fortress. I have recognized some relationships in my life that continually re-wound me because they were based in fear and not love, and have had to make some hard decisions about engaging. But I have also found tremendous freedom in living without the fear. I have been able to grow deeper in relationships than ever before. I have been able to step forward with the same surety and strength to accomplish THE HARD THINGS, but without the cumbersome armor. I have been able to attune more, empathize more, connect more, and most importantly, be in a state of love.
This has been my journey and I want to be clear that there is no comparison or value judgment on where you are in your journey. I am just sharing how I arrived at the point that I have and why I make the choices that I do.
I would love to hear your story and where you are in your process of bringing and keeping your heart engaged. Please connect with me below or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org