Day 18 Found Wisdom: In Your Own Responses

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. -Pro 20:5 NIV

Yesterday this acronym appeared in this blog series:

Its progression toward clarity and healing may seem simple, but it’s so complex it could form the basis of a long book!

So I can’t do it justice in one or two blogs. But I’d like to consider its second phase, because one thing we need to understand is ourselves, and our responses (or non-responses) can reveal lots about our individual inner workings.

In most basic form, we could approach the T-R-U-T-H progession in terms of biblical verity and faith: A trial (“spiritual test”) confronts us; we react somehow emotionally, intellectually, maybe even physically; we stop and ponder our response and whether it indicates faith in Bible truth or misleading lies of the “world the flesh and the devil,” and make any corrections accordingly.

Easy-peasy, right? Wrong. It’s just not that simple.

First, it’s not always easy to figure out why we reacted as we did, especially if our reaction surprised us. We need to dig deep to determine what prompted our reaction: Deep-seated fear? Long-standing resentment? Elation at an unspoken and barely recognized dream or longstanding desire appearing to get fulfilled—or despair at its getting shattered.

And second, our first response may not indicate our hearts at all. I use myself as a case in point. Because my initial response to any event might seem very calm, unruffled and unaffected. But later… whoo! That’s when the surprise, even shock, comes for me!

I think I first became profoundly aware of this information about myself over 40 years ago, at, and some time after, a car race. Paying attention to my later reactions to other events affirmed the reality of my own “response quirk.”

I had long balked at attending car races. Not only was I un-fond of dirt, loud noise, and gasoline fumes, I had no desire to see anyone get mashed up in an accident, and I was filled with trepidation that this is exactly what I’d see. But finally talked into giving the experience a try, I found myself sitting on a hard bleachers seat, smelling fumes, bombarded by the roaring of engines, and watching the dust clouds rise from behind the tires spinning round and round, round and round the track—a repeated cycle that began soon to look ridiculous to me as I began to observe from an almost out-of-body viewpoint. The minor crashes of autos into each other upset me, and I think I withdrew in this way to shield my sensibilities.

Then it happened: Careening around the bend, totally out of control, one of the cars ran smack up against the guard fence on our side of the track, and before my eyes the vehicle rose in slow motion high into the air, floated into a flip, and descended, upside down on our side of the fence. Crash!!

The reaction of all the crowd around me made an interesting study: some people jumped to their feet and lunged forward toward the upside-down auto, a second bunch rose trembling, turned and fled up the bleachers, away from the wreck (presumably to escape, although they were really trapping themselves high above the exit). And then there were the few like me, who sat unmoving, slowly thinking, “That car could explode. We should stand up. We should get away from here…” But action in my body didn’t happen. I just thought about what I ought to do.

Clearly, in retrospect, in light of later learning, I realize I reacted possum-like in freeze mode, while some others did the “fight” and still others the “flight” alternatives. None of the above were brilliant. But they were typical human responses.

At that point, the loud speaker and the waving arms of some officials in front of us instructed all us to clear that section of the stadium, and the group I was part of decided just to pile in our own car and go home.

As I sat in the back seat, with excited babble going on around me, I silently congratulated myself on my serenity in the midst of such chaos. (Smug little me.)

But the next morning brought new revelations. Sitting at the breakfast table, I sipped my hot coffee and hardly paid much attention to my husband, talking across the table. Till he brought up the calamity of the night before. No, not even the calamity. He simply mentioned the car race.

With a shocking abruptness and sharpness of voice, I rose, scraping my chair loudly in the process, and burst out angrily, “I don‘t want to talk about it!”

Hm.

Yup.

That’s how I “don’t react” react. To many things. I’ve come to see myself wryly (but no longer proudly) as a “master of the delayed response.”

So my initial response to anything carries no credibility. I often have to wait a few days—or even longer—to find out what I think!

Anybody else out there like me? Even if not, what erupts, early or late, in some future crisis you find yourself in, might totally flabbergast you.

However, sooner or later, all this helps reveal what’s going on inside, and eventually, what you really feel, think, and believe.

As for believing lies, and identifying what particular lies we are believing, and how we came to believe them… that’s somewhat a work of art, too. (Next time.)

*****

Day 17 Found Wisdom: How to Awake to TRUTH and Healing

Now would be a good time to insert some wisdom that came to me several years ago while at a (non-silent) “Ladies’ Retreat,” when I heard the late Joy Jacobs present a very useful acronym for gaining healing via truth-finding. Since that day I’ve reworked some of the words and collaged the message, but otherwise the whole process comes from her.:

I thought I might already have published this on the blog some time ago, but I can’t find any evidence of it. If it looks familiar to you, just consider this a repost, published because it fits right into where we’ve progressed with our “found wisdom.”

Where does the above process begin? Well, with a trial, or test, of course. However, we might not see the trial or test as such till we (perhaps suddenly and surprisingly) find ourselves reacting to something, and we may not immediately even know why, or what specifically is leading us to, say, feel suddenly depressed, or angry, or fearful, or discouraged. For this reason I added the word “Trigger” to the first “step.”

The first thing we might need to consider is “What triggered this reaction in me? And why did it elicit such a response?” 

Next, we need to consider what lie might be involved. The lie could be an actual untruth that someone is trying to get us to believe, for whatever nefarious purposes, or it might be a false belief within ourselves. 

So it’s important to move on from there to determine what is really the truth in the matter. This truth might be a spiritual/biblical truth that we need to affirm or it may be scientific findings that make what is going on clearer or more understandable.

The final step is the healing that can result from this process.

Do you get the idea that this process is not necessarily simple or quick?

I think it would be good to spend a bit more time exploring this process. So tomorrow let’s take a closer look at just the first two steps through an example or two in my own life.

In the meantime, you might consider your last emotional upset and what event or situation evidently set off a negative reaction in you.

More tomorrow. 

 

 

 

Day 16 Found Wisdom: The Next Step–Awakening

It’s 11:30 PM as I sit at the kitchen table, typing this, wondering if I can maneuver my thoughts into a blog post and publish it before Day 16 has crossed the line into “tomorrow,” and still make sense, let alone convey the wisdom I’ve been gaining. The clock ticking behind me on the wall echoes in the country dark and stillness, sharpening my awareness of swiftly passing time.

I have been hopping between “worlds” lately, packing, unpacking, and repacking suitcases, spending hours of time on the highway, and today even a couple hours in the (still mushy) garden on the homestead, and sleep deprivation and a clumsy bandaged finger have been making this present task a little like trying to type in boxing gloves.

But I have, in all this seeming confusion, nonetheless connected with new wisdom. And so, if nothing else, I want to give you a review now of where we’ve been and a preview of where we’re going next.

After considering where we might find wisdom (of various kinds, on different levels), we began with the unlikely initial topic of “Despair.” Though we saw despair first labeled as “a crime,” in the next post we saw it as the potential beginning of a whole new, and more beautiful phase of life. This view of it came from Shannon Thomas in her book about overcoming emotional abuse.

From there we moved to hope that can be born out of despair as we look to God for what we can’t summon out of our limited, fallible selves and cluttered interiors.

We then moved on into Thomas’s second phase of growth/recovery/healing which she labels “Education,” as we also considered helpful auxillary topics of clearing clutter, getting needed exercise and sleep, and stilling the mouth, mind, and soul.

Now I find us returning to her steps/stages, because the next one is “Awakening,” and this is exactly what I just realized I wrote about for yesterday, relating Ruth Barton’s experience of awakening that came in her own time of silent retreat and stilling of inner noise and clutter.

So let me quote here from Shannon Thomas, explaining where we are and where we appear to be going in this unplanned blog series, and we’ll pick up more on personal awakening in the next post or two (or three?)…

“When [people] have identified their despair…(Stage One), and then Educated themselves on the specific[s] [related to their area of despair], an Awakening happens… (Stage Three). This is the point in recovery when the aha moments happen. Survivors can describe what they experienced [perhaps clearly for the first time], have learned new terminology, and in doing so, no longer feel isolated in their [difficut situation]. [They] may start to feel empowered… However, there are good days and bad days. It is common… to swing back to Despair and then forward to Awakening again. This is normal…

“This is also the stage where anger may really arrive onto the scene… a level of feistiness survivors have not previously experienced.. They say things like,

‘I can believe evil is real in the world. I have seen it.’

‘What I have lived through actually has a name, and other people know what I have experienced.’

‘Turns out, I am not bat-crazy after all.’…

“See the theme? It’s all good… At times, it’s an angry awakening… definitely bittersweet… 

She is dealing specifically with healing from psychological abuse–with, by the way, very insightful understanding, and helpful information. But these stages can apply to many other areas of life and trial and growth.  

Bottom line in any case: the whole point of this education isn’t to pass an exam or make a speech or sound brilliant, but to come to an understanding, of truth and self and what specifics are going on in one’s own life and soul. From there real progress can begin to happen. 

*****

Day 15 Found Wisdom: One More on Stilling, and a Jar Full of Mud

One more piece of found wisdom on the value of getting still and solitary: This, from Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence. (If you’re new to this practice, this book would be a helpful guide to help you get started.)

A friend , who was also a psychologist and a person who could give good spiritual help and guidance said to her,

“Ruth, you are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” 

Her response was resistance, a sense of that being impossible. 

“But even though my mind had a hard time grasping what this settling would actually be like, the image of the jar of river water captured what I knew to be true about myself. I could not avoid the realization that I was the jar of river water all shaken up and the sediment that swirled inside the jar was the busyness, the emotions, the thoughts, the inner wrestlings I had not been able to control. It was a moment of self-discovery–which is where all good spiritiual journeying begins.

“The jar of river water… also captured my longing to… be still long enough so,,, the waters of my soul could become clear, and I could see whatever it was that needed to be seen… I recognized an invitation to be still and know  beyond my addiction to noise, words, people and performance-oriented activity… It captured my desire for something… beyond the head knowledge that no longer [alone] sustained my soul.”

Then she says an interesting thing, especially in light of what we saw in this past post about the necessary importance of “despair” (because despair and desperation are of the same word family, are they not?): She testifies that she’d reached a point of desperation, and

“what I learned is that you stay with the feelings of desperation and let desperation do its good work. 

“As strange as it might sound, desperation is a really good thing in spiritual life. Desperation causes us to be open to radical solutions, willing to take all manner of risk in order to find what we are looking for. Desperate ones seek with an all-consuming intensity…”

“Perhaps you sense the same thing in yourself–something like desperation or desire that is creating a willingness to move beyond the familiar into uncharted territory. Pay attention to these stirrings of the soul. Rather than running from them, distracting yourself from them, or suppressing them, let the dynamics of desperation and desire do the good work of inviting you deeper into solitude and silence where the presence of God makes itself known beyond words.”

Be still and know…”

 

Day 14 Found Wisdom: “Coincidental” Words

How often have you had the same scripture  or scriptural sentiment pop up in front of you from various sources within a short frame of time, and totally unexpected? And even the first time it appeared, did it resonate? Did you recognize even then that it was something you needed to hear?

At almost every women’s retreat I’ve attended in the last decade, it seems at least one woman has reported that happening to her during her away time. This happened during the past weekend, after “silence” was “broken” when we came together and shared as a group. One woman shared a verse that showed up four times for her during the few short days, and it addressed something important personally for her.

We (the group) had the same sort of thing happen with the daily flip calendar that the director likes to set out on the snack table, propped open to the day’s date, so that anyone looking over the table will notice and hopefully read the day’s message on it. 

Yesterday as I passed by, I stopped to read… and saw this:

At first I suspected the director had purposely bought a calendar with a stillness theme throughout. But no, I flipped the cover shut and saw… this:

And I did page through the little volume, and didn’t happen on any other thoughts about silence or stillness. Only for Saturday, October 13th, the day that we had set aside totally for silence.

After that I noticed, in the small retreat center where we’d gathered, these, as well:

and

That really isn’t so surprising at a Christian retreat center, but they did stand out for me after I’d read the calendar’s devotion for the day–and considered that this was our first time to use this venue, and as far as I know there are no other silent retreats held there.

So I share the devotion with you, above, because it certainly is appropriate “found wisdom. And it seems like it wants especially to be read.

Peace!

*****