This world is our home. Whether we like what’s happening in it or are grieved by it, it is ours. It is the place where God set up camp for the created. And here we are—camping with some good days and some really rough ones too. But where do we find courage to connect when what we see and hear causes fear or pain?
How did we respond to fear and pain as children? Thinking about the answer to this question is usually our first clue to understanding how we have learned to cope as adults. Think back to a time in your childhood when you felt afraid or fearful. What did the circumstance tell you about yourself, and how did you respond to it?
The environment that I grew up in was often chaotic and unpredictable. To cope, I formed negative beliefs about stable things, like families who stayed in one house, one school, or one community over a long period of time. For example, I might say something like this: “It would be boring to grow up in one place.” But I know now that my opinion was sometimes generated as a way of coping with my very real need for stability and community.
The way we interact with and respond to the world is largely an extension of some pain or fear we have experienced as children. We benefit to pause and consider how seeking to grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally could help us make sense of our place and react more generously in this now-but-not-yet kingdom of God—even when this now but not yet is wildly complex and diverse and challenging.
Even when everything changes around us, we have a chance to stay at home in our hearts, with what is true in the Spirit.
We can’t undo what’s been done. But we can learn what’s true about ourselves. Responding to a world in need and not being afraid to sit in the middle of our own needs often begins with a conscious effort to re-establish safety and security. Long-term has never been a phrase I would use to describe myself in a given job or geographic location. However, God has been able to help me revisit who I am through many different types of relationships, conversations, and sessions in his Word. And now I am looking back over decades of stability that I never dreamed would be possible. I may have been nomadic from birth, but my heart doesn’t have to be nomadic in God’s world. Even when everything changes around us, we have a chance to stay at home in our hearts, with what is true in the Spirit.
Maybe you’ve listened to the feedback of your pain or your fear for a while. You’ve walked wounded with a story that isn’t the story you want to live, but it’s the story you’re stuck with because it’s hard to imagine anything else.
Why not press pause? Slow down the conversation and discover who you are, with Jesus—because hurriedness is the enemy of connection. Taking time to slow down, ask questions, listen for guidance, rest in grace, and reconnect with truth will give you a new ability to see how what happens around you affects you and how you might be able to change some habits because of the truth you now know.
Pain will always teach us to protect. Fear will never lead us to give someone or something another chance. Our inner critic will relentlessly give us reason to give up.
Love gives us courage to connect.
But the good news is this: Love gives us courage to connect. Even when we don’t understand what’s happening to us or around us. Even when we’re not sure what’s next in the story or if we can endure what’s happening in the present moment. Love gives us courage to stay in relationship and in truth—in the things God is teaching us about who we are and what we’re able to do. Our pain and fear should be gently cared for and cultivated. There’s great strength and energy that can come from learning about them. At the same time, neither should get to be allowed in the driver’s seat of our lives. Keep them in the car, but let who you know you are and the person Jesus has created you to be sit in the front of the vehicle with the steering wheel.
God weeps—as Jesus showed us so compassionately at the tomb of Lazarus—when people and things are broken. God sees where each person is in the story. And God is there to give us a new script, or a new way of unfolding together.
God loves you and always will, and there’s a world out there waiting for you to connect. Keep the truth that God gives you at the center and get to know your pain and fear while embracing the grace and courage to try something new.