Tag Archives: strength

God-vulnerability-faith

God is in charge

Surrender to God and he will do everything for you. Antiphon in the Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings for Tuesday of Holy Week.

I can easily forget that God is in charge. In my relationships, my work, my volunteer activities and life in general, I can think that I am running the show and that everything depends on me. And then I can feel burdened, pressured to perform and sometimes overwhelmed.

Breathe, Madeline, I tell myself when I am feeling overwhelmed. You are not God. Everything does not depend on you. Surrender. Let God be God. Trust God.God-vulnerability-faithGod reminds me all that I do really belongs to God. I have a part, but it is just a part. My job is to add my piece to bringing about the Kingdom—in some small way. I need to remember that God holds the whole picture.

Letting go and believing that God really is in charge challenges my trust and control issues.

I am a doer by nature, someone who jumps in and gets things done. I like accomplishing things, and I like challenges. The bigger the challenge, the more I enjoy it.

There is a line, though, between using my gifts and talents to further a mission and believing that my gifts and talents are the only thing that can accomplish the mission.

My personality type on the Enneagram is the Eight, also known as The Challenger. The Eight is said to be “powerful, dominating, self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational.”  Oh yeah, that’s me for sure.

God seems to play off my Eightness, my innate love of a challenge. My work life has been a succession of small nonprofits that were facing uphill battles. It is as if God hears me repeatedly saying, “Put me in, Coach,” even though I don’t remember ever saying it. But, once I am in, I am all in, taking responsibility and getting things done.

When I start to feel overwhelmed, though, I know that I have moved from being a doer to being a controller. It is then that I need to surrender to God and trust that he will do everything for me. It is then that I need to remember that God is really in charge.God-vulnerability-faithMy goal is to keep balance—to acknowledge my gifts and skills while remembering that the work is ultimately God’s. When I can let go and trust that God is in charge, my work and my life run smoother. Obstacles diminish; perspective is restored.

A Biblical image that helps me regain balance and trust is of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were put into a fiery furnace because they would not turn from God and bow to the King. But rather than being burned God sends an angel to deliver them because they trusted God (Daniel 3:95)

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him. God, send your angel to me.God-vulnerability-faith

Advertisements
weakness-strength-vulnerability

Through weakness to strength

“… sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.” ~Jean Vanier

Safe spaces can be our comfort zones, those places that can give us a sense of control and security. Safe spaces can also describe the people we can trust with our deepest selves.

I recently read a book written by a friend about her volunteer work at a hospice. She wrote about some of the other people involved in the program—the Catholic sisters who ran the hospice, other volunteers and those who were dying. She wrote of the poverty of those dying, and she shared that this volunteer work had touched her and changed her.

What she did not describe, though, was what specifically had been touched in her by those who were dying—what inner poverty or brokenness connected with the poverty and brokenness of those who were dying.

Putting words to our wounds can be difficult, and it can make us feel vulnerable. We get plenty of practice saying, “I’m fine,” and much less practice admitting when we are not. Finding safe spaces where we can share openly and honestly can be a challenge.

As a young adult, I mistakenly shared my story with people who were not trustworthy and who used it against me. Then I retreated into my safe space where I shared with no one.

But at some point I realized that what I was calling a safe space was really just a place of fear, and staying there kept me from facing my wounds and allowing God’s love to heal me.

I was fortunate to find a therapist who helped me see that by staying locked in on myself I was neither safe nor free. I needed to step out of that space and start finding true safe spaces where I could name my weaknesses and difficulties.

Attending Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings helped a great deal. Sitting among others who had similar backgrounds created a foundation of trust. Once the foundation was established, trusting and sharing became easier.

weakness-strength-vulnerability

Living in l’Arche helped, too. I had gone there thinking I was going to help others, but God showed me that I was called me there to receive help more than to give it. The invitation of the Beatitudes and of l’Arche was to reveal my poverty—to myself as much as to others—and be blessed by it. By acknowledging my weakness, I came to understand that I was totally dependent on God.

God continues to invite me into deeper relationship so I can know my broken places, hidden crevices that are awaiting God’s healing touch. That touch releases me from my fear of being judged and allows me to speak of my vulnerability.

Like my friend who wrote the book, I went to l’Arche to help others but realized I was the one who was to be helped. My brokenness is my blessing and allowing others to see it is my healing.

weakness-strength-vulnerability

Lamenting the end of Downton Abbey

A friend recently told me she and some friends had gone to tea at a local pastry shop to mark the end of Downton Abbey. They enjoyed tea and scones while sharing their favorite episodes and characters from the show. Among the items discussed was which character each of them would want to be.

I have watched all six seasons of the show, and I loved getting to know the characters and their relationships, but I never thought about which character I would want to be.

I asked which character she would want to be.

“Lady Mary,” she said without hesitation.

Lady Mary

“Why?” I asked incredulously. “She is such a b–ch,” I added.

My friend explained that she wished she could be as­­ direct as Lady Mary and as determined to get what she wants. She liked how Lady Mary was unapologetic in her quests and conquests.

She concluded with, “Everyone wants to be Lady Mary.”

“Not me!” I declared.

I then listed Lady Mary’s negative character traits—she is bossy and demanding and cold to her sister.

My friend saw Mary as indomitable and sure of herself. She saw Mary’s reconciliation with Edith at the end of the series a sign of Mary’s ability to be compassionate. I conceded that their reconciliation was a good sign, but Lady Mary still had a long way to go in my opinion.

We seemed to be looking at the same person through a different lens. What I saw as character flaws, my friend saw as admirable traits. What I saw as things that needed to be worked on and changed, my friend saw as attributes.

And then it occurred to me—as I was enumerating what I saw as Lady Mary’s negative traits, I was also listing my own. I can be bossy and demanding and I have been called some version of one tough broad more than once. I am not comfortable feeling vulnerable and I hate being blindsided and looking stupid.

“Maybe I already am Lady Mary,” I blurted out. My friend did not disagree.

I could see it. The tough exterior, suppressed emotions, keeping everything under control, her loyalty, and the way Lady Mary protected those she cared about. Yes, I could see why my friend did not contradict my declaration. I really am quite like Lady Mary.

In the final episodes of the show, Lady Mary does soften somewhat. She and her sister reconcile and she listens to Tom’s wisdom and advice about love. She allows herself to be vulnerable and risk love again.

Maybe there is hope for me yet.

But, upon reflection, the character I would want to be is Mrs. Crawley. She is so wise, sensitive, understanding and insightful. She is accepting of most everyone (except Lord Merton’s wicked sons) and loves her cousin Violet despite the Dowager’s sometimes acerbic tongue.

Maybe I will watch the series again—through a different lens.