For the next six weeks, let’s pretend you and I have a weekly one-on-one coaching session. We’ll have rich, expansive conversations about what it means to become who you actually are, comfortable in your own skin, and owning your gifts in the world.
Each week, we’ll swim in the mystery of a unique question, designed to help you see your actual life with more clarity. Each of these questions are taken from Paula D’Arcy’s work, particularly Gift of the Red Bird: The Story of a Divine Encounter and Waking Up to This Day: Seeing the Beauty Right Before Us. Paula D’Arcy’s hard won wisdom has helped me immensely. The six questions are:
- Which lesson is life bringing me?
- Am I burying my pain?
- Am I overtaxing my body?
- What did I pay attention to today, and is that focus fruitful?
- Am I creating a life that is nourishing, or one that undermines me?
- Am I secretly clinging to something that distracts me or weighs me down?
Let’s dive in to this week’s question: Which lesson is life bringing me?
We have a tendency to believe that we will really start living once our expectations are met. Once we get married, once we have a baby, once we graduate, once we leave the dead end job. But when we do that, we are working against the life that is, the only one that has any power to help us grow. Your life, the one that you are living right now, with all of its radical incompleteness and longing, is the curriculum for becoming your true self, believe it or not. We need to learn to inhabit the life we have, because it will teach us how to become who we actually are, if we let it.
I am driven to create, to get things done, and to keep moving. I’m not altogether sure what’s behind that, but I’m pretty certain it’s a mixed bag of my gifting alongside a healthy dose of hustling for self worth. Over the past three months, beginning precisely when I published my first book, I have had some malady or another which has slowed me down. First it was a painful ingrown toenail that took weeks to heal. Then it was a twinge in my calf on a run, which turned into a painful injury to my achilles tendon which kept me sidelined from running for weeks. Then it was a nasty cold which has left me with little energy, hacking far into the night, and canceling plans for over two weeks now.
My tendency is to fight all of these things, and play through the pain. I ran on that ingrown toenail, probably favoring it so much that I caused the injury to my achilles tendon. On the very night I felt that nasty bug coming on, I went out with my brothers in law to a hockey game, staying out too late and getting too little sleep. I kept trying to run, only to have to stop and walk after only a mile or so.
What lesson is life bringing me?
You can see it, but it has taken me months to figure it out. It’s not just about slowing down, though it certainly is about that. When you launch a book into the world, it is a very vulnerable thing, and as my friend Erin (also an author) says, 99% of the time, it is a disappointment. You imagine awards and publicity and getting calls to appear on talk shows or to speak to large crowds. My book is doing pretty well in the world, but it has garnered me very little of what my rather large ego hoped it would.
What lesson is life bringing me?
To quote Paula D’Arcy,
I have to keep reminding myself that there is no set way. There is only mystery and change and what is. My life would be so different if I thought that all of it was an adventure to be carved out and created, with no set way to experience things. Immediately, I’d be so much freer.” (The Gift of the Red Bird, page 106).
I am learning to accept what is, whether it is an injury that needs care or a book that hasn’t quite done all that I hoped it would. I am learning to embrace different seasons. When I live through a season of tremendous energy and output (like publishing a book), it probably needs to be followed by some down time, and my body will force me to do it if I don’t choose it.
So, tell me about your life right now. What disappointments are you facing? What expectations are going unmet? Where are you being forced to slow down? Or, maybe you are in a season of abundance, and life is bursting at the seams with joy. What gifts are right in front of you that you can grab without guilt? How might you be able to enjoy it all without fearing that the other shoe is going to drop?
Take a few moments each night this week and either journal about this question (What lesson is life bringing me?), or talk about it with a friend, or with your spouse. Take the filters off and be honest. Your life is your curriculum. It will teach you all you need to know to become who you actually are.
Next Tuesday, we’ll ask: Am I burying my pain?
* * *
Thanks for reading my blog! My great passion is to use words to create environments where people can become who they actually are. Make sure to check out the following links to keep in touch with some of the other ways I’m using words to create space for people to grow and become. If you’d like to invite me to speak to your tribe, I’d love to talk to you about that. Just go here to get the conversation started.
This Good Word Podcast. I host a weekly podcast which comes out every Thursday. Every episode focuses on one ordinary word, as a way to reclaim what’s holy about our humanity. Sometimes I just riff, and sometimes I interview fascinating people. Take a listen here.
Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life. I published my first book in January 2016. It’s an imaginative look at the seven days of creation, as if they weren’t simply an event in time, but a process that describes God’s continual work of creating good in me, you, and the world. Order Now: Amazon | Books-A-Million | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble. It’s also available as an audiobook.
Genesis Covenant Church. I am the Senior Pastor at a beautiful, quirky little church called Genesis, where we rally around the idea that our job is to join God’s work of cultivating new beginnings in all of us, everywhere. Our sermons are interactive, done in the socratic style of questions which lead to more questions. You can check out our weekly sermons here. Enjoy! And if you’re anywhere near Minneapolis, we’d love to see you there.