In 2004 I was unexpectedly dragged, kicking and screaming, into a land of loss. Into a diminished and restricted place of chronic pain and isolation. For months on end I wept as I pleaded with God to give me my life back. “I don’t want to live here” was my constant cry.
During these years, God spoke to me out of Jeremiah 29. Not from the well-known “I have good plans for you” verse (which at the time I had a visceral reaction to), but rather the 10 verses that precede it. The verses containing a letter from God to the exiles. A letter which, to me, read an awful lot like: “Dear people: I know you don’t want to live here. I know it’s hard. I know you want out. But precious, beloved people, this is where you live now. Therefore, I want you to build your houses, plant your gardens, have your babies — make this place prosper.”
Goodness gracious, God! Really?
I took this as an invitation not only to continue to live but to learn to live well in the very place of my resistance. To open and not close. To fully be where I actually was.
And now, some 18 years later, I suspect God is issuing a similar invitation. A variation on the theme.
Last month I asked God, as I do every December, to kindly give me a word for the coming year. A word to become curious about and live into. A word that would guide me for 2023. I had asked, but I hadn’t yet received one. I still haven’t, to be quite honest. What I received instead was the aforementioned invitation. An invitation to be with what is.
Has anyone ever (possibly an overly helpful spouse?) chosen a New Year’s resolution for you? They might have strongly suggested this to be the year you should go to the gym, read more books, give up chocolate.
That’s the way God’s latest invitation felt to me. Like God choosing a New Year’s resolution for me, but an upside down one (which is pretty much God’s way 100% of the time). Instead of trying to change something, God’s strong suggestion for me was simply to be with it. To accept it.
I immediately wanted a new resolution. I told God I’d gladly go to the gym. I’d read the books. I’d even give up chocolate.
This God-invitation is not my natural way of being in the world. My perfectionistic parts were loud in protest. My skills and comfort level lay more in the areas of fixing, fleeing, fashioning or forcing.
Simply being with a thing is not me. Surely God knew this.
And yet the invitation remained. An invitation to my life as it is. Not to escape what is. Not deny what is. Not run from, hide from or numb what is. But to be with it.
Resistance is the refusal to accept something. It is standing in opposition, putting up a fight, closing the door, speaking the no. It’s a protective stance at which I’m rather practiced.
Its opposite is to allow and accept. To step into and inhabit the truth of our lives and all they hold. To live in what I’m now calling the Land of Is. Even, and maybe especially, if it’s not a picture-perfect place.
This is a way of saying yes to whatever and whoever is there. Yes to the truth of it without the need to fight, flee, fashion or fix. It is an act of hospitality. A gift of presence to that which has walked through our door, bidden or not. A stance of welcome to the actual (and only) life we have.
I believe it is Jesus’ favorite place to meet us, here at the intersection of grace and truth.
But, sadly, we are escape artists, too often absent from our very lives.
Acceptance is the fifth and final stage in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. The road that leads there takes us on a long and arduous journey through denial, anger, bargaining and depression. The ability to be with what is is not necessarily an easy place to reach.
Amen, Elisabeth! Eighteen years later, I can attest to this.
Acceptance also is frequently named as the first step to healing. It is the end of grief and the beginning of grace. And, possibly, everything in between. It’s no wonder God keeps calling me here. Home, to the Land of Is.