Abiding in Discomfort

It was the first yoga pose of the class and I wanted to get out of it already. There was no comfort here, we were going in deep, and my body and heart wanted to run away before we had even begun.

“You might already be hitting a wall. You might already be coming up against triggers in your body and in your heart,” she said. “Breath.”

I tried. But, my breath felt shallow and I just wanted to wiggle and squirm and get away from the tight places. “Hold,” my heart said, “Hold. Stay. Remain. Abide.” Wiggle. Squirm. Deep exhale. I tried to pray, “Lord, meet me in my discomfort, show me my triggers, my stuck places.” The words flowed through my mind to the background noise of internal screaming and protest. Protest. I don’t want this stuck place.

“Root both hips evenly into the mat and then slowly hinge forward, from the hips. Just until you meet your edge.” She instructed.

Oh, my edge came quickly. But, I could breath here. There was new space, just a little, but it was there. I reached my hands out on the mat in front of me. Everything in my heart and mind began to call out the same truth, “Listen. Right here, this is the heart of it. This is what you need to hear. Pay attention. Don’t miss it.”

I listened as Stephanie began to read words of Truth.

I opened my palms up towards the sky. And the protesting stopped. In that moment my heart bowed with my body. I was still uncomfortable. I still wanted out of the pose. I still didn’t want to face the triggers that I knew the Spirit was stirring up. Yet the fighting stopped. Ok, here I am. Bring it, Lord.

And He did.

My legs shook, and my heart shook more. As we came into the second, deep and low, wide legged chair pose tears flew more quickly then I could wipe them away. I covered my face with my arms and tried to hold the pose. I sunk down onto my heels, resting for a moment as my weary legs shook, then rose back into the pose, stretching my arms out straight in front of me as instructed, not caring anymore about the tears that fell or the loose hairs that stuck and clung to my wet cheeks.

The room was full of breath. Deep long, hard, full, loud breath. I could hear my own breath. I could hear the breath of my neighbor. I could hear the breath of my sisters and brothers all around the room.

“You hear that?” She asked, “That breath, that noise, it’s telling you something. It’s telling you that you are not alone. You are not alone in your triggers, in your hurt, in your pain, in those hard things you are carrying. That is a lie that our triggers tell us. That is a lie. You are not alone. God is right here. He meets us right here. In community. In this hard space, when we shake and quiver and want to give up. He meets us here with love. You are not alone. You are loved.”

I shook my head fast and hard and looked down at the floor as more tears came. I wanted to shake off the lie, but it was deep and strong and had roots that held fast around my heart. We moved into a new pose and I hung my head, my hair falling all around my face as a covering. That’s when my neighbor, the women with the kind smile on the mat next to me, reached out and gently touched my arm. I looked up and she handed me a white tissue. I nodded my thanks with more tears in my eyes as I took the tissue from her hand.

We came onto our backs and pulled our legs up into happy baby pose. A happy baby, a trusting, playful, open image. An uncomfortable position for me.

I had come up against a trigger just before class. Something innocent someone else said stirred up all kinds of fear, doubt, and hurt in my heart. I wanted to ignore it, dismiss it, say “oh it’s fine, it’s nothing.” I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t a trigger. I wanted to rationalize it and explain to my heart why I shouldn’t be hurt. I wanted to ignore the hurt, and run away from the deep work. Just like I wanted to squirm my way out of that yoga pose.

But, friends there is no freedom there. There is no freedom in pretending like things are fine, in stuffing things down, in dismissing them, in running away. Truth says we must enter in. The deep work of the soul only happens when we first open our hands and bow our hearts, when we say, “Ok, here I am. Come, Lord Jesus.”

“Look to Jesus.” She said. “Eyes on Jesus.”

The verse I had been sitting with for the past week came rushing back to my mind:

Consider him who hypomenō (remained, didn’t recede or flee, persevered, held up under, endured, bore bravely and calmly) from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or eklyō (weak, dissolved, enfeebled through exhaustion, tired out, loose) psychē (breath, the breath of life, the vital force that animates the body, life, the soul, the heart, the center/core of a person).

Look to Jesus, consider him, consider his endurance, focus on him, call to him, SO THAT you don’t loose your breath, so that the core of you - your very life force - doesn’t grow weak, so that you don’t get weary and exhausted as you run the race marked out for you.

These triggers, these trials, these hard places, where you feel stuck, where you have to endure and you don’t want to, and you wish it was over, and you wish it was different, these are not punishments. God allows these hard places out of LOVE, because of LOVE, because of His GREAT LOVE. They are grace.

I’ve always wrestled with the next part of that passage in Hebrews 12, where it talks about God’s discipline, but today as I read it and looked more closely at the words and thought about what holding in hard spaces does in my physical body, something new came alive in it.

Have you forgotten the paraklēsis (summons, encouragement, consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment) that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the paideia (training; the whole training and education of children; the training and care of the body; instruction which aims at cultivating the soul and increasing virtue; nurture, instruction, chastisement) of the Lord, nor be weary when elegchō (exposed, brought into the light, convicted, corrected, reproved) by Him. For the Lord paideuō (trains, instructs, teaches, chastises) the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for paideia (the whole training of your whole being, body, mind, heart, and soul) that you have to hypomenō (remain, abide, not recede or flee, persevere, endure, bare bravely). God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not paideuō (train)?

Oh, friends, remember that image I was talking about in the last post? The image of breaking down a muscle to make it stronger - it's exactly what we do when we lift weights. This is that again, wrapped in a new image. Let’s consider the image of a race. We are running a race and that requires training. We have increasingly difficult workouts to improve and strengthen our bodies, does it not follow that someone training our souls would give us increasingly difficult “workouts” as well?

And how about the image of a child and a parent. The parent grooms, instructs, and trains the child. The parent gives the child more and more responsibility, sometimes pushing the child out of his/her comfort zone because the parent recognizes more clearly than the child what the child needs. Sometimes setting boundaries and not allowing things which the child wants, again, because the parent recognizes more clearly than the child what the child needs.

Or how about the image of a refining fire. Not a comfortable image. Painful. But, pain that produces good.

Breaking down, training, refining for the salvation of your souls, for the purifying of your faith, for your whole health and wellbeing. For your GOOD. How rarely I believe that! When faced with a hurt, when something triggers me, when I’m stuck in grief, or pain, I so rarely truly believe it’s for my good. I so rarely believe at my core that God is for me. That he loves me.

How different it would be if I did!

I don’t think I can get there just by realization, just by logically knowing, just be belief even. Because if you asked me I would tell you I do believe that God loves me and is for me, but in truth my belief is still wrapped in so much unbelief. This is the work of sanctification, isn’t it? Peeling back those layers of unbelief.

I need to sit with my hurts, in my uncomfortable places. Stay with them. Lean into them. I need the Spirit of grace to transform and change the very core of my heart, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It generally doesn’t happen without pain.

But, we are not of those who shrink back, who run from or dismiss their pain and discomfort, who shrug off the complexities of the hard places. We are those who abide. We are those who enter in. Because it’s in the surrender, in the entering in, that we are refined, that our faith is made genuine. When we hold, remain, abide, in those hard places, when we stay put and surrender when we would rather shake and fight and run away, we choose a backwards upside down kingdom. We shed our skin, we become butterfly soup, and we are changed.

These hard spaces are teaching me, training me, to truly believe in my deep heart with trust and conviction that God is Love.

As I walked out the door after class all of the tears which had been coming, broke open into sobs. I cried loud and hard as I sat in my car and as I drove to pick my daughter up from school. Tears of repentance, tears of pain, tears that healed and opened up new space for small bits of new freedom.

That’s what I’m praying right now, over and over again, freedom. Freedom from bondage. Freedom from fear. Freedom from past triggers. Freedom from guilt and shame. Freedom from the sin that clings so closely.

I’m gonna pray it for each of you reading this as well. Freedom, friends. Freedom to expand. Freedom to breath. Freedom to stay, endure, abide.

Rejoicing in the journey,