When You Hit the Wall and Can’t Share You’ve Hit It {Book Club}

“If you ask people who don’t believe in God why they don’t, the number one reason will be suffering. If you ask people who believe in God when they grew most spiritually, the number on answer will be suffering.” John Ortberg wrote this in the chapter on The Dark Night of Soul in Soul Keeping.

Today’s chapter in  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero addresses the Wall and the journey through it. He subtitles this: letting go of power and control. Do you desire to let out a primal scream? Am I alone in feeling this life of service is one long slide of giving up power and control? Part of me wants to say, “Is it too much to ask for a corner where no one can touch?!”

Not everything needs to be shared or offered to be shared. But that’s not what he’s talking about. As Scazzero defines is, “For many, going back in order to go forward thrusts us up against the Wall. Others are brought to it by circumstance and crises beyond our control.”

The Wall can enter our stories in so many ways:

  • a local friend not being healed and instead dying,
  • being part of an organization that seems to care more about policies than people,
  • a child who is not thriving, a marriage that is straining under the constant (year-after-year) screaming needs that never abate,
  • a crisis back home either in your family or community,
  • a team that is so dysfunctional, but no one will acknowledge it because then who will do the work?

“Regardless of how we get there, every follower of Jesus at some point will confront the Wall.” So, let’s talk about the Wall (and our theme this week of Control), I wanted to scream when he said it wouldn’t be once and done, but I know that’s true. We might have big Walls and smaller ones. “Without an understanding of the Wall in the journey, however, countless sincere followers of Christ stagnate there and no longer move forward with God’s purpose for their lives. Some of us hide behind our faith to flee the pain of our lives rather than trust God to transform us.”

As much as I’d rather read this chapter and say to myself well, isn’t the interesting and move on, I do not want to be one who stagnates. And I don’t want you to stagnate either.

But can we be honest, these Walls, they are a @#%*$. I’m not normally a cusser, but to say, “oh they are hard” misses the depth and does not honor how gut wrenching they can be. And then to have one on the field?! How do you communicate what is going on to those who need to know, so that you have help and fellow-sojourners? While balancing that not everyone needs to know everything?

I hit a wall in August. A wall that didn’t start in August, but several years ago. I can point to when I slammed into it, and let me tell you, I did not see it coming. I hadn’t realized how much this one corner of my soul I was guarding until someone asked me to relinquish my avid guarding of that place and re-engage in community. I’m good with communication, and one skill I have mastered after years of being a cross-cultural worker is sliding in and out of cultures. So, I can make a situation look different than the reality (this is a bit like when we talked a few weeks ago about facade).

As of this writing, I am mostly through this wall. I was saddened that this stupid wall even came up. But as I read in this chapter about characteristics of life on the other side, there is hope!

  1. A Greater Level of Brokenness.
  2. A Greater Appreciation for Holy Unknowing (Mystery)
  3. A Deeper Ability to Wait for God
  4. A Greater Detachment

” Remember, God’s purpose for us is to have a loving union with him at the end of the journey. We joyfully detach from certain behaviors and activities for the purpose of a more intimate, loving attachment to God.”

Back to John Ortberg. When he experienced the Dark Night of the Soul, where God is silent, he called Dallas Willard. Dallas responded, “This will be a test of your joyful confidence in God.

Isn’t that painfully beautiful?! Ortberg also says, “Modern churches [and I’d add our kind of organizations] with linear models of spiritual growth and large-scale models for devotional life rarely speak of or help people with the dark night. We are uncomfortable with it because we want to do something — because we sell formulas and steps and programs, and the dark night of the souls is not our program. The dark night is for souls that learn to wait.”

Kimberly Todd shared this song at the editor’s retreat and I have been listening to it—dare I say—obsessively recently? If you’re reading this in an email, you can listen here. The line “you restore my soul oh God” is balm to a weary soul.

This chapter is a complex one to engage with, but it’s also deeply important. Let’s talk about it more in the comments,

Amy

P.S. Next week is chapter 7 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

13 Comments

  1. M'Lynn October 27, 2015

    So it seems to me that the stuff this book brings up feels too deep to blurt out in the comments, but I just want you to know I’m reading along and I’m gonna take the plunge and comment! Here are three quotes I wrote down in my journal while reading this chapter:

    “We don’t control the seasons; they happen to us. Winter, spring, summer and fall come to us whether we like it or not.” p 120 …I thought this was hilarious and true because winter “happens” to me every winter and I can’t make it go away!! It’s definitely a wall every year that hits as soon as cold and air pollution show up. Not as serious as a “dark night of the soul” every year, but some years worse than others. Lately I’ve been writing in my journal “Why??? Why am I still in this DARK, COLD, DIRTY place?” No answer. Just waiting.

    “When we make it through the wall, we no longer have a need to be well known or successful, but to do God’s will.” p. 121 …that’s just beautiful and encouraging.

    “Our great temptation is to quit or go backwards, but if we remain still, listening for his voice, God will insert something of himself into our character that will mark the rest of our journey with him.” p. 124. OKAY…so I’m here in this DARK, COLD, DIRTY place waiting for God to infuse his very self into my very being for my good. I don’t like it today, but it does sound like it’s worth waiting for. And, since I’m a coffee lover, I just get the picture of coffee beans roasting with a certain aromatic mixture to bring out the exact flavor the roaster intends (sorry about the technicalities…I don’t really know how that works) and if the beans aren’t roasted long enough, etc. etc. they won’t be what they’re supposed to be. Just like I won’t be what I’m supposed to be without sitting this season in a DARK, COLD, DIRTY place! 🙂

    1. TGP October 27, 2015

      Really loved this M’Lynn.  THanks for sharing

    2. Ellie October 27, 2015

      I’m with you M’Lynn, I am reading but it’s so deep and it’s hitting me just “there” where I can’t speak about it exactly.. (and “in public”! ;)) Will try to gather some coherent thoughts for a comment later.

       

    3. Amy Young October 27, 2015

      M’Lynn, I think you’re right that these are topics that can be hard to talk about in comments. (But your comment helped me feel better :). Thank you). And maybe you could make a t-shirt “Coffee Bean For God” and see the conversations it starts! My family has mostly people who love cloudy, non-hot weather and I do not understand them. I’m more like you, not a fan of cold and dark. Waiting on God is hard, isn’t it :)! You’ve given me things to think about, thanks! 🙂

  2. Rachel October 27, 2015

    This chapter helped me identify my Dark Night of the Soul for what it was. My name for it was not so refined as that or as family-friendly as Wall, but this is exactly what it was. I’ve had other much, much less dramatic Walls since then, but the dramatic one is easier to analyze because everything was so extreme.
    The descriptions of what we develop coming through the Wall, those characteristics that we have when we reach the far side, were so meaningful to me. I can see how each of those developed in me during my journey. I knew God used that experience, but not how extensively, or how necessary it was for me to go through that.
    “St John of the Cross knew our tendency to become attached to feelings of and about God, mistaking them for God himself…There is no other way…for our souls to be strengthened and purified so that we don’t worship our feelings than for God to remove them altogether. This is God’s way of rewiring our taste buds that we might taste of him ever more fully.”

    1. Amy Young October 27, 2015

      Agreed Rachel! It’s the more extreme situations (in this case Walls) that we can analyze later what was going on. I am grateful that God in his mercy will offer glimpses into what WAS going on.

  3. Grace L October 27, 2015

    I found this chapter to be the most interesting so far. I read it the other night but just reread it again. In particular I found the diagram of the “Stages of Faith” to be very helpful for me to better understand my own journey and to also to have better insights on discipling the younger women that God has put in my path here on the field.

    My early years of my Christian walk were very challenging – being a single mother and being very insecure. On one hand I was a strong Christian, growing in my faith. But on the other hand, I would delve into self pity and cry inconsolably. My sisters would try to pray me out of it, but to no avail. I went for counseling and learned a lot more about myself, but, in thinking back, I was combining stage 2 and 3 with a lot of wall bumps. But somehow I kept feeling that I had to avoid that pain and get back to the “good” feelings of my Christian walk. There was no one to counsel me that I had to go through this wall to become more spiritually mature, that God was using this to grow me.

    Fast forward to becoming post menopausal and getting a strong call to overseas work and obeying that call. I was back into stage 3 and ready to serve Him with all my heart. But living cross culturally brings new challenges. Were they smaller walls? I think so. But then I went through a couple of years during which I found it very difficult to read the Word or have a good discipline of prayer. But by this time, I had to keep up a good front. After all, I had come to serve and to minister to others. But I struggled so in my own journey with God and felt like a fake and felt like I was failing God. AND, I never shared the depths of this with anyone, including my husband.

    In the past year I have been meeting with two local ladies, one 23 and the other 38. We work together and are able to take an hour a day for our study time. But often I would show up barely having read the passage, and I was their “teacher”. But an amazing thing happened. In my dryness and feeling empty myself, I would be so amazed when the Holy Spirit would show up and cause me to say wise things that I would realize were a truth that I hadn’t known before. And then I would share with them that before that moment, I didn’t know that, but that it was the Holy Spirit giving me the words. I felt so humbled that God would show up, but now I can see He was waiting until I found myself empty. I was broken and God was able to use me and get the glory.

    In looking at the diagram, I can now recognize that I have been moving into stage 5 and 6. I am humbled and know that it is only because God is using me in my older years that I can minister to my sisters. I have found a greater ability to love and be demonstrative in that love. I had thought for a while that it came with the gray hair and the grandmotherly style, but now I know that it is not that. It is God working in me on the other side of the Wall.

    I also realized another important thing from the diagram of the Stages of Faith. I have been working with my 38 year old sister for 3 years, ministering to her as she has struggled with her health and has had a crisis of faith. And my 23 year old sister is still so young, both in age and in her walk with the Lord. I am realizing now that I wanted to help them get to stage 5 and 6 without having to go through the Wall and stage 4. But now I know how important it is for them in their own journey with God to walk through the tough times. That is how they will grow in their faith and get to maturity. I should not try to remove their walls but rather walk side by side with them in their journey.

    All the while, in our weakness, including mine, I keep bringing us back to the admonition to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” It is what has helped to get me through to where I am and I know I will have to keep on trusting in this journey.

    1. Amy Young October 29, 2015

      Grace I so appreciate hearing from someone with so much life experience — showing what these stages can look like over several decades. And I like hearing more of your story! Thanks!!

  4. Jodie October 27, 2015

    I thought this was a great chapter too, with so much food for thought! I appreciated the way you tied in the Soul Keeping book, Amy, and the song you included from Kimberly really encouraged me as well.

    One of my favorite quotes was the description of stage 5, the Journey Outward. “Having passed through the crisis of faith and the intense journeywork necessary to go through the Wall, we begin once again to move outward to “do” for God. We may do some of the same external things we did before…The difference is that now we give out of a new grounded center of ourselves in God. We have rediscovered God’s profound, deep, accepting love for us. A deep, inner stillness now begins to characterize our work for God.”

    I was also struck by your story, Grace, and how much you’ve learned from looking back and thinking of these stages. Especially the part about realizing you were trying to help a sister get to the later stages without going through the Wall.

    I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability this morning and thinking about how we cultivate Empathy. She says we have to be comfortable with our own darkness in order to sit with another in their darkness.

    So, after experiencing the freedom on the other side of the Wall, we really do have something of great value to help others through their Dark Night of the Soul.

    1. Grace L October 28, 2015

      Hi Jodie. I, too, liked the description of stage 5, The Journey Outward, and also of stage 6. These are the places we will get to in our journey with the Lord as we persevere through both the trials and the really tough challenges.

    2. Amy Young October 29, 2015

      What I love about this chapter is that Scazzero roots it in real life … we don’t hit a Wall and then become a cloistered nun or monk. We hit a Wall and as we pass through it, we are able to reengage with “doing” . . . but from a more grounded place. I LOVE that.

  5. Rankin November 2, 2015

    This chapter does have just so much to process! Reading it has made me question whether or not I am working my way through walls or just bouncing off of them.  Anyways,   I just finished the second time through it, but I had to write in and say, M’lynn I absolutely love the coffee bean illustration!

     

     

  6. Phyllis November 2, 2015

    I read the chapter, loved it, loved all these deep comments, but I don’t know what to say myself… except maybe Amen?

    I can look back and see where my Wall was. Deportation and everything that surrounded that.

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