As our soulcare group gathered on Zoom, someone asked a question that continues to linger in my thoughts: What is the biggest choice you now face, and how do you see it affecting your authenticity and your relationship with the Holy One?”
I think it’s a wonderful question, drawing me back to things that matter as I consider the choices that face me each day, some smaller and some on a grander scale. I knew that evening that my answer had to do with finding ways to engage more deeply in community, particularly during this pandemic time when some of my usual ways of being in community aren’t available. And though I couldn’t spell out exactly how, I knew that choice was intricately bound up with my own growth in becoming who I most truly am in relationship with God who is, at his heart, community.
Often, though, as I set out to make a choice and move intentionally in a new direction, I encounter barriers and need to pause and work through them with God before I can continue moving forward.
This time, I tripped over one of those rocks as I had a first conversation with a potential new friend. As I listened to her story and tried to tell mine, I discovered myself feeling inadequate. And as I pondered and prayed after the conversation, I began to see why. I was comparing. And I was comparing not only our stories, I was comparing her outside to my inside. More specifically, I was comparing the confident, competent outside of her to the inside of me that often lacks that confidence.
I wasn’t only comparing myself to her, I was comparing my before-Afghanistan-self (doctor, healthy enough to work) to my after-Afghanistan-self (part-time writer and spiritual director, limited by chronic illness). And I was using the world’s values as my measuring stick, forgetting that I love what I’m now doing, and that God brings us into an upside-down kingdom where our Lord and Leader inaugurates the kingdom by walking through death, making the last first, the weak strong, and giving the kingdom to the poor in spirit.
As if that wasn’t enough, I had also fallen once again into the trap of feeling I had to earn acceptance, forgetting that belonging is sheer grace, part of our birthright when we’re born into Christ and, in and through him, into a new family and body.
So here, for the moments you feel inadequate and forget that you really do belong, are a few reminders—because I suspect I’m not alone in sometimes needing them:
- You belong—not because you’ve earned it, but because of God’s grace. And even when you forget, it doesn’t change the truth: “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. . . . If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong in the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” (1 Cor 12:13, 15).
- You matter. God has made you just as he wanted you. Your uniqueness is a gift to the body of Christ: “…God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?” (1 Cor 12:17-19)
- You are God’s own work of art, intentionally designed and intricately crafted to reflect something of his own being: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph 2:10, NLT; see also Gen 1:26-27; Psalm 139: 13-14).
Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash.
This Post Has 8 Comments
Thanks, Carolyn, for sharing your own stumbling blocks. How often and how many ways we sabotage our sense of belonging. These were great reminders, and helpful insights. Thanks
Thank you. I tend to compare myself with others and feel bad about myself that I am not doing my part. Your blogs are so appropriate for me. God bless you, love Doris Dahl
I’m glad they’re helpful, Doris. Love to you as well! Carolyn
Is your soul care group a local group that usually meets face to face? I’d love to have a group like this, but I live in Cyprus. Or I’d love to know how to start a group like this. I already have a group of about 4 ladies that might be interested. Can you give me some resources or suggestions? I am a counselor and spiritual director, so I can draw from those two areas, but would need some guidelines with this. Thanks! Beverly Richardson
Hi Beverly, Thanks for introducing yourself.
Yes, our soul care group is a local group that usually meets face to face, though during the pandemic we’ve been meeting over Zoom. We meet just once a month, and (when we meet in person) we gather for a meal. One person makes soup, another brings salad, another bread and another wine which we also use to celebrate communion together at the end of our time. While we eat supper, we talk about how we’re doing on a deeper level, often using a question that someone in the group suggests (like the question at the start of this blog post). Then we move to the living room and someone leads us in a prayer reflection. This can be quite varied in terms of content but we try to keep it reflective, something along the lines of lectio divina where we have time in silence to reflect and then time for optional sharing. (We’ve done a whole range of things – lectio divina on a passage of Scripture or a poem or prayer, visio divina where someone brings a whole bunch of photos or pictures from magazines and we notice what stands out to us and reflect on why that picture might be catching our attention and whether the Holy Spirit might be inviting us to notice something or wanting to be with us in a particular way in that moment. One reflection involved walking a finger labyrinth with Jesus. That one is here: http://hearingtheheartbeat.com/gifts-for-you/) Then another person in the group leads us in communion (often using a brief liturgy) as we end the evening. We’re a group of seven if everyone comes, so pretty much everyone participates in some way in the evening, whether bringing a food item or leading the reflection or communion, and we switch roles each time.
Here’s are some prayer retreat outlines that might give you a few more ideas for this kind of thing: https://estherhizsa.com/resources/. You’d of course have to pick and choose what seems appropriate for your group and for the time you have, but it might give you a starting place.
I hope this helps. Let me know if I can help further! Carolyn.
Carolyn, Thanks so much for the resources. As I was reading what you do, it sounds very similar to the monthly contemplative retreats I have, but on a deeper level. I use some of the things you suggested, so I’m thinking this would be good to have this with the ladies that I met with virtually during lockdown. I’m excited about this and love how everyone is involved and I don’t have to lead everything. Thank you for taking the time to respond and give me these resources! Will probably need to wait till the fall, but will go ahead and talk to the ladies I have in mind for this. Blessings from Cyprus, Beverly
Thanks, Carolyn. Always relevant to me. Always interesting, pulling me into your wonderful godly way of thinking even when I think I do not have the brief time required at that moment.
I too don’t feel so confident sometimes. Thanks for sharing this reminder not to compare!
Working in a culture other than my own and in a field other than what I studied doesn’t help!
I suspect to others I might look confident sometimes but rarely feel so!