If we listen to those things, they might tell us the solution to the problem… You have to listen to that and that helps you become a better person… Symptom is when something you cannot speak, speaks for you… It’s saying there’s something in your life that is just not working… Sinthome = prophet. Your symptom can be a prophet if you listen to it… If you listen to a prophet they tell you “you can have a new life.” and if you don’t listen to a prophet disaster results. In some sense, we listen to our symptoms and they become prophets to better lives. – Peter Rollins, The Robcast episode 112
We all have them, inner “symptoms” speaking to us to make changes. Whether yours are like mine or vastly different – sleepless nights, emotional weight, a tight chest, racing mind, and anxious heart – these are all trying to get our attention. They can and will teach us if we want them to.
Several nights ago I found myself frustrated again – frustrated with my lack of being able to sleep, with my inability to quiet my mind and stop thinking of all the things looping on repeat that need accomplished. I felt tight and worn the next morning. Exhausted from within.
These symptoms of mine weren’t trying to wear me down, they do, but their intent is always to simply try and get my attention. As much as I wish they didn’t exist, or I wouldn’t get worn down, I see now these elements of life were simply trying to help, they were my prophets essentially, speaking the only way they knew how I’d hear them. “You are maxed. Pull back.” they would say. “Choose rest. Cancel plans. You need whitespace, time unplanned. You need care. You need this to be known.”
Anxieties, sleepless nights or other mild pains, we unfortunately all too often chock up as just ” tough parts of life”. And it’s true they are. But they can also be much more. As much as I’d love to call them “bad” parts of life and tell you we can fix them or we do not need them or we are supposed to be happy, to get rid of these and be pain-free, I can’t. I’ve come to see these physical discomforts as little gifts. Little graces. Little truths speaking what I wouldn’t hear otherwise.
It is tough work. This self-reflection. This asking “why are you visiting me right now?” to our interior pains. Tough because it requires staying with discomfort. Tough because there may not always be an easy or clear answer. And tough because once we know the truth it’s trying to tell us, we have the hard choice of either listening or denying it’s truth.
Both options are not easy ones. Both are hard. The first means I’d need to act – admit I need to cancel plans, or I am afraid, sad, hurt or in shame which feel all too painful to share and feel with another. But they whisper, they speak, they tell me things like I need to reach out for a cry, receive compassion and admit I do not have it all together, make changes to my life. Allowing this to be a part of the process of growth, connection with people and continual realignment toward health is a hard reality to accept.
But there is that other option toward our pain. We don’t have to admit it. There’s the other choice, the choice to avoid our anxieties, these teachers, our signs that something must change or we might break. I think there’s a much greater loss with this option. Either option will cause change, that’s how life is, but with the option of denying the good in the hard we may not change toward the freedom and health we long for. We instead learn to cope, to keep our needs quiet, to keep trying to become superior to the reality of human life being one of having needs and emotion and limits. We in essence will become a part of the cultural undertones that preach “have it all together. Don’t crack. You can do it all. You can go it alone. You don’t need outside support. Just keep pushing.”
Taking this choice is a dangerous one. That little whisper, the root of that anxiety within you, that is trying to help you, your gentle heart trying to get your attention, it most likely become quieter. Your voice will quiet under the weight of the shame your mind associates with listening to what your heart needs. It will dig deeper into the belief that it is not good to need others, it is not allowed to break plans when your world needs room to rest, that you won’t be liked if you cave or pull back or show emotion or be your true self.
I’ve lived that truth before, and it is not one filled with joy, inner freedom, true connection or any inner peace. It is a lonely and scary place all too heavy to bear.
So even if it feels much scarier at first to choose to listen to our inner aches and bring them out into the light, I encourage you to do it. Only when a need is brought to the light of another can it be cared for.
Who ever said life was supposed to be easy anyway? It certainly wasn’t Jesus who left ease for the hard life of being human. He wept and mourned, he lived through uncertainty and fear, and he even died in the act of love. That is a clear picture of life being worthy but not easy – a deep life will include pain. It will include fear. It will include uncertainty and facing things we wished we didn’t have to.
A deep, free, wholehearted life is worth every discomfort needed to get you to health and deeper connection.
So if your life is speaking right now, if it is saying “Something hurts. I’m afraid. I need a change. I need time to heal, to rest, to renew. This part of me needs held by another. I’m hurting. I am upset.” in whatever uncomfortable voice it chooses, listen to it as a hidden teacher. Invite it in. Allow it. Let it belong as a part of your healthy process to recreating your life toward where you long for it to be.
Stress does rear it’s head. A healthy life is not stress-free. But it claims it’s pain. It allows discomfort to be an opening for needing and receiving care, connection, outside support and for growth.
I still get frustrated or caught up in it when I feel stress, but, by grace alone, I am now more quick to listen to this part of my life. To share my struggle through reaching out, to invite the stress to speak and maybe even reveal the feeling or thought that brought about its presence.
And even when I can’t, in the times where stress lingers much longer than I’d like it too and I feel all too human, I now hope to at least stop fighting it. To allow it to have the space and time it needs to teach me and to see where God is with me in the midst of it. Because no matter what, I assure you, God is present, with, holding and carrying you through every discomfort.
Be brave. Lean into the whole of your life. Learn from it. Let your inner world speak. This is a worthy choice.
Grace & Peace.
Extra Musings and Random Thoughts
The episode the quote I started with is from a series on the philosophy of God that Peter Rollins did on the Robcast. I’ve been on a Peter Rollins kick now that I discovered him a few months ago. His series on Love is excellent on Robcast as well. Check them out here.
Currently I’m reading Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. Excellent concept that this post falls within. The ability to hold the pain or tensions of life are something we only learn in the “second half” that he describes.
Brene Brown, my personal female superhero of choice, released another book. I absolutely am grateful for and love her work and am looking forward to processing this new one, Braving the Wilderness. Really enjoyed this interview on her latest book and well as her interview with Jen Hatmaker was the best I’ve ever heard with Brene – and I’ve listened to a lot! Podcast on iTunes is episode 2 of Of Mess and Moxie.
My favorite band, The Lone Bellow, released their new album Walk Into A Storm Friday and I love it! It has been on repeat. It is most definitely becoming the sound to my season. Check it out on Spotify and look up some live videos – they are fantastic! Can’t wait to see them again this Fall.
Was really impressed by The Brilliance in concert. Their music was so artistic and beautiful. They toured with John Mark McMillan who’s latest album Mercury & Lightning I’ve been really enjoining. It was a great show.
Picture is of my latest – Honeymoon Island state park in FL – a little visual reminder of the beauty I’ve been able to go to while escaping the winter for a few days the last two years. And if this post has any truth in it, my heart definitely tells me it has trouble with Winter… so if I am able to care for that with a little warmth and time away? Then I happily do 🙂