Faith Struggles: Stepping Outside the Room

Chances are good you’ve been in a room similar to the one I’m about to describe. I hope you have because it’s a good kind of room!

Picture it: I’m sitting around a table with my friends in a sunshine-filled room on a Sunday afternoon. Our goal is to support each other in our work as Christian mental health professionals. Not a bad start, right?

One friend introduces how she’ll lead our group in a check-in…and we are off! (Don’t you dare poke fun… we’re a bunch of therapists so our meeting wouldn’t be complete without a freakin’ check-in. It’s The Way of Therapists.)

“I’ll lead us in a visualization/guided meditation exercise and then you’ll have a chance to share what you want,” she explains.

Okay. So far so good.

“Imagine a scene from this past week at work. Maybe a moment with a client, for example,” she says. I think of a somewhat stressful, intense encounter with a colleague.

“Now focus on what you were thinking and feeling during that encounter,” she continues. I feel a little distant from whatever I was feeling back then, but okay.

Still tracking.

Then, “Now imagine where you thought God was in that room, and your posture towards God in that moment.”

Alright…things be heatin’ up a little. But I imagine it, and I’m not surprised that I had automatically stuffed God away, over in a corner of the room. He’s far, far away, really. And my posture towards Him? I’ve got my hand out in a “stop signal.” A posture that says, “Stay back! I’ve got this. You don’t have anything to offer anyway. You aren’t involved in this conversation.”

Yikes. For those of you who share my faith, you know this isn’t exactly a model Christian sort of attitude. Actually, I think all of you get this, Christian or not.

But I’m okay with being a work in progress. Besides, this exercise isn’t meant to shame, right? It’s meant to help us become more aware of God’s presence in our workplace. And to become aware of our own patterned way of thinking (or not thinking) about God’s involvement in our day-to-day work.

So alright! I’m still here.

And then, the fatal words: “Now invite God into that room with you.”

Oh, boy. Let’s get this party started!

This isn’t my first time around this block. None-the-less, this part of faith-integrated meditation always takes me somewhat by surprise. This is the part where things always get real, get ugly, get painful for me.

You want me to do what?! Invite God into my personal space? Okay, fine. I’m gonna do this!

First the image, then the terrified, screaming voice.

The image is of me. Me throwing up. Projectile vomit. Spewing.

The voice? It’s my voice and it’s inspired by all the hard things inside. The unresolved questions, the traumatic memories, the emotions I can’t yet find words for…but fear is certainly somewhere in the mix.

The words: “What should I do, what should I do…?”

If something is wrong, we are supposed to do something about it, right? So my impatient, all-too-eager, fix-myself-now part of my soul starts screaming the above question at my traumatized, vulnerable, and scared soul-part.

That can’t be going anywhere good, you must be thinking. Yep, you called that one!

I’m holding it together, though. And when I glance around, none of my friends seem to be bothered by the loud and demanding voice. They can’t hear it. Whew…what a relief.

But I can. So. What do I do?

Thankfully, the answer came quickly. “Just step out of that room and take a seat against the wall.”

That’s it? “Yep, and don’t you dare try to figure anything out right now…no trying to pray a theologically-sound prayer, no beating yourself up, no thinking obsessively about what just happened or what will come next. Just stop! And sit and rest.”

And that was it! That’s the only answer I got. So, in my mind, I did just that. I stepped outside of that room where my colleague sat and where I tried, unsuccessfully, to keep God out of my space. It had all become a little too hairy for me. Outside the room, I imagined slumping against the wall, sliding to the floor, and taking in a breath. Nothing more, nothing less.

And I just rested.

Soon the meditation ended. We shared our respective experiences of the meditation — and, of course, each of the others had had their own, different experiences. I wasn’t the only one in the room! (Crazy, I know.) Slowly, my struggles settled in among other struggles, other joys, other people’s stories. We moved on to a discussion. We laughed. We offered suggestions. We listened to one another.

And heck! By the end of it all, I even managed to lead us in a closing prayer. A prayer as we entered into another Monday of another week of our precious, challenging work.

And I discovered — once again — that the screaming voice and the trembling child within didn’t end me. The screaming voice was calmed by stepping out of the room. The trembling child was comforted by finding a safe spot to just rest a little.

Just rest a little.

thawingout

I am a Texan-born Bostonian who wants to understand how we get through hard things in life (aka trauma) using spirituality, meaningful work, life-giving hobbies, connection with other trauma survivors, friendships with non-traumatized people, animals, etc. I am a hospice social worker (LCSW) and I have a bunny named Nadia.

45 Replies to “Faith Struggles: Stepping Outside the Room

  1. You’re a wonderful writer, Anna. But I started inwardly screaming at the announcement of a visualization/guided meditation–just not what I care to participate in. So I thought you did really well, actually, given that you had to go through it! 🙂

    1. Haha, Kris! We must be kindred Christian spirits then 😉 Thanks for the pat on the back, considering that you kinda get it! At least there is two of us out there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. How intriguing it is to see you be so vulnerable, yet so brave to share your deepest thoughts and experiences. Our hearts, our minds, and our relationships with the Lord are all so complicated. They are what they are because of our experiences and I am so proud of you, Anna, for sharing these vivid and sometimes painful thoughts with us.
    I read your posts with admiration of how well you have overcome and continue to do so! Keep it up! It is important for others to realize that although their emotions and situation may not be identical, when it comes to a struggle or a lapse of contentment, they are not alone.
    Your written visual with this post was exquisite and I felt like an audience member with a front row seat to the scene playing in your mind.
    After reading this, I will think twice before trying to handle the burden of a challenging situation “all by myself”; because I’m never really all by myself.

    1. Trudy, this thoughtful and compassionate comment means a lot to me! Thank you for taking the time to read my story and throw some encouragement and thoughts back. For some reason, I’ve sensed that you are on your own spiritual journey that’s included some digging deep, so I thought of you after I wrote this post.

      I love to hear that you’re following along as I write, and please know I’m glad to hear your feedback anytime! Keep up the courage, cousin. 🙂

      And you are right; we are never alone in reality. It just feels like it sometimes…but that’s an illusion.

  3. Faith in God is the same as meditation… People like you are equal to God for investing confidence and providing solution for a person in some way or the other.. proud of you. And well written too. Stay the same!

    1. Hi, Prasna! Thank you for reading and commenting on my post!

      You are kind. Appreciate your encouragement! 😀 Meditation is a spiritual practice I don’t do often enough…I suppose it’s one of the easier AND hardest one to practice! I’m glad if you’ve found it helpful to connecting with God.

      I’m not equal to God, BUT I do hope that God can shine through my life and writing is some way, since God made me and continues to shape me and love me! 😀

  4. I looooove this! I recently launched a blog that incorporates many faith-centered posts. This was totally approachable, authentic and I felt like you walked me through the meditation. (my posture totally changed when God entered the room. But I wanted to impress Him. Man, I’m screwed up). Yikes!

    1. Hi, Mary! Thanks so much for reading and providing encouraging feedback! I look forward to connecting more, considering our similar interests…especially our writing about faith in real-life, real-world time. 🙂

      And don’t worry, we are all some version or another of screwed up when it comes to our relationship to God. Lord, have mercy! 😉

  5. Funny, we had a very similar discussion in Bible study yesterday, how we basically tell God, oh, it’s okay I got this one. This is very beautifully written.

    1. Debra, thank you for reading and commenting! And funny how the timing works on this kind of stuff sometimes. 🙂 We are all certainly a work in progress down here! Glad you got something from this piece.

  6. Hi, I was intrigued by reading this post. I am personally not a very religious person. I am intrigued by meditation but it must have been scary feeling so sick well done for sticking with it. I hope that it turns out to be beneficial in the long run.

    1. Hey, Chloe! Thanks for reading my post, even with our differences in religious beliefs! Religion can be a mixed bag, for sure…but I’ve found Christianity in it’s robust, healthy form to be life-giving…except for when I freak out as in the above post 🙂 Like you, I have hope that it is a good thing for me in the long-run.

      Courage to you as you continue to seek, to meditate, to live!

  7. So, I’m curious, Anna – when you aren’t in a difficult place… when you don’t have the “stop sign” up, relegating God to the corner of the room… where is He, if you were to visualize in those times?

    When you are just hanging out at home, relaxing – where do you see Him being in those moments? Is He just kind of a silent spectator, or is He near you? I’m not sure if I’m expressing my question correctly, or if my reason for asking would even make sense to anyone but me. If not, I can try to clarify.

    1. Sure thing, Kim! Appreciate your honesty here…and as you can tell from my own words, you are in good company when it comes to faith struggles! Wishing you clarity on the things that really matter and freedom from worry about the things that don’t! Courage to you, friend.

    1. Hi, Darcy! Thanks so much for reading and commenting back! And yes, you are in good company…spiritual growth often takes time. I hope you have good people in your life to walk along the path with you. Courage to you!

  8. I like your style. I don’t care what anyone says – mixing humor with Christianity may not be difficult – but in my experience it is rare. Don’t keep your light under a bushel. 😉

    1. Ah, thanks, Marshall! And yeah…you called that one right. Sometimes we Christians take ourselves a liiiiiiittle too seriously 😉 I’ll try to keep shining! Same back to you…

  9. Anna, this post gave me ghost bumps. God have it always his way whether we like it or not. I had been unfaithful to him, I thought that I can do anything by myself as God doesn’t really exist, but that was the biggest mistake I have done. We can do anything, but God still decides our future.

    1. Crisly, thank you for reading and commenting! Makes me happy 🙂

      Appreciate you throwing your thoughts about God back at me! God is certainly mysterious…perhaps one of the most clear things we know about our Creator is that “God is Love” itself. And God loves to show us grace…so I think you can rest in that, even as you regret past actions or attitudes you’ve had towards God. And know this — you are in good company there 😉

  10. This past Sunday our sermon was on this. Sometimes depending on our actions it can be a big slap in the face. Sometimes we think we know better than anyone, even God… this is when we suffer. Great post.

    1. Hey, Ana! First, great name 😉 Second, thank you for your reflection back! I agree…we don’t gain anything when we ignore God’s role as the One who leads us. And, of course, as you well know, we are going to suffer in this world regardless of our attitude towards God! But I am hoping to grow towards God, even through my suffering…which is a long road. Courage to you on your own journey and process!

      1. You’re right! I’d rather suffer with God than go through this life without Him for sure! I think every christian has moments of overwhelming thoughts and feelings, doubts, and confusion. It’s continuing to walk in faith and the Holy Spirit that gives moments of clarity! As soon as people realize they don’t have to be perfect to be in a relationship with God, the more at peace they will be and the more likely they’ll be able to better themselves 🙂

    1. Oh, thanks so much for letting me know my words resonated, Veronica! Courage to you in your own spiritual journey… Love to have you reading along!

  11. We should all take time to step back from our busy lives and look within. Life moves so quickly and its important to re-evaluate our purpose and what’s important to us. This is something that is always changing. thanks for sharing!

  12. Faith is not everything that we should practice to have, and still it is one of the last resorts, i dont think faith will make us vulnerable if we use the rest of our experience, knowledge, and brain the powers and abilities we have, the faith comes in when we do all our part and we believe it will be great and good, and there is no fear of negativity, nor worriness. Thats the faith.

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