Accepting “what is” is a theme that God has been working out in my life for many years. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval, endorsement, or even liking the circumstances. It simply requires a mental and heart-felt shift from resistance to submission through acknowledging and embracing the reality that whatever is, “IS”. Each of us can identify with the notion that, in various areas of our lives, we would have chosen a different reality—a cancer-free parent, a greater fulfilling job, a restored relationship, a more compliant child, a healthier body, a loved one who would not have died so early, and the list goes on.
Along this journey, I struggle with self-judgment when I believe I “should” feel a certain way, but I don’t. I should feel forgiving, but I don’t. I should feel grateful, but I don’t. I should feel enough, but I don’t. I should feel less anxious, but I don’t. Questioning myself in these circumstances, “Is it really ok to feel what I feel? Or should I fight my true feelings to make them become what I “should” be feeling?”
Recently, God has been teaching me the humbling lesson of acceptance. It has been a challenging journey, but with surprising tenderness and restorative truths along the way. Reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, especially the chapter on “Solitude” has tugged at my heart-strings. I’m learning that I often become exhausted in my striving to resist what is, rather than sit in the discomfort of embracing what is and inviting God into my discomfort. Instead, I try to fix it, cure it, take steps to alleviate it, but am left with a sense of, “I can never do enough or be enough.” I am driven by the desire to do more, be more, accomplish more, learn more, grow more, and succeed more. But in this “more-ness”, I suffer an inner drought. This paragraph from Sacred Rhythms has challenged me, as I hope will challenge you:
I have learned over the past few years how important it is to have time and space for being with what’s real in my life- to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness. This “being with what is” is not the same thing as problem solving or fixing, because not everything can be fixed or solved. Rather, it means allowing God to be with me in that place and waiting for Him to do what is needed. In silence my soul waits for you and you alone, O God. From you alone comes my salvation. When we don’t attend to our vulnerabilities and instead try to repress it all and keep soldiering on, we get weary from holding it in. Eventually it leaks out in ways that are damaging to us and to others. Another reason we are tired is that we are always working hard to figure things out rather than learning how to cease striving, how to be with what is true in God’s presence and let God be God in the most intimate of places of our life- which is, in the end, the only thing that will change anything. We’re busy trying to make stuff happen rather than waiting on God to make stuff happen (pp. 40-41).
Despite my continual desire to emotionally or spiritually “be” at a certain place, there is something refreshing about accepting where I am, bringing it to God, acknowledging my powerlessness over my feelings and personal strivings, and allowing Him to do what He desires in that vulnerable place. I am practicing sitting with my uncomfortable feelings despite the discomfort of feeling like I “shouldn’t” have them. In these vulnerable moments, God’s tenderness is meeting me there and teaching me more about His grace and compassion. He is meeting me where I’m at (even though it’s not where I want to be), and in that sacred place, He is demonstrating the act of acceptance—an unconditional acceptance of me.
Trust in Him at all times, pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge. Ps. 62:8 , NIV
Reference: Barton, R. H. (2006). Sacred rhythms: Arranging our lives for spiritual transformation. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 191.