Several weeks ago, I introduced a new series called “Let go of the Ground” about the importance of surrender in the process of transformation and growth. As soon as I introduced it, I knew I was onto something important, and so I started working on a special “e-basket full of goodies for your transformational journey“. I gathered a lot of ideas, did a number of interviews and was quite excited about offering it to you, my readers and friends. It felt like a calling. It felt important. It felt like an area in which I had, rather reluctantly, become an expert.
I thought (rather arrogantly, I admit) that I had been sufficiently through the chrysalis stage of surrender and transformation, that I could (from my butterfly perch up there on the top branch) offer wisdom and encouragement to all the other caterpillars and chrysalises down below. I had full intentions of releasing that offering on my 45th birthday (May 20). It seemed so perfect, so arrived and self-actualized right there in the mid-point of my life.
But it seemed God had other plans.
“There’s a deeper lesson you need to learn first,” Sophia whispered, and then she handed me an oddly wrapped package. Inside was the “gift” of another opportunity to surrender, another opportunity to gain wisdom, and another chance to learn just what it means to be broken open and transformed. I nearly threw that package right back in her face. “That’s okay,” I wanted to scream. “Keep your ugly gift. I’m quite fine without it. I’ve had enough of these and one more just feels like too many. Give it to someone who needs it more than I do.”
And then She patted me gently on the head and said, “You need this, my dear. It may seem like an ugly, useless gift right now, but you’ll see the beauty of it in the end. Go ahead – open it.”
And when the wrapping slipped off, broken pieces started falling out into my lap.
Just before Easter, my mom found out she has cancer. And not just a simple “cut you open and toss it out” kind. It’s the kind that’s full of unknowns and uncertainties. The kind that leaves us all shaky and unsure of where the ground has gone. The kind that leaves me wondering whether I have what it will take to sufficiently support her through it. She started chemo yesterday and then there will be surgery, and more chemo and…?
And then, as though that weren’t enough, other circumstances in my life started breaking me even more wide open. I became painfully aware of how little was under my control and how little I could “fix” on my own. Some areas of my life that I thought were up to me to hold together started falling apart and some of the shattered pieces started slipping through my clinging fingers. Finally, after a fight that lasted far too long, coupled with WAY too much anger and betrayal, I had to let go – surrender – and admit that I didn’t have the answers. And that letting go involved hurting someone that I care deeply about.
What did I do? I cried, I screamed, I paced the house like a caged animal, I cried some more, I spent a lot of time doing nothing, and… I may have thrown a few things. It wasn’t pretty. It still isn’t.
But then, gradually, I started listening to the whispers of Sophia again. “Remember those things you were going to teach people to do during their process of surrender? Why aren’t you doing them?” Oh yeah. THOSE things. The things I KNOW will help me work through this bitterness and self-pity. (Oh, but how I wanted to stay right there smack dab in the middle of a pool full of self-pity!)
I started directing some of those screams and cries toward God. (Some of them just came out as “God – what the FUCK?” But the God of my understanding can handle that.) I went to my son’s grave. I made my best effort to surrender my pain into God’s hands. I made regular trips to the labyrinth. I trusted my broken pieces into the hands of some people who love me and know how to support me. I wrote in my journal. I went running (and talked to a few geese along the way.) I painted (though the best I could do some days was to cover a canvas in black paint). I listened to music that inspired me (an album appropriately titled “The Long Surrender“.) And finally, I let a professional into the private spaces to help find better ways of rebuilding what is broken.
And what am I learning (or re-learning) in all of this? I am learning that Sophia God has a better idea of what I need than I do. I am learning that, in the end, God longs for my happiness as much as I do, and s/he wants to bring me through the pain back into that place of joy. I am learning to trust that still small voice in my heart that points me to what I really need. I am learning how much I have the capacity to give in a relationship before I feel depleted and need to re-fill the well (and say no, if necessary). I am learning to trust my fierce voice instead of silencing it. I am learning which relationships I can trust and which I may need to let go of. I am learning to be much more honest with myself and the people I love than I’ve ever been. I am learning that flowers always come back in Springtime. I am learning that screaming and crying are okay, as long as they’re not the only things I do. (Trust me – the screaming and crying is far from over, but they feel a little more healthy today than they did a few weeks ago.)
This morning I feel more peace than I have in a long time. This morning I might be able to add a little light to that black canvas.
Some day, I will be ready to offer you my learning, and I know that it will be the deepest, richest thing I can possibly offer. It will not be cheap or easy, but it will be full of the wisdom that Sophia God has lent to me in this long surrender.
p.s. One of the concepts I teach about in How to Lead with your Paint Clothes on is “Embrace the Chaos”, about how the most chaotic times in our lives – like the one I’m in right now – are often the best breeding grounds for creativity and growth. It’s one of the many lessons I’ve learned in leadership and life. Check it out, even if the only way you’re a leader is in the fact that you “lead” your dog for a walk every day (as one of the new members of the Paint Clothes Tribe said).