Resources for the Journey | The Second Mansion

If you’ve joined me for this journey thus far, we find ourselves today (on the Feast Day of St. Teresa!) now in the doorway of the Second Mansion. At times, I’ve viewed the Second Mansion as Teresa’s gracious “recovery room” after navigating the “addiction treatment center” of the First Mansion.

If you recall, the First Mansion was a place of spiritual and emotional battle, where your attachments where exposed, your addictions revealed. It is where we’re humbled. It is where we realize that there is much more to both our brokenness and our self-sabotage than we realized. It is also where God initially draws us to something more.

In the Second Mansion, Teresa invites us to see how God is drawing us. I love her kindness and grace in this room. It’s as if she realizes that this inward journey is jolting and startling, because we’ve likely discovered the depths of our inner obstacles to union. She says, “Don’t be overly saddenned if you cannot respond instantaneously to the call of the Beloved.” I’d like to say, “Thank you Teresa, because truth be told I’m always struggling with how half-heartedly I respond!”

Instead of berating us for not making more progress, she tells us (as any good spiritual director might) to be on the look-out for resources to support and quicken our journey. She says,

His voice reaches us by the words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illness and suffering and sorrow he calls to us. 

It seems that God is always calling, always looking, always pursuing. We’re just not attuned to how. And so, Teresa says, “Listen up. And listen well.”

What gets in the way of listening for you? What robs you of attention? What dulls your spiritual senses?

We might begin to pay attention to what distracts us, and then open our senses – all of them – in curiosity and wonder to how God is speaking. Can you take some time to listen today? On this “feast day” of Teresa, might you give yourself the gift of a few moments of silence in which you can see God’s presence in the laugh of a little child, in the rising sun, through a friend’s encouragement or challenge, in the surrender experienced through a moment of suffering, in a favorite Psalm, or a random encounter with an old friend?

Can you relinquish your firm grip on control? Your compulsive need be needed by another? Your exhausting need to achieve?

Teresa says, “God so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer.” And she reminds us, “if you fall sometimes, do not lose heart. Keep striving to walk your path with integrity. God will draw out the good even from your fall.”

Can you receive God’s grace through her?

Take some time in this room to taste and see how God is attending to you. Even if your circumstances are difficult, pay attention to small and surprising ways that God shows up. Dwell in this room as long as you need to. Return to it often for the resources you need, the discernment it provides, the grace your soul longs for.


Blog Post 1 – Introduction – (Re)Union

Blog Post 2 – Out of Illusions, Into the Depths

Blog Post 3 – Entering the Journey | St. Teresa’s First Mansion

Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr (I love Starr’s translation of Teresa, John, Lady Julian, etc. She is a fresh new translator of these classic works. Her introduction alone is worth the price of the book.)

Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss (this book is the cheapest investment in your own therapy you’ll ever experience, though the emotional and spiritual investment may be costly!)

Into the Silent LandMartin Laird (this is best accessible introduction to the purpose and practice of contemplative prayer I know. Laird is an Augustinian priest teaching early Christian studies at Villanova U.)

Entering the Journey | St. Teresa’s First Mansion

“The soul is like a castle made exclusively of diamond or some other very clear crystal. In this castle, there are a multitude of dwellings just as in heaven there are many mansions.” St. Teresa of Avila

At first, Teresa’s description of an “interior castle” with many dwellings sounds like esoteric mumbo-jumbo. Because we live such pragmatic lives in an efficiency-oriented world, Teresa’s inward journey feels strange. But being a kind of spiritual doctor of the soul, she knows what ails us. She knows how exhausted we are. She sees our fragmentation. She knows it personally.

Teresa struggled with spiritual apathy and angst for decades until she picked up a book given to her by her uncle. The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Spanish mystic Francis Osuna awakened her to her inner divisions, inviting her to spiritual “recollection” – literally, to be re-collected. She recognized that her soul was dispersed in a thousand different directions, and she entered into a journey of self-knowledge, as she called it – a journey toward wholeness, undividedness, shalom.

This is our invitation, as well. Busy and scattered, we do not take the necessary time to stop, to pay attention to our hearts, and to gather back our fragmented parts. “What a shame that, through our own unconsciousness, we do not know ourselves,” Teresa writes. Our spiritual laziness leaves us addictively attached to all kinds of “reptiles and vipers” which hound us outside of the castle, frustrating our longed-for peace and impeding our effectiveness in mission.

You see, at our worst we are externalized, seeking satisfaction in things ‘out there’ when infinite joy is already ours. How? Because the King is on the throne, in the castle, at the very center of our being. There, God dwells in inexhaustible light. The warmth of God’s love draws us in. We need not search for it ‘out there’. Union is not acquired, but realized…realized as already ours. And so, Teresa says “Go within!” She says, “The sun at the center radiates to every part.” In a sense, she is saying, “Wake up. Live your life. Live from your center, which is God.” This begins by entering the castle.

Interior CastleHow do we enter the castle? Through contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is the doorway. It is a prayer of awareness more than a prayer of words. It requires presence and imagination. It invites us to look within, to the “plains and caves and caverns” of our being (Augustine) in order to notice our dis-order and dis-ease. Often, our wordy prayers get in the way of real intimacy. Think of a conversation with an intimate friend – does incessant talking breed intimacy? Sometimes, our talking gets in the way. We stay up in our heads. We avoid what might be revealed in our hearts.

And so, begin by allowing yourself 20 minutes of silence. Can you do this for yourself? In the silence, tune in to your spirit. This may be the only thing you can accomplish amidst the noise of your soul. Don’t expect some spiritual breakthrough. Just be faithful in the act. Your sincere intention is enough. Teresa might tell you to expect many inner disturbances. As you cross the drawbridge into your inner being, those nasty “reptiles and vipers” of your attachments will rear their ugly heads, attempting to distract. Your old addictions will arise. Racing thoughts. The pull to binge. The distraction of political or sports news. The everyday apathy and laziness of spiritual inattention. That is alright. Just attend. The Spirit is in the depths, drawing you in.

Just attend.

In the first room, three things will happen.

First, you are invited to humility. This is the fruit of self-knowledge for Teresa. Humility, in fact, may come from humiliation – an awareness of just how deep the addiction goes, or just how distracted you are, or how much resentment you live with. You will be tempted to leave the castle and give up. Don’t. Stay attuned. This first stage is a battle. Knowing ourselves naturally breeds humility because we become aware of just how far from God we are.

Second, you will experience a sense of inner chaos. Leaving the security of your attachments is akin to the Israelites leaving Egypt. It’s the only game in town, and it’s the game you know. “Switching stories” is difficult. We are secure in the things we know. Allow for significant disruption. Welcome it. Welcome God, the great disrupter. This will be hard.

Third, listen for the soft whisper of the Beloved. God is drawing you ever further, deeper still, into intimacy. It is what you most deeply long for. It is the only cure for your addictive soul. So, listen. And be drawn in by love.

The first mansion is like an addiction treatment center. Entering requires intention. Staying, however, takes a wrestling match with God. You will suffer withdrawal. You will fight silence. You will abandon the journey. But know this – God is infinitely patient. God longs for intimacy. God will continue to draw you in. The invitation never, ever ends.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Resources for the Journey 

Blog Post 1 – Introduction – (Re)Union

Blog Post 2 – Out of Illusions, Into the Depths

Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr (I love Starr’s translation of Teresa, John, Lady Julian, etc. She is a fresh new translator of these classic works. Her introduction alone is worth the price of the book.)

Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss (this book is the cheapest investment in your own therapy you’ll ever experience, though the emotional and spiritual investment may be costly!)

Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird (this is best accessible introduction to the purpose and practice of contemplative prayer I know. Laird is an Augustinian priest teaching early Christian studies at Villanova U.)

out of illusions, into the depths | st. teresa’s invitation to you (2 in the series)

I love St. Teresa. I often joke that she’s my favorite 16th century “Reformer,” particularly when I am around friends and students from the Reformed tradition. St. Teresa lived south of Calvin and Luther in Spain during the tumultous 16th century, and her “reform” – while vastly different in form and content than the others – nonetheless was a profound invitation to grace, to freedom, to becoming unshackled during a time of exteriorized, shallow, ritualistic religiosity.

If you read my first blog in this series, I mentioned resources (see below) for you to use to journey with me and others (mostly, a brave group of students at Western Theological Seminary) currently engaging Teresa’s life and journey. In these resources, you’ll read short bio’s of Teresa, and discover that she was no stoic nun.

Teresa was a fierce and wild soul.

As a child, she would have preferred chasing the Moors out of town to studying and playing the role a young woman in a patriarchal Spanish society. She was often brazen and flirtatious, so much so that life in a convent seemed to her father to be the best container for her. But though religious life would change it, it never tamed her.

StTeresaIconInChurchIn fact, her remarkable inner life (seen most imaginatively in her work The Interior Castle) is, well…all the more remarkable…when you consider that it was cultivated during a time of conquest, polarization, and segregation. Consider the fact that she was a woman in a radically patriarchal society, that she was of Jewish ancestry during the Spanish Inquisition (when Jews were being hunted down), and a “reformer” of the order when a counter-Reformation was afoot and you’ll see that she was not your ordinary dull monk. Truth be told (and it’s not a pleasant truth), she might have preferred joining her brothers on their explorations of the new-found-land overseas, as at heart she was an adventurer. And while I have no reason to believe she would have or could have endorsed the genocidal mission they were on, she nonethless took her own journey of ‘conquest’ to her interior world, leaving us a map for our own journeys from slavery to freedom.

In coming blogs, I’ll elaborate more on this. For now, it’s important to see that she is inviting you and me on a journey. A vast “interior castle” is the primary metaphor she uses, and the journey from outside the castle (where many dangers lurk) to its deepest inner center, where God dwells in Christ and by the Spirit drawing us in, ever more intimately, to union. You see, Teresa sees herself (and us) in peril. She sees us living in a world of illusion, of falsity, of appearances but no substance. She does not see the world, itself, as evil, but (like CS Lewis) she sees us desiring far too little. This is, after all, a journey of desire, and she invites us out of our numbing addictions, our anesthetic attachments, and our dumb idols into the “boxing ring” of the interior castle, where we’ll do our real wrestling with God.

You see, the problem is that we’re not in the ring. Teresa sees us fiddling with all kinds of things that capture desire, refracting it in a thousand directions other than the one intended. She sees us as fractured, fragmented, divided. Don’t you feel that way sometimes? Perhaps, she’d see me checked out all weekend on my couch captured by the substitute drama of football and say, “Chuck, looks like’s a perfectly fine sport to me, but it has captivated your whole attention and rendered your heart numb.” St. Teresa becomes our kind, but honest, spiritual director. She calls us out of the illusions and into the depths.

And it is an adventure. You see, the interior journey she invites us on is not about hyper-therapeutic navel-gazing or inner peace. Those are the carictures of those afraid to take inner journeys. No, this journey is central to the mission for Teresa. She did not sit in a room staring into the sky. No, Teresa was often on-the-road, putting her own health in peril, strategizing and conferring in order to build a movement of women and men radically committed to being fully alive, wholehearted. A woman in a man’s world, she conferred with governers and the political elite, often charming her way into good deals that landed buildings and land for her movement. So, let’s dismiss any notion that this journey is anti-missional or new-agey. No, this is an inside-out affair.

It is a journey of desire…from the little-d desires which hijack our attention to Big-D Desire…union with our Beloved. Thoroughy Augustinian, she believed that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.

This is what I deeply long for. You?

Are you ready for the adventure?

Resources for the Journey 

Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr (I love Starr’s translation of Teresa, John, Lady Julian, etc. She is a fresh new translator of these classic works. Her introduction alone is worth the price of the book.)

Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss (this book is the cheapest investment in your own therapy you’ll ever experience, though the emotional and spiritual investment may be costly!)

Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird (this is best accessible introduction to the purpose and practice of contemplative prayer I know. Laird is an Augustinian priest teaching early Christian studies at Villanova U.)

(re)union: my journey back

I am back on the blog. I have been (mostly) silent as a blogger for two years now. It’s taken two years (and will take longer) for a kind of inner renewal that I desperately needed. If you’re willing to listen and read, I’ll tell you why.

I found myself at a threshold of my own life about 3 years ago. I had my hands in many good things. I had a dream job in a dream city with extraordinary friends. I was published. My blogging was well-received. I had my hands in some very creative and entrepreneurial things. But I was so utterly externalized that the rich source of inner life animating my work and relationships felt distant. As we’ve all experienced, I felt a disconnect between what I was saying and what I was living. And that breach of integrity (particularly for an Enneagram 1) was excruciating.

These threshold moments provide opportunities for growth that can pass us by if we fail to recognize them. We may double down, work harder, or anesthetize more.

Or… we can listen to that small still voice, that quiet but relentless urging from within, beckoning us to move beyond the safety and comfort of what is sure and certain. T.S. Eliot knew this voice:

Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

At the time, it seemed for me that a significant vocational shift might be a conduit for this exploration, and it has proved to be just that. But, we never know for sure when we make these big decisions. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable with the “knowing God’s will” jargon, as if we could read the tea leaves of vocation with utter clarity. Perhaps, in the first half of life we might talk about “right” and “wrong” decisions around job choices and vocational shifts. But, as we grow older, we realize how uninteresting it is to live by this externalized and self-judging code. Instead, we listen within, we trust gut-urges beckoning us into unexplored territory, we consult wise wilderness guides, and launch. That’s what I did, on multiple levels.

My own vocational journey is only a small piece of a larger personal journey. We remain externalized if we think geographic orFeatured image vocational shifts will tame our restless spirits. The sojourning spirit is deep within each of us, if we’d listen, but it is not fundamentally about finding ‘the job’ or ‘the voice’ or ‘the degree’ or ‘the position’. The journey, at least as I know it, is a journey to union. It is a journey from fragmentation to wholeness, a journey from exile to home, a journey from attachment to union, a journey from hiding to “being hidden” in Christ, a journey from neurosis to theosis.

That final phrase is the title of the last chapter of my first book, Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places. I am not even sure I knew all that it implied. I intuited it and experienced it a bit, but it was still very much an idea. It remained externalized. It is safe to remain in the control tower of my head.

In the late 1990’s, a class with theologian Alistair McGrath exposed me to the mystics. Back then, 20-something Chuck felt drawn to a deeper journey offered by contemplatives like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Their gracious invitation into union felt so freeing, particularly as I watched my theological camp duking it out over right views of the courtroom language of St. Paul. While my kin seemed obsessed with the courtoom, the mystics were talking about the bedroom. Perhaps, 20-something Chuck was drawn to the more emotional, even eroticized journey of the mystics, the journey of desire, which is far more fundamental to what it means to be human (see Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom). In those early days, I dabbled with contemplative prayer, mostly to quell the incessant anxiety in my being born of my need to be the perfect, put-together, well-liked, smart, helpful pastor. But the contemplative journey came to a jolting stall when I hit a vocational detour in the early 2000’s, prompting me to double down and anesthetize the pain once again. I lost touch with that inner journey – and thus, with with One hidden in me – instead trusting my gifts or my personality or my connections to get me through.

Like you, I am a master of self-sabotage. I long for divine union but like my immediate and temporarily-satisfying union-substitutes. Now, by some combination of ego-drivenness, white privilege, and effective networks (translated by Christians as “God’s blessing”) I managed to forge together a decade of service to the church and to pastoral formation. I got to pastor at City Church San Francisco, I got to start another counseling center, and help create Newbigin House. Those will always be to me five of the most full and rich years of my life. But my drivenness took a toll in health and psychological fragmentation, and sometimes I’d find myself up speaking in front of a group of pastors wondering who and where I really was.

This brings me to today. I can use the word today because I can actually be present today. We’re often everywhere other than where we are right here and right now. This is why I think the question Where are you? is so much more significant than Who are you? I know many people who answer the Who are you? with all of the right theological descriptors, but are far from themselves, far from home. We are often disconnected…lost in our busyness, obsessing on our Fantasy Football team, anxiously monitoring the market, or trolling social media…far from home, far from present. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you.

Today, through some dying, I am back. Back in my being, back in my body, back to (at least) a momentary wholeheartedness which allows me to say, with some integrity, that I am actually writing these words.

I call this re-union. With God. With myself. As Merton says, to be born again is to become most deeply oneself.

The last two years, in particular, have required a deep dive into contemplative practice (not just contemplative theologizing). It has come in fits and starts. Sara and I were hit with a big tax bill a year and a half ago which led me to double down yet again, taking every available speaking gig to help pay down the debt, talking “wholeheartedness” while feeling at times like I was coming apart at the seams. Last Fall, I hit a wall and knew it couldn’t continue. But I was a slave to the calendar I didn’t manage. I completed my next book Wholeheartedness in that season, my life a kind of experiment in being present amidst the busyness.

In the Spring, I did a silent retreat with James Finley that kickstarted the most intentional interior journey I’ve ever been on. My primary spiritual director has been St. Teresa of Avila. With astounding accuracy, she describes the perils and delights of this inner sojourn. It is my journey with her which has prompted my desire to blog again. I want to invite you into this journey.

The problem with blogging, as I’ve experienced it, is that it can be so externalized, so reactive, so geared to likes and shares and influence and klout and…the agenda of the false self. The online writers I admire are attuned to this reality, and even share their battles with remarkable humility. I continue with social media knowing its draw on my own narcissism because to stop speaking and sharing (whether as a writer or teacher or blogger or poster) based of a fear of my own narcissism would require me to shut it down altogether and perhaps join a monastic order (which doesn’t sound like a bad idea, sometimes). At the same time, I do think that in this particular time we need to be very wise stewards of our words. Words matter, and they grow in significance when there is silence in-between. The practice of solitude gives soul and depth to our unique voices.

And so, my movement back into blogging will come with great intentionality. What I will be sharing with you is a journey I am taking (along with a class of 20 brave women and men) into Teresa’s Interior Castle. With permission from my students, I may even share some of their musings. The focus is on experiencing union with God. In my tradition, we often talk in broad strokes about the “Gospel” changing us or “repentance” renewing us or “adoption” comforting us. But, I have no small accumulation of qualitative data from dozens of pastors and laypeople that there is much talk of union and little experience of it. Our love affairs with smaller union-substitutes tell the story. We live in a radically addicted culture. It is not enough to believe the Gospel. It is not enough to claim our courtoom verdict. Our desire must grow. Our love must be kindled. “We must fly to our beloved Homeland,” as St. Augustine says. St. Teresa helps give us wings.

And so, I invite you to join me (and my students) on this journey, participating through this blog and perhaps even using the resources my class is using (see below). I also invite you to share this blog with others who may want to tag along. Regardless, thank you for reading.

Resources for the Journey 

Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr (I love Starr’s translation of Teresa, John, Lady Julian, etc. She is a fresh new translator of these classic works. Her introduction alone is worth the price of the book.)

Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss (this book is the cheapest investment in your own therapy you’ll ever experience, though the emotional and spiritual investment may be costly!)

Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird (this is best accessible introduction to the purpose and practice of contemplative prayer I know. Laird is an Augustinian priest teaching early Christian studies at Villanova U.)

A Report from Georgia Diocese Clergy Conference

I was privileged to spend Apr 26-28 with the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, an extraordinary group of folks. Here are some highlights written up by Canon Frank Logue.

Dr. Chuck deGroat speaks to the clergy gathered for their spring conference at Honey Creek.
Clergy Encouraged to Self Examination, Healing

The Spring Clergy Conference, which ended yesterday at Honey Creek, encouraged clergy to take up the hard inner work of self examination in order to better deal with difficult people in ministry. Dr. Chuck deGroat taught from his book Toughest People to Love. DeGroat is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and Co-Founder and a Senior Fellow at Newbigin House of Studies, San Francisco.

DeGroat’s stance is that people are not problems to be fixed, but image bearers to be know by a God who pursues you. He told the clergy that rather than falling into the trap of becoming narcissists with a messianic complex, they are to relax and be attentive to God’s rhythms, instead of trying to be the savior. The antidote to the problems most of us face is to deal with the hidden parts of ourselves we are afraid to show others. Relationships he noted are the most life-giving forces in the world and also the most wounding. We are both wounded and healed through connection. DeGroat said, “The best way to get to know yourself is through the mirror of another.”

DeGroat taught of the public self we present to other, which is known to all. He also spoke of the private self, which is known to family and friends. Beyond this is the secret self known to you alone and the hidden self known only to God. He described how each of us comes to build up the public self and that this is necessary. But then the risk each persons feels is that this false facade will be exposed. Yet he said, “This is not your deepest you, which remains hidden with God in Christ.”

He taught that people have deep investments in these highly edited versions of themselves and quoted famed preacher C.H. Spurgeon who said, “Take off your masks; the church was never meant to be a masquerade.”

In working with people who prove to be difficult for us, deGroat said, “Each person you meet has a story of how he or she became the person they are. Curiosity and empathy are great tools in uncovering that story.” In being curious about someone’s story, we should honor the mask as we invite him or her to a deeper vulnerability.

Clergy broke into groups of three several times during the conference to do some of this work of sharing from their deeper selves. During the last session of the conference, deGroat challenged the clergy to name losses as a spiritual discipline. He said, “God uses pain, loss, and humiliation to strip us of our false self.”

He encouraged clergy to write an autobiography of loss, by taking six months to a year in naming losses in your life. Describe in writing the loss and experience the pain of that loss, whether of a job, a relationship, a goal never achieved. This is a means of opening one up to way God uses loss for our spiritual growth. He said, “We don’t have to do this perfectly. We need people who can hold us accountable in this journey of fits and starts.” But the journey matters for God wants each of us whole, undivided, no longer hidden.

In addition to this powerful teaching, the conference centered around worship in the chapel with daily Eucharists and a service of Evening Prayer. The sermons by the Revs. Dave Johnson and Lauren Flowers also grounded our work in scripture in meaningful ways.

An album of photos is online here: Spring Clergy Conference. The Fall Clergy Conference this September 27-29 will be for both clergy and their spouses.

#Ferguson: A Gospel Issue

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
-Langston Hughes

It was in my college Liberation Theology class back in 1990 that I first discovered different ‘Gospel’ perspectives – perspectives from those steeped in death and persecution, suffering and scarcity.  We spent evenings at my professors house reading and discussing Gustavo Gutiérrez, Juan Luis Segundo, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, and a host of African and Asian liberation theologians.  It may have been the first ‘aha’ moment for me, the first realization that the Gospel wasn’t just about getting saved and voting pro-life.

A next significant time came during the year I lived with Tom in the hood in Chicago.  Though I grew up on Long Island with great diversity, I was a suburban kid, mostly protected from the issues Tom grew up with.  Tom was black, and he showed me and told me how different it was for him to leave the apartment and walk down the street.  Here again, I was challenged to wrestle with whether or not the ‘Gospel’ had something to say about Tom’s everyday fear.

In the past 20 or so years, it was been those who I pastor as well as clients I’ve cared for who’ve helped me understand that my life, as a white man with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed wife and daughters, is and will always be different…and privileged.  Even in our mostly Asian neighborhood in San Francisco, we were beloved, celebrities in a way.  I haven’t experienced the kinds of things I’ve heard described by Tom, and by many folks I’ve counseled and cared for.  I haven’t been ignored by waitresses in restaurants, targeted by suspicious law enforcement officers, followed, stared down.  I haven’t been overlooked for a job or a loan.  I’ve rarely felt altogether different.  I haven’t been labeled as “angry” or walked down the street anxiously or wondered what I should wear or how quickly I could walk or what might make me look like a criminal to another.  These have not been my worries.  But they have been Tom’s, and many, many others.

What I’ve seen is that in my privileged white world, the ‘Gospel’ is domesticated.  Ferguson is not on our radar.  I’d dare say for many white evangelicals, today is just another day.  The real scandal would be if some prominent evangelical wrote a pro-LGBTQ book, for instance.  The Gospel is tamed, reduced, narrowed.  It becomes a balm for guilt-ridden souls who crave 140-character tweets reminding us that we’re accepted, but it hardly seems applicable to what is happening in Ferguson.  And, after all, isn’t what is happening there really just about some angry black folks who’ve, once again, made a much bigger deal out of something that clearly was the result of a young black man’s aggression against a police officer?

We don’t get it, friends.  And we can’t, and won’t, until we walk a hundred miles in the shoes of someone very different than us or until our friendships reflect the diversity of society.  Statistics show, in fact, that we have the least diverse social network – 91% white, and only one-percent black.  We naively think that changes in voting rights some forty years ago solved the problem of race.  And as Christians, we become incensed at a Facebook dialogue about abortion or homosexuality, but hardly understand the fury of young black men and women in the streets last night who feel so powerless that throwing stones and burning things provide some outlet, albeit a tragic one, for a voice.  As MLK Jr said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”  But we’ll say, “You see…they are so angry.  Why do they always have to make it about race?”  I’ve heard this so much that my stomach turns and I’ve finally begun calling people out.

This leads me to the important point that Ferguson is a Gospel issue.  Yes, it’s a justice issue and a race issue.  But it’s a Gospel issue.  Now, if you have a tamed and domesticated Gospel tuned into your particular moral litmus test issues, you won’t see this.  But St. Paul did.  For St. Paul, the core of the Gospel was about reconciliation – God and sinner, Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free (Gal. 3:28).  This was the necessary implication of justification by faith alone.  Justification was never simply a get out of jail free card, an individualistic guilt-appeasement balm.  Justification opens the gates to freedom, to reconciliation, to wholeness inside and out.  It puts into contact with the outsider, the person who’ll make us feel uncomfortable, the different – a sexual, racial, and geographic outsider (Acts 8), for example.  It puts us into contact these cut-off parts of ourselves.  It levels the playing field; the powerful are brought down and the powerless are brought up.  And the Gospel invitation, particularly for those of us with privilege, is to go down willingly, to be crucified with Christ, to be the ptochos – impoverished, broken, brought to the end of ourselves, dying like that grain of wheat that must fall to the ground to bear fruit.  All for the sake of the other.  We must go, as hard as it is, first to listen.  We must just begin with listening, though our souls have become so attuned to the endless political chatter and certitude of the Hannity’s and Maddow’s.

Jesus would have been in Ferguson last night.  He wouldn’t have paid a whole lot of attention to a decision on the indictment.  He knows better than any of us how “facts” can be aligned with whatever narrative is preferred.  He wouldn’t have been wearing a hat or t-shirt for a particular side.  No, I think Jesus would have been there standing alongside the family of Michael Brown, holding them, crying with them.  I think Jesus would sit with Officer Wilson, naming the fear and anxiety and anger he was feeling, and reminding him that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  I think he’d be with young men and women who went to bed confused and ashamed that they had participated in violence, looted stores, and started fires.  He’d say, “I get it.  I see the anger.  I’m not going anywhere.  Let’s talk.”

Jesus crosses the barriers.  His Gospel is not domesticated, it is invasive, courageous, pursuing.  God became man, crossing the ultimate barrier, crossing into death, going down, going further than I’d ever want to go.  But we need to, now, with courage.

Far more hinges on how we meet one another from here on out than on an indictment in Ferguson, MO.  Until my white (mostly evangelical) brothers and sisters are as impassioned by this as they are the next Rob Bell book, I don’t see much changing.  And when I say that, I’m not saying that you need to get behind an indictment but get behind your black brothers and sisters, to get into their worlds, their realities, their sufferings.  I’m saying we need to ask questions, to listen, to exercise holy curiosity.  I’m saying that we might have blindspots, might not see so clearly.  I’m saying that we really just don’t get it, at a fundamental level, and must make ourselves available for metanoia.  I’m saying that we need to knock on a black neighbor’s door and say, “I’m sorry I’ve never come by.  I’m confused by everything that is going on, and I wonder if I’m missing something.  I need your help”  We are addicts of privilege and power, and it’s time we acknowledge that we need help.

If we can be fueled by the same passion that led Jesus to cross the ultimate barrier and St. Paul to leave the nest of Jerusalem and cross barriers that left him imprisoned and reviled and ultimately murdered himself, perhaps then we will see the Good News through Isaiah’s eyes:

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
17 The effect of righteousness will be peace,
    and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
    in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Isa. 32)

I pray for peaceful habitation, for quiet and secure dwellings in Ferguson today.

the problem with loving god, but not loving yourself… (pastors and theological eggheads, take note!)

Love yourself.  It’s championed as the pathway to happiness and gratitude by some and scoffed at as the pathway to narcissism and godlessness by others.

But check this out.  Bernard of Clarivaux, the towering 12th century Cisterian abbot, advisor to the Pope, mystical writer, and one of the most significant voices in church history sees four stages of growth and maturation for Christians.  Just wait for what comes last…images

  1. “Love of Self for One’s Own Sake.” This is where we all begin…trying to make life happen on our own.  We try to give ourselves the love we need.  We try to find it in a thousand other substitutes.  But we blow it.  We stumble and fail and sabotage our happiness.  This kind of self-love is ultimately self-sabotaging.
  2. “Love of God for One’s Own Sake.” Much like the first step in AA, we admit we’re powerless.  Our acknowledgment opens us up to a relationship with God, but this stage is much like a child relying on a parent for help.  We go to God for the help we need, but we don’t yet know God intimately or experience union in any kind of deep way.
  3. “The Love of God for God’s Sake.” In this stage, we turn our attention to God.  In fact, we may talk much more about being God-centered.  I’ve lived much of my life here as a good “Reformed” boy.  Finding Reformed theology was like a second grace, and I devoured books about God’s character.  I kept saying, “It’s not about me. It’s about GOD!” We might even become a bit arrogant, and dismiss any talk of self-love as a sinful remnant of the past.  Our focus on God is an important development in our maturity, but if we get stuck here we’ll miss out on the promised union.
  4. “Love of One’s Self for God’s Sake.” Here we discover we’ve been created for intimacy.  God turns the tables on us.  He shows us how delightful we are. He convinces us that we’re worth getting to know.  We discover we’re loved and loveable. We learn intimacy, surrender, and enjoy contemplative union.  We actually get to know God in a far more personal and intimate way.

Are you on this particular journey to self-love?  For many of us theological egg-heads, the last movement might be the most critical.  It may also be the most frightening.  Because, as I’ve gotten to know myself and many of you, we’ve focused on God precisely because we didn’t like ourselves.  We found a theology that told us how bad we are.  And, it even helped a bit with our deep sense of shame and guilt.  But we find ourselves constantly returning to our old, dry wells.  Our God-focus, though it helps at times, doesn’t make our addictions go away, doesn’t curtail our sometimes scary anger, doesn’t necessarily lead to humility.

Take heart.  Bernard says, “God wants you to stop, to relax, to allow yourself to be embraced. He’s smiling at you.  Yes you.  He actually thinks you are worth loving, worth knowing.  And he won’t stop telling you how much he adores you.”

This isn’t hyper-therapeutic, new-agey spirituality.  This is ancient wisdom for hungry and thirsty souls.

Shame and Grace in the Pastor’s Life

The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or for worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with those moments if we don’t stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us, and around us, and inside us, we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God, too.  Sad to say, the people who seem to lose touch with themselves and with God most conspicuously are of all things, ministers. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets: A Memoir

A friend emailed the other day with a tragic story of a pastor-friend whose recent affair has blown up his family.  In my world, this is an everyday occurrence, and one I can become numb to until it hits home, even closer – to a friend, to a student, to myself.  And then I’m pummeled again with the reality that I’m human, you’re human, we’re human.  We’re fragile.  We’re afraid.  We’re ashamed.

But are we allowed to be?  To be sure, one of the characteristics of most pastors I know is a highly-honed and well-developed Inner Critic which will not allow him or her to fail.  Let’s not be naive – we get into this profession because we’re prone to want to perfect others, and this is part-and-parcel of our own perfectionism.  Few pastors I know are immune to shame and guilt, and they’re on the sociopath spectrum.  So, let’s acknowledge first that we’re really hard on ourselves.  We work hard to please, to perform, to compartmentalize every seemingly unacceptable part of ourselves.

But let’s take it an (honest) step further – we’re not allowed to be human.  Few of us will keep our jobs is we dare say what we secretly think, feel, and do.  As Wayne and Hands say in Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy, most pastors hide behind the masks of hero or clown.  The hero will always come through.  The clown will always make people feel good.  And with good reason.  People want our personas.

To do what we do, we need to cut ourselves off from our hearts, from our stories.  That surge of anxiety or emptiness that emerges from deep within as we’re reading Scripture before our sermons – well, stuff it back down.  Don’t dare bring it up, then, there, anywhere.  Or, if you do (like, with a therapist, perhaps), make sure you couch it in the most optimistic way – “This doesn’t happen very much…I mean, I’m really pretty stable, but every so often…”

We do everything we can to transcend our humanity.  Though we may say, “Gospel, gospel, gospel,” we live far from “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  And so we perpetuate Adam’s first sin.  Instead of embracing our humble human estate, we feel shame at it, and compensate.  Rather than listening to our aching bodies and souls, we reject them in favor of the glittering, always-on persona.

The Catholic theologian Johannes Baptist Metz offers us a way back home, to our bodies, to ourselves:

Understood correctly, our love for ourselves, our “yes” to our self, may be regarded as the “categorical imperative” of the Christian faith: You shall lovingly accept the humanity entrusted to you! You shall be obedient to your destiny! You shall not continually try to escape it! You shall be true to yourself! You shall embrace yourself! Our self-acceptance is the basis of the Christian creed. Assent to God starts in our sincere assent to ourselves, just as sinful flight from God starts in our flight from ourselves.

Could we be ok being human?  With whatever that entails?

It’s really hard for me.  Lately, I’ve been off.  Just off.  I traveled a lot, speaking here and there.  I felt present and whole for a while, and then I started getting tired, and anxious, and disconnected.  I went into a kind of survival mode to survive it.  I remember the night this started.  I was in a Chicago hotel bar having missed a flight to a gig I was supposed to do.  Part of me was grateful to have a respite from being ‘on’.  I drank a few too many martini’s, ate a crappy meal, and woke up feeling worse the next morning.  Headache.  Nauseous.  I raced to the airport to get my break-of-dawn make-up flight only to realize it was cancelled.  I sat in O’Hare, almost incapable of self-care or self-reflection.  I simmered in anger, anxiety, and nausea.

For the next few weeks, I did my best to survive – to give decent talks, to be present to people, to fulfill my obligations.  A friend of mine talks about performance in baseball language.  I wasn’t swinging and missing, but I was hitting singles and doubles.  My Inner Critic was mad at me.  I wasn’t ok with this.  But even in regular times of quiet and contemplative space, I couldn’t get beyond the war between my Inner Critic was waging inside.  And so, I continued to feel worse – physically, emotionally, spiritually.

In these times I feel powerless to stop the inner torrent of shame.  Do you?  Am I alone in this?  The onslaught of people dependent on me (including my family) didn’t allow me much space to listen, to sit, to be.  I brought my anxious, scattered self on a trip to Europe with my family, and it jolted and jerked within in a way that left me tired, restless, anxious, angry, and resentful.

All throughout, the deeper voice within – God’s voice – kept saying, “So what?  You’re human.  It’s ok.  Your talk stunk.  Your failure to get back to people promptly disappoints.  Your anxiety feels horrible.  OK.  So, there you go.  You’re not superhuman.”

Can we listen to that still, small voice within whispering grace?  Can I?  Can you hear that voice, or is the noise too loud?

And even more, is there a limit on our grace – to ourselves, to others?  Because, believe me, pastors feel that there is a limit.  Perhaps we can tell you about a struggle with wanting the nice car our neighbor has.  Perhaps we might even admit an occasional battle with generalized “lust.”  And nowadays, we’ve developed a whole ‘gospel’ language that allows for general self-disclosure – “I’ve found my esteem in man and not God.”  But let’s be clear, here:  This does absolutely nothing at the soul level, and may only endear us to those who say, “Oh, our pastor is soooo honest.”

Is there a limit?  Can we say more?

Are there places where we can name the constant, burdening anxiety that drives us to drink too much?

Are there places where we can name the terrorizing rage we feel within at certain people?

…the emptiness we feel when we preach?

…the chasm between us and our spouse, which prompts us to wonder if we could get divorced and still remain in our position?

…the online chatrooms and peepshows and porn?

…the personal financial crisis we’re having as we cast vision for our church’s fiscal health?

…the health issues which seems to arise from our constant anxiety?

…the powerlessness and subsequent rage of being overlooked as a woman in ministry, or racial or ethnic minority?

…the secret you’ve kept despite being married, about being gay, about being in love with your best friend?

…the suicidal plans you’ve dreamed up as an escape from the prison of your life and ministry?

…the feeling of utter incompetence in your role?

…the loneliness?

Can we bring these things to our leadership team?  Our elders?  The church planting committee?

Most pastors I know would offer a resounding NO.  It’s not safe.  It’s not ok.  And so we hide.  And if and when something comes out that reveals our hiddenness – an indiscretion, a scandal – we’re targeted with people’s anger and disappointment.  I know few leaders in these situations who have said, “My church leadership actually came to me and said that they feel somewhat responsible for cultivating an atmosphere where I couldn’t be honest.”

So…finally… are we being thoughtfully and wisely preventative as churches?  Let me offer a few thoughts.

– Does your church leadership have a open-door, no-judgment policy for your pastors if she or he ever needs to come clean?  (This does not mean no consequences…but it does mean a safe, non-judgmental place where the pastor can be heard.)  Will counseling be paid for?  Is therapy even ok?

– Do you have a regular sabbatical plan?  Do pastors expect to have the church’s support to get away every 5-7 years with the blessing of the church and with some financial help, as well?

– Is there attention given to the daily rhythms of pastoral life, with ample time away for solitude, with the phone and email off?  Is this ok?  Or will it be perceived as lazy by the church and its leadership?

– Is there a process or people who can give feedback when they sense the pastor is not very present, or angry, or anxious, or checked out, or too busy?

– Is there an expectation that the pastor is connected to another pastor, a spiritual direction, a coach, and/or a therapist…and is there ongoing attention paid to how that conversation is going?

– Is there an atmosphere where the relational strategies (for good or ill) of the pastor and leadership can be talked about, owned, acknowledged, and spoken about with candor and grace?

As Buechner says, there are moments in which for better or for worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with those moments if we don’t stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us, and around us, and inside us, we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God, too.

May we be attentive to these moments, as disruptive as they are.  May we see the moments when we’re humbled, humiliated, and HUMAN as sources of life and depth and as opportunities to be known, and not as moments to run from.  God give us grace for this hard road.

Impotent Words, Powerful Words

I’d like to introduce you to a friend and former student of mine, Matt Casada, a counselor and writer over at  There are many who are blogging and tweeting today, but I like to highlight up-and-coming voices that deserve a wide hearing.  When you read Matt’s words, I think you’ll know why.  You can read more about Matt at the end of this wonderful piece.  

Impotent Words, Powerful Words

Being that both my wife and I are counselors, we are for a lack of better words, in the business of bad news and sad stories. Week after week, we sit with people working through various aches and pains, disappointments and rejections, tragedies and traumas. And yet, one doesn’t simply stroll through the valleys without noticing dark clouds as they hide the light.

A few weeks ago, we received news that two different people from two different parts of our worlds had committed suicide within twenty-four hours of one another. Full of lament, I wondered what to say to dear friends who had just lost a son and brother. I wondered if I had words worth sharing: words that mattered, words that meaningfully impacted these dear ones.

Somehow in the face of such grief and loss, it’s hard to find ways to adequately speak into the pain and agony. Though I spent two years and a good deal of money towards a masters degree that would give me tools and skills to walk with people through their pain, I felt the impotence of words while journeying into this sacred space of loss.

I had and have no words capable of making our friends less sad. I had and have no words that allow someone to come to terms with losses that were never intended to be part of our human experience. I had and have no words powerful enough to insert peace and joy into the chaos and confusion found in the dark nights of the soul.

So often as we come into this soil of brokenness, we feel the uncomfortable pressure to become emotional surgeons. Charged with the task of cutting out and removing any remnants of sadness, ache, and pain, we invalidate thoughts and feelings meant to move us towards relationship. In this role, we will inevitably use our words as tools of harm that create distance rather than a deeper sense of connectedness.

Living from this place, even the kindest words can become self-serving boundaries veiled behind the guise of compassion. Somehow in the darkest, hardest places in life, words about God’s goodness, His good plans for those he loves, and promises to pray to this good God can become trite, empty words leaving the hearer even more alone in their pain.

If the purpose of our words is to manage pain or take away sadness, they will either fall short or create distance, leaving separation, loneliness, disappointment, and rejection. And all too often, our words have this lasting impact due to our need to hide.

In response to the deep disconnect from our inherent worth, value, and dignity we have moved into places of hiddenness. Tragically, our insistence upon hiding is one of the recurring themes found throughout Scripture. Like our first parents, we find fig leaves to hide behind, lest in our fear and shame, we be exposed.

Driven by this fear and shame, we feel the incessant need to do more, to say more in order to hide and cover up our insufficiencies. And though no two fig leaves are alike, we each create a cover up story based upon our performance. Here, we must find the right words and actions, constantly censoring ourselves so as to not be exposed.

This story of hiding is your story and mine, and it is a sad story. It is a story where the relational soil intended to bring about health and peace slowly erodes due to our perpetual movements towards hiding.

But what if in some paradoxical way, the dark places offer us a deep gift of redemption and restoration? What if somehow the shadows of the valley shine a light upon our hiding narratives, inviting us towards a different, restorative way of relating?

In the daily offices, those ancient prayers prayed by those seeking to faithfully pray without ceasing, there is a small section of offering prayers for those “who have been given to me, and to whom I have been given.” What if the kindest, best word we have to offer is found in the simple act of being given?

I wonder if often the most powerful words are the ones that communicate our presence and availability. These are words that say: “I’m with you and don’t want you to be by yourself in this darkness.” These are words that say: “You matter to me. Your pain and ache matter to me. They matter enough to me that I’m willing to be with you while you’re there.”

Isn’t this the very thing that makes Christianity so powerful? The Scriptural narrative repeatedly tells of a God who uses words to emphatically remind us of His presence with and for us. The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Messiah, God with us, embodies words that say: “I am with you. Literally, I am with you in your pain, your shame, and your sorrow. There is nowhere I wouldn’t go in order for you to know that I am with you.”

Do we believe that the deepest offering we have in moments of ache and joy is simply found in offering the countenance of our full self? Maybe the best thing that can happen to us is found in being given the divine opportunity to sit with our discomfort while we sit with the pain of another. For it is here that we have the opportunity to practice the power of being. Because being is something worth practicing.


976565_10101457756730715_557964198_oOriginally from Knoxville, TN, Matt moved to Orlando, FL in July of 2010 to attend Reformed Theological Seminary. After graduating in 2012 with a Masters in Counseling, Matt opened a counseling practice in the greater Orlando area.

During his time in grad school, Matt met and dated his wife Ryan who is also a counselor in the area.

Matt works with clients facing depression, anxiety, addiction, relational problems, loneliness, life transitions, grief, and issues around eating. His writing is deeply impacted and informed by his time walking with clients as they courageously face the realities of their lives.

You can get to know Matt and read more of his words at and on twitter @mattcasada.

Leaving the wilderness: Advice for leaders and pastors

I wrote a book a few years back called Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places.  In it, I argued that our personal journeys mirror the Exodus journey of the Israelites long ago.  I see this in four major movements – 1) leaving egypt, the place of our bondage and fear 2) sinai – the place where we learn of our true identity and the pathway to life 3) wilderness – the necessary place where our identity is questioned, wrestled with, disrupted, confused, and worked through in lament and 4) union – our life beyond the wilderness where our deep identity as the beloved is internalized, believed, and enjoyed. home_nopeople

Now, if we get ‘stuck’ at Sinai, we become Pharisees, refusing to grow through the necessary confusion and suffering which deepens our identity and intimacy in and with God.  This can be the case for the most rigid fundamentalist who runs fearfully from any inkling of disruption or doubt, or the certain liberal whose dogmatism and close-mindedness is no less toxic than the fundamentalist’s.  The wilderness is the necessary place of humiliation for us all.  It is the way of purgation, in the classic sense, where we are stripped of our arrogance, our self-righteousness, our hypocrisy. The wilderness becomes the furnace for transformation.

But the wilderness is not a final destination.  I’ve found that pastoring and loving people in the ‘wilderness’ requires great patience (particularly for yourself as you navigate it!)  It is den of paradox, uncertainty, and confusion.  Bold and risky prayers are prayed.  At times, people find themselves exploring concepts that are deemed outside the lines by the doctrine police, whether on the left or right.  Sometimes we act and behave eccentrically.  We might even hurt others and ourselves, leaving a spouse, or leaving a church, or giving up on faith.  We need patience for ourselves and others as we wrestle with God, much like Jacob did, as they declare their confusion, much like Job did.  Those in authority will be frustrated, dismayed, reactive, and punitive depending on where they are on their journey.

But what if we don’t leave the wilderness?  I’ve taught for a long time that some find this to be a destination, where their questions and confusion are “baptized,” where uncertainty becomes the new certainty, where coloring outside the lines becomes a new arrogant and self-righteous identity.  While Sinai brings the danger of Pharisaical legalism and moralism, the wilderness brings the danger of existentialism and even Gnosticism, a sense that my experience is normative, that my expanded wilderness consciousness brings me greater access to God.  In fact, to our dismay we might find that this is a new ‘Egypt’ for us, another prison.

There is a group identity that comes with each of these.  Where at Sinai we connect through “dogma-bonding,” in the wilderness we connect through “trauma-bonding.”  Ours becomes the “messy” church, or the “broken” church, or the “open” church.  The new Gnosticism emerges through a sense that “we get it,” that “we’ve progressed further,” that somehow this group is no longer enslaved to the old dogmas.  And indeed, there is a freedom felt in this for many who were trapped in their old dogmatism and moralism. While honoring this new sense of freedom, we need to invite people to see the dangers of getting stuck in the wilderness.

Sometimes, this comes from the seeing that the arrogance and certainty here are just as toxic to them and others.

Sometimes, it comes from an intellectual honesty which admits that this new uncertainty is, in itself, a form of certainty, a ‘position’, a ‘confession’.

Sometimes, it comes when the wilderness wanderer realizes how exhausted he is.  The exhaustion I’ve seen here comes from a constant need to be different, edgy, open, engaged with new thinking, constantly defining himself as different or other.

In the last chapter of the book Leaving Egypt, I write on “Theosis or Neurosis.”  Theosis is the ancient way of talking about union with Christ, living out of our deepest identity as the beloved of God.  In this place, we have no need to compare or compete, no need to parade our eccentricities or edgy ideas, no need to apologize for holding a position or living from a particular confession.  We’re simply transparent.  We recognize the beauty and brokenness of all traditions, all dogmas, even our own, but choose to remain in the simul iustus et peccator of it all.

We relinquish the need to perfect others, to perfect our church, to perfect the community or the world.

We don’t give up participation in the process of bringing about the flourishing of it all, but we give up the need to do it on our terms.

We act with grace toward others, even those with whom we disagree.  From this place of identity, we need not treat the world as a theological combat zone.

We don’t mock and we lose the desire to be purposefully incendiary.

We live from a place of confession, within a tradition, with transparency and without elitism or dogmatic certainty.

We can honestly say, “I might be wrong, but here I stand.”

We become more patient with ourselves and others, recognizing that they’re navigating their own unique place on the exodus journey, and that at any time, at any moment, we might find ourselves together in Egypt again, waking up to new attachments and idolatries and enslavements together.  This becomes a joy, because we realize how human we are, and it’s ok…because we’re “in Christ,” the most secure location possible.

This is the journey I’ve been navigating in fits and starts for years, with many ups and downs, at some cost to myself and others, but with many “happy returns” along the way.  I suspect you can relate.

But knowing that there is an Exodus ‘map’ helps me see that promised land and yearn for its Rest.  I hope it does the same for you.