Echoes of Kindness

God has been speaking to me lately through what Margaret Feinberg calls “sacred echoes.”

A sacred echo is a word, an idea, an image, or a message that God wants to get through to you, no matter how many subtle (and often not so subtle) reminders it takes. Margaret writes, “And like an echo, God often uses the repetitive events and themes in daily life to get my attention and draw me closer to himself.” – The Sacred Echo

Last week after an emotional bus-missing incident, I heard God tell me to “relinquish burnout” and release my identity as a victim.

Then, during my church service here in Guatemala, God gave me the phrase,”Trust the spark,” encouraging me to trust myself and His work within me. 

I later discovered my pastor in San Diego simultaneously gave a message on “releasing the identity of victim.” 
I also happened to be reading an excellent book on how to live wholeheartedly by Brene Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection (more on this later). The day after God whispered “Trust the spark” to me, I read in Brene’s book that one of the key ingredients in a life of courage, compassion, and connection (things we all want) is cultivating a resilient spirit. Resilience. Trust in yourself. Believing in your own abilities. Releasing a sense of powerlessness. Letting go of your identity as a victim. A bit like trusting the spark?
Hmm. I’m sensing a common thread here. 
I guess God really wants me to get this, huh?

I had this post all planned out yesterday. I jotted down some (almost) illegible notes while riding the bus back from the City. 
I was going to title the piece “A Sacred Echo To Get Off My Butt (…butt) (…butt).” I was going to write about how I really just need to get my act together and trust myself more. How I need to dig down deep, get off my butt, and stop feeling sorry for myself. How I already know this stuff; what I really need is to put it in practice. 
But I realized that’s not God’s voice, or tone. That’s mine. After a moment of heat-flushed Holy Spirit gratitude, I immediately shifted into judgment gear. Yes, I was glad He spoke, but a part of my ego was wounded.

Shouldn’t I already know how to be resilient? Shouldn’t I remember that God is working in me? Yes, His words are nice and all, but shouldn’t I have been able to heal myself already or trust God enough to be healed already or been able to just listen to what He says to get better already?

Even when God spoke, I defaulted to shame. Shame that I haven’t really known how to navigate my life with grace and trust. Shame for blundering between hope and despair. Good days and bad days. For being discouraged with my progress. For not being able to “get it” already.

It comes back to the question I posed earlier: I guess God really wants me to get this, huh?

I first wrote this question flippantly, like I must be some kind of numbskull if it takes this many echoes to get my attention. I meant it half-jokingly and about a quarter just to move the narrative along, but I also wrote it in an attempt to cover up something deeper and scarier: shame. 
You see, I wanted this question to come across as “we can all be pretty dense sometimes, wink, wink” so everyone could relate. But the thing is, I’m scared I really am too dense, too slow, too stuck. 
Yes, He’s calling me to trust myself now, to build my resilience, to move and grow and create, but I sit here embarrassed that I haven’t been able to do this already. 
I’m scared it’s all my fault that I’m not engaging in meaningful work. It’s all my fault  that I don’t feel fully recovered from burnout. It’s all my fault that I get scared and sad and confused. 
And so I beat myself up with my words and my tone. I joke. I self-deprecate. I tell myself to just get off my butt already. 
I forget to listen to what He’s really saying. When I reread the words God has spoken to me in my journal, they don’t have a hint of exasperation or deprecation or condemnation. His words are kind. They’re grace-filled. They give life.

I’m the one filling the lines with judgement.

God echoes in my life with words and books and church sermons, and instead of standing in awe of the beauty of a God that pursues me and whispers to me and never gives up on me, I start beating myself up for not “getting it” already. 
Yes, I believe He wants me to “get this,” but, more importantly, He wants me to experience Him. Now. His comfort. His love. His grace. His kindness. 
He’s not sitting there waiting for me to fall in line so he can say “I told you so. See, if you just listen to me, you’d be healed.” 
Instead, He cries with me. He says, I’m sad too. He says, I don’t want to fix you; I want to comfort you. I want you to turn to me. I am here even when you’ve been numbing. Even when you’ve been wallowing.  Even when you’ve been doing whatever it is you think makes you unworthy of my presence, of my comfort, of my healing.

As Margaret Feinberg says, sacred echoes are meant “to draw [us] closer to himself.” 

So when He says, “Trust the spark,” it’s not meant as the secret answer to a test that I was heretofore failing to succeed at on my own. It’s meant as an invitation to turn to Him. It’s the whisper of words that are living water to my soul. It’s the reminder that deep within my being, in the places I’m scared to show and the places I’m scared to hope, I am deeply loved. I am the spark of the divine.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell describes hell as “our refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story.” And before you get all worked up about what I think about Rob Bell and heaven and hell and atonement, I have to agree that this self-condemnation, this judgement I place on myself, my refusal to trust God’s retelling of my story–that I am loved, that I am enough–feels a lot like hell.

God has been speaking to me a lot this week with echoes of kindness, not condemnation. I pray for the courage and the grace to trust His retelling of my story. 

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