One of my favorite stories of Jesus is when he spoke with an unlikely woman. As he waited for his companions to return, this outcast woman came to the well alone to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink which stunned the woman. She wondered why this man would speak to her. Immediately she noticed something different about him and felt no fear.
Then Jesus invited this woman to tell her story – the good, the bad, and the ugly. As she shared what was most authentic about herself, he spoke healing words that completely transformed her identity. When they finished talking, the woman knew she was loved and went back home to offer this healing to others in her town. (John 4:1-26)
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in your outside world.” Matthew 5:8 The Message Bible
The same happened to me in a prayer group. The discussion ended, and our small group leader divided us into triads for prayer. The three of us left the living room in search of a quiet corner. Entering the den, we spotted several comfy chairs and sat down. Then, we looked at each other. The awkward silence and polite smiles attested to the fact that we hadn’t met before today. Holding our warm beverages like security blankets, we each tentatively shared our story.
One woman said her husband was on hospice care and described her struggle as a caregiver. The next woman revealed she was a minister of a dying church. She talked about the anger directed towards her by the church members during the painful, dying process. And me, my mother had been on hospice care for the past year. I expressed my doubts about being able to hang in there with mom much longer. It was no coincidence that we found ourselves together at that particular time. Being couragous to let others into our worlds, we all left a little freer.
I met with this small group while experiencing a spiritual drought. At the time, I felt dry, empty… uncomfortable. The prayer time felt hollow – like God wasn’t listening. But, for some unknown reason, I kept going back.
Throughout the spiritual drought, I often felt alone and forgotten, like I had no one to talk to. “Who would understand what’s happening to me? They’ll think I’m crazy!”
However, I was not alone. Several key people offered me a safe environment to voice the confusion and loss I experienced. These healing conversations provided opportunities to “talk out” what was inside me without fear of judgment or condemnation. And these conversations helped me to stay faithful when I couldn’t see evidence of God.
Conversation is a valuable component of healing – any healing. God brings people together for healing conversations all the time, whether the wound is physical, emotional, or spiritual. I simply decided to let people into my inner world and know me; which leads me to the second habit that helped me persevere during a spiritual drought.
Talk about your struggles, anxieties, and fears with trusted companions.
Journaling. Referring again to Psalm 42, David journaled his inner thoughts. He conversed with God about the desolation and loneliness he experienced. In verse 9, David wrote, “I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”” David gave voice to the anguish he felt within his soul – his inside world. He was not afraid to be known. The inside world, or my soul, can be so hard to know. I found that writing helped me recognize the nuances and questions that were percolating deep within me. At the end of the week, I review what I wrote and ask God to help me notice what’s most important. Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple. Use a spiral notebook or an app. The point is, I take 5 minutes each day and notice what I am feeling about stuff, or if I have a question, or maybe a doubt. I basically have a healing conversation with God as I journal.
A trusted close family member. Every day around 1PM, my British husband and I stop what we are doing and drink a cup of tea together. We share what’s happened that day. We talk about the challenges, the good things, everything is on the table for discussion.
Other family members. I tell my family members I am struggling, or anxious, or fearful. This healing conversation prevents anyone from feeling responsibility or blame for my situation.
A monthly Spiritual direction appointment. My spiritual director knows the movements of spiritual drought and helps me navigate the loneliness, confusion, and loss I experience in this season.
A close friend who listens and “feels” with me. She does not try to fix anything. She is merely present to my feelings and situation.
A prayer group. My tendency was to isolate myself during a spiritual drought. But, the opposite was needed. Interacting with strangers created freedom for me to be open and vulnerable. I could be myself without fear of judgment or condemnation. Often times, unexpected encouragement or wisdom was shared during these prayerful conversations.
One final note. This blog post describes my experience during a spiritual drought. Perhaps you are wondering who you can talk to about your own spiritual experiences. Maybe your world is different from mine and talking about your spirituality with someone else is challenging. Think outside the box. Try to break free from compartmentalizing your spirituality into organized religion. Ask God to help you find someone who is spiritually sensitive. Maybe this person is a friend or co-worker. Maybe look for a prayer group. Maybe hire a spiritual director or a spiritually sensitive counselor or therapist. They are out there.
My personal experience is that God always led me to the right person when I needed them. I just had to be open to who he sent to me - like the woman at the well.
Describe my inner world as it is today? Is it healing and healthy? Or do I notice fear, anger, guilt, shame, etc.?
How might conversations help my inner world heal?
Who are my trusted companions that I meet with regularly?
Am I afraid to be vulnerable or real with someone else, including God? What might be the root of this fear?
Do I need help finding someone with whom I can have healing conversations? If yes, please contact me.
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