Chapter 2: Exposure as the Substance for Our Healing
I figure that we cannot do a book study on finding grace in suffering without sharing my own story. My name is Caitlin and my husband, Shaun and I have been attending Calvary since 2015. We have two children, Francis (4) and Norah (1). When I’m not parenting or folding laundry; I am a director at Bissell Centre, a non-profit that works with individuals living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. My love language is eating and I spend a significant portion of my mental energy thinking about what I am going to eat next.
Something else about me: I can remember one of my first anxiety attacks around the age of 11; the uncontrollable, racing thoughts that flew through my head at a million miles an hour. Nothing I did could quiet my mind and reassure me that it was going to be okay. Since then anxiety has always been a part of my life. There are times when it takes up a big part of me and others when it’s silently observing from the sidelines. There are days that I feel brave, spontaneous, confident and free and there are others when I feel weak, scared, alone and wonder if I will ever feel whole again.
Some of you may relate to living with mental illness. And some of you may not. I have been learning that a certainty of life is that we will all experience pain in our lives. Maybe your pain comes from other experiences such as infertility or addictions or job loss or relationships issues.
Shame is the “felt sense that I am bad, there really is something wrong with me, and I don’t matter to anyone else.” (p. 49)
In my story I have felt shame for my illness. I have felt weak because I need to take medication to manage my anxiety and that i wasn’t “strong enough” to deal with it on my own. KJ Ramsey talks about how shame wants us to believe that our problems are avoidable and we can overcome them by our own power and strength. How many times has someone asked me “how are you?” and I’ve responded with “I’m fine” because I want it to seem like I have it all together.
“Shame wants us to live divided, dishonest, disembodied lives, to treat our bodies and stories like failures to conceal, to let our lips say we believe God is good while our hearts stay discouraged in the dark”.
In some of my lowest moments I have had confidants that I have been able to share my pain with. Reaching out in these times has been hard and scary; would I be judged or laughed at? Instead, each time I exposed my true self I encountered Jesus on earth with friends that would cry, pray, encourage and comfort me in my darkest times. They have held hope for me when I felt hopeless.
Exposure is the substance of our healing. The nakedness of suffering leads us to the embodied experience of receiving God’s clothing of love. (p.58)
As Matt talked about last week, we were made for relationship; relationship with God and with others. KJ Ramsey talks about how our story is for a larger purpose but if we “don’t not hear and remember and tell the bigger story, we’ll stay confused, lost, and weary.” This pandemic has made the journey more challenging and for some, more lonely. I encourage you, if you are experiencing pain to reach out to share the load. Call a friend, a pastor, a family member. My prayer is that your nakedness of suffering will lead you to receiving God’s clothing of love.
How would your story look differently if we approached suffering as a story to tell rather than a secret to keep?
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Read “This Too Shall Last” by KJ Ramsey with us. Want to start the series from the beginning? Start here and check out our hope for this series within our Calvary community, and learn more about where you can get your copy of the book and follow along.