Gift of Openness

Without a doubt, the best decision I made in 2015 was scheduling an appointment with a Christian therapist followed by the commitment to stick with the counseling sessions.

The many months leading up to that moment can be described in one word: Closed.

A cocktail of loss, doubt, and depression dizzied me. Agitation and procrastination ruled my heart and mind. Exploring my true identity in Christ, which was my goal, required facing parts of myself that I didn’t want to see. So I closed my eyes.

Even though cultivating community is my passion, investing in new relationships after moving to city number 10 in a span of 14 years, terrified me. I felt too worn, broken, and needy to bring the energy necessary to create meaningful friendships. So I didn’t try.

I closed even more: my creative side, my willingness to be silly and play with my kids, my sense of adventure, my Bible. I kept them all shut tight more often than I cracked them open. It was as though instead of stepping into a new beginning, I fell into portal that whisked me back to the fragile, frightened girl I was years ago.

In every direction I looked I saw piles of unhealthy patterns I either helped create or allowed.

Open Road

I branded myself a fraud . . . After all, aren’t Christian writers supposed to always be brimming with feelings of joy and words of encouragement? . . . I’d chastise myself, adding shame to my sadness.

That’s not to say I spent every day in bed, hopeless and without a second of laughter. There were beautiful moments, but I didn’t breathe them in when they came. I didn’t permit them the power they deserved. Instead I numbed myself to both pain and pleasure, because feelings are connected after all.

Numb is lonely. Slowly I unclenched the muscles of my soul to welcome enough openness to shine truth on all the shattered spaces within me that I shuttered instead of tended. I handed my raw, ravaged heart back to Jesus for examining, cleaning, molding, and strengthening.

Openness is a gift.

Openness is vast and messy and unfastened. It’s overflowing with paradox and possibilities.

Being open allows you to pour yourself out while you’re being filled up. Open leaves us vulnerable and fertile for change. It’s the open places in ourselves where hope roots and thrives.

I’m not sure how my life will look after I complete this next journey, but I know the basics. Elation and agony will both show up here and there. They’ll probably even mingle. There will be belly laughs and gut-wrenching sobs. Wins and losses. Waves that welcome and those that say goodbye.

And I am determined to face each circumstance with a heart wide open. Ready to learn. Ready to teach. Ready to grow. Ready to feel free.

As 2015 comes to a close, what are you open to in the coming year?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand — shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” {Matthew 5:14-16, MSG}

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I’m determined to face each circumstance with a heart wide open. Ready to learn. Ready to grow. {Tweet this!}

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Angela,
    “By opening up to others, you will prompt them to be open with God.” Thank you so much for daring to be brave and open. It takes real guts in this Christians are supposed to have it all together world. It just isn’t so. Every time I’ve gone through a painful or difficult time, God has been faithful to take me to a deeper and more intimate level of love and trust with Him. I believe He is doing that with you right now and I will pray for your relationship with God, (which is what life is about anyway) will grow deeper and full of more love and hope. Ultimately the fruit of which is joy. Pain and peace can coexist, I’ve learned. It’s not all black or white. Yes, when we dare to open up and pour out, that’s when He can pour into us. What God does through your life right not and in weeks and months to come will be a testimony of His goodness. Thank you and God bless you for sharing His masterpiece (your life) with us.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Angela Nazworth

      Oh Bev, how I always look forward to your insightful and encouraging comments. We are kindreds on this journey, I believe. Thanking God for you, friend!

  • Faith Gaspar

    Angela, Thank You

    • Angela Nazworth

      Hugs to you, Faith!

  • http://sunnyand80.org/ Meg Bucher

    Oh, wow!
    I just love this, and am going to stick that translation of those verses in Matthew where I can see it all year!
    I related to this sentiment the most: “I branded myself a fraud . . . After all, aren’t Christian writers supposed to always be brimming with feelings of joy and words of encouragement? . . . I’d chastise myself, adding shame to my sadness.”
    Knowing I have been called to write is a difficult responsibility for me to obey. Knowing that it’s important allows my mind to wrestle with every word, doubting my hearts intentions, my understanding of the text, my qualifications to be writing anything to anyone in the first place!
    I needed to hear this today, so thank you so much for sharing a piece of your heart.
    Happy Wednesday!
    Megs

    • http://www.christanperona.com Christan Perona

      Meg, I love your words, too. You are so right — writing requires wrestling, it requires introspection and reflection, it requires the examination of truth rather than what perspective is popular. What a gift, right?! Happy Writing to you in 2016. :)

      • http://sunnyand80.org/ Meg Bucher

        Thank you! Yes, it sure is a gift. Happy Writing!

    • Angela Nazworth

      Thank you for this lovely encouragement, Meg! Writing is about learning and obedience and openness. I popped over to your blog, btw … the Lord has given you a beautiful gift. Thank you for following His call to keep writing!

  • http://www.christanperona.com Christan Perona

    Thank you, Angela. “There were beautiful moments, but I didn’t breathe them in when they came. I didn’t permit them the power they deserved. Instead I numbed myself to both pain and pleasure, because feelings are connected after all.” As someone who wrestles to come off of the island and pursue true love and community, I so appreciate your post. Your story is a gift to me. I will save this is read it over and over when I’m tempted toward numbness. I can relate on so many levels. Here’s to a New Year of openness and vulnerability!!

    • Angela Nazworth

      Thank you so much, Christan. Your words blessed my heart today. Happy New Year!

  • Marilyn

    Angela, Thank you! Although, you were writing about you, it felt like it was about me ;o) I have been thinking about what word to adopt this year and I just found it, Open!! To begin a year of openness to what God has been trying to do and is doing in my life. I find myself opening the door, feeling amazing and then closing it again. Open to change, Open to cry, Open to laugh, Open to give and Open to God. Thank you!!!

    • Angela Nazworth

      Thank you Marilyn! I found that I never write only about me. I share experiences about me, but the more I write, the more I learn that all stories are connected. God’s design for humanity is utterly beautiful in so many ways … the fact that He made us unique, but alike and dependent on Him is the most beautiful to me. Happy New Year!

  • Anna Smit

    Angela, your Spirit-infused words always speak right to the core. You have me weeping. This mix of joy and grief is what has been this past year for me as I have gradually opened more and more. My one word this year was “choose”- and choose I did, even when all within me kept screaming to shut the lid and hide. And the choosing took me into fear, grief and heartache…but also into the wide, deep love of Our Mighty Saviour.

    This week I’ve been reflecting on one word for this coming year and I’ve had four connected ones coming to me: look, expect, seek and open. And in reading further through the Old Testament and in Luke, I saw God calling His people to actively seek Him, expecting to find Him…and that in doing so God would open them to fill them. Like you, I struggle with opening myself fully…but in my decisions to trust Him this year, He’s been doing the opening…but I feel Him calling me to go further, not just to choose, when my heart screams no, but to seek, really seek with an expectant, joyful heart in trust, remembering His faithfulness and expectantly looking for His goodness.

    Thank you so much for this beautiful piece. May God bless you, as you continue further on this amazing journey. God is good. So very good. And hugs!

    • Angela Nazworth

      Anna thank you for being so open with your comment. Your heart is beautiful and I am honored that you shared a part of it here.

  • Inspired Life

    Oh sweet Angela I can so relate to this statement “I branded myself a fraud . . . After all, aren’t Christian writers supposed to always be brimming with feelings of joy and words of encouragement? . . . I’d chastise myself, adding shame to my sadness.” By nature I am an encourager. My spirit I am an exhorter so when I fell into a dark place unable to encourage myself let alone anyone else I felt a tremendous loss and hid from the shame of not being TRUE to my brand (my exact words in my head). But God is so loving, so faithful, so patient to call me out of that dark place out into the open. Blessings to you for the release to be open.

    • Angela Nazworth

      Thank you so much for sharing. May God continue to fill you as you encourage others.

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy Robinson

    I have endured seasons of numbing, when the reality seemed to difficult to endure. However, numbing out the pain also numbed out the joy and my ability to breathe deeply, to live fully and to love whole-heartedly was so very limited. I used to believe joy was only possible in the absence of pain. I’m continuing to learn that they often exist side by side. Thank you for your openness and for reminding us all to remain that way!

    • Angela Nazworth

      I’m convinced that numbing is its own type of pain. Love how God is opening you up!

  • Penny

    Angela,

    This is a very refreshing, thank-you. The week before Christmas a friend lost her husband and was by herself at the hospital. I honestly didn’t know how I would handle going to see her after I lost my dad two years ago Christmas Day, but I felt I had to and so my husband, son and I went together. As you reminded us Angela, the Lord wants us to shine for others and I know He guided me each step of the way.

    Blessings to you all in the upcoming year!

    Penny

    • Angela Nazworth

      PRaise God for His guidance and your obedient heart!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for sharing this timely word. Exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. I’m thinking “open” may be my word for the new year. :)

    • Angela Nazworth

      Happy New Year, Stephanie!

  • Diana

    I want to open the gift of openness in this coming year. I admit it can feel like an impossible thing given my current circumstances. Most of the people I’m around much of the time are more afraid of openness than I am, so they kind of push back when I try with them. Because they are either unbelievers or spiritually immature, I realize they first need to experience a spiritual awakening to see the good in openness like you shared, Angela. I pray this for them daily. In the meantime, I’m trying to cultivate open relationships with mature believers. Again, circumstances make this difficult as I have an environmental illness (i.e. EI) in which going into public (e.g. church) environments makes me incredibly ill. Yet, I’m reminded that “what is impossible with man is not impossible with God” (Jesus)! So, I pray for help and put my hope in Him to do what is impossible for me, for us. Would any of you, who are led, pray for me in this as well as other Christians who are experiencing the isolating effects of EI? Thank you and bless you, Angela for your openness.

  • Kathleen

    This post and your emotions resonate with me. 2015 had so much unexpected loss and expected changes I have cloaked myself in numbness. You inspire me to start removing my cloak and let the light shine through the sorrow and pain.

  • http://freedtofly.me Trudy Den Hoed

    Angela, this touches the shattered places deep within me. That numbness can be so debilitating, can’t it? “Numb is lonely. Slowly I unclenched the muscles of my soul to welcome enough openness to shine truth on all the shattered spaces within me that I shuttered instead of tended. I handed my raw, ravaged heart back to Jesus for examining, cleaning, molding, and strengthening.” This is so what I need and long for. I have asked God to show me what word I should focus on in this coming year. Several keep rolling around in my mind, and “open” is one of them. I believe God is finally giving me an answer. My One Word will be “open.” Thank you for writing with an open heart and sharing your journey. I appreciate this post sooo much! May God fill you with hope and peace in this coming year!

  • Joanne Peterson

    Angela,
    We take things so out of context of the Word. We don’t mean to do this, and well meaning people give us messages that aren’t accurate, and we have messages we take on too. One of the most freeing verses in the Bible when I was ready to see and hear it is Romans 8:1. I saw it before, and read it, but when I was broken, and crying out for healing, and mercy, that verse became real. I also saw deep in my heart, from Psalms, “God is near to the brokenhearted, and a contrite heart in no way will He cast out” When people start rejecting, or we reject from our own place, from my own hurts and brokenness, God will use it to reveal more of Himself. Being numb is a place of just surviving, and we all if we are honest come to that place of just hanging on by a thread and barely surviving. But, God does and desires healing for you. The journey is hard and painful, but when we come out on the breathing side, the healing side, the more thriving side, we are closer to Him, and see Him in a new way. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, never, in no way does He forsake us. The Amplified version of Hebrews 13:5-6, states three times, I will not, I will not, I will not, ever leave you nor forsake you, nor ever let you down, or relax my hold on you. Assuredly not. (This is my good paraphrase.) He is doing something greater in you now, and will bring it to fruition and completion. You are right, when we are ready to be vulnerable and transparent, teachable, other people recognize in you a place of safety, and you will know deep down, God’s place of safety for you. Beautiful, hard, ugly, cleansing journey. It will be worth all of the pain. What you are finding are the pearls God values. Taking our ugly, and exchanging it for His good, taking what we think we have to be, and being authentic with Him and with other people. You’ll be blessed, Joanne

  • http://WWW.marilynyocum.com/ Marilyn Yocum

    Sing it! I often wonder, what will it take for us to get over the myth about always brimming with joy? It has imprisoned so many. I think it will take the openness of sharing as you have done here. You weren’t dragging around in a bathrobe all day, unable to function, but something was missing, something was closed, and you had the courage to pursue wholeness. THAT is the encouragement that’s needed. You’ve given it here.

  • Michelle

    And in the openess, as you grow – the agony of transparency (the blessings outweighing the pain ) will eventually dissipate – as The Truth acts as a shelter for your gentle Spirit (Psalm 91). You’ll be “covered by God” His Word, ‘cushioned’ I call it, because You have come to KNOW & have experienced it’s working power. Thus turning the old reactions/nature into empathy – for others immaturity or misgivings or just plain humaness! (smile)

    Hug to you Angela! Soooo love your blogging…. and have, for some time….

    Be. Who. You. Are.

    &

    God Will (catch you, cover you & ) Be Who He Is

    – HUG –

  • Beth Williams

    Angela,
    Thank you for being so brutally honest about your life! Prayers that 2016 will be a better year for you with a touch of the master’s healing hand!! These past few years have been tough on me also! I have had many days when I felt somewhat agitated and depressed. Life gets hard and messy at times. We just need to be more open and come to Jesus with our problems! I find solace in listening to Praise and Worship music and letting it all soak in! The reality of His love for us!!
    Have a blessed 2016!

  • Ellie

    Thank you for sharing! I am a pretty open book, maybe too open! We moved almost 2 years ago and at 51 it is hard to make new friends. I am fairly good at making friends since we too have moved many times 11 places in 29 years (yesterday), many in the first 10 years of our marriage. Now that our children have grown up, we’ve moved and we haven’t been able to make many friends, no close ones yet. I have suffered with depression, but don’t really have time for that with also taking care of my 90 year old mom. I am sorry if I am being too open. Maybe I should find a good Christian counselor as well. I think I will call the church tomorrow. Thank you for letting me ramble. I know God has a plan and I just need to listen.
    God Bless you!