While I was in college on a student leadership retreat, a wise woman — with a gaze that seemed to see straight through me — once whispered into my ear: When we stuff our pain to the basement of our souls, it will deal with us until we allow God to deal with it.
Her words have stayed with me for years.
The truth is? I’m an excellent pain-stuffer. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve thrown a lot of energy into managing emotions like grief, regret, and fear. But stuffing my pain into the darker, hidden rooms of my soul hasn’t always worked out how I’ve envisioned.
Rather than fading or magically disappearing, these parts of me have simply lurked on the edges of my daily experiences and have been manifested in other ways. They’ve hardened into bitterness and leaked toxic shame. Stuffed emotions and experiences can often cause us to live with a rattled nervous system, always triggering our fight-flight-or-freeze response.
These pain-stuffing tendencies can profoundly shape our spiritual journeys. Personally, my aversion to sitting with myself — and my tendency to run or numb from confusing and uncomfortable emotions — has caused me to tiptoe around God’s table of grace . . . like I’m not fully welcomed.
I believe that God loves the world, but I’ve doubted if God loves every part of me.
Because of this, I’ve often disinvited myself from His table. My opened Bible during early morning hours hasn’t always equated to an open heart. More-so, it’s like I’m playing one of those bobble-head games at an arcade. I’ve shoved all the messy parts of myself down with solid whacks in an attempt to bring God a perfectly packaged version of myself. (The part that I want Him and others to see). This polished part of me is typically the only part allowed to speak. It likes to use shiny, spiritual sounding words while simultaneously banishing all the inward mess that I’d rather not think about.
It can be hard to believe that the places we self-reject are accepted by Jesus. But what if these are the parts of us that He actually pursues?
Recently, I read a parable from the gospel of Luke and it resonated deeply. The parable tells the story of a king who prepared a grand feast and, after completing all of the necessary preparations, gave his servants the following command:
“‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.'”
Luke 14:21-23 (NKJV)
This king (representing God) insisted on sitting with every face and form of brokenness. He persuaded, called, and compelled the hurting to come. On a personal level, what if God invites you and I to search out the poor, crippled, blind, and lame parts of ourselves to bring them to His table? Here, He says that every part of us is welcome.
- The poor part of you that senses its lack and quietly wonders, Am I enough?
- The disabled part of you that shrinks with shame and questions, Am I defective?
- The hurting part of you that throbs with silent pain and asks, Am I too broken?
- The lonely part of you that echoes even in a crowded room and doubts, Am I seen?
- The beggar part of you that settles for scraps and wonders, Do I have value?
- The outcast part of you that stings with rejection and asks, Am I accepted?
- The homeless part of you aches for connection and questions, Do I belong?
What if life with God is an invitation to feast at His table? What if it’s an invitation for our whole selves to be loved? Slowly, I’m learning that He isn’t interested in the outward versions of ourselves that are perfectly packaged. God longs to become acquainted with the innermost rooms of our souls . . . the most broken and hidden parts of us.
The pain I’ve stuffed down? He asks me to search it out.
He’s on pursuit of all the banished parts of us that we’ve locked away in the basement. And He invites us, again and again, to His broad and spacious table where every part of us has a place . . . and every story has space to be told.
Only when the beggar inside of me sits at the table with Love can true transformation takes place. Change happens when my unmasked and honest grief, hurt, and fear encounter God. Because it’s here that the truth of His radical affection is pushed deep into the emotional places of my heart, where this love can heal and become a new foundation for my life.
And when we disinvite ourselves from His table? He simply re-extends the invitation . . . again and again and again.Leave a Comment