What If: I Cannot Trust My Inner Voice?

There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
‘I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.
Shel Silverstein

As a kid, I was not a lover of words. I did not read. I did not enjoy writing. There was one exception to this rule. I had a handful of books that spoke. Their words lept off the pages to give feelings and meaning to my very confused thinking. As a pre-teen, Go Ask Alice was one of my favorites. Dark and twisty should have been a life label for me in 7th grade. As a younger kiddo, Where The Sidewalk Ends was a favorite ‘I’m pouting in my closet’ read. There seemed to be an understanding of mutual head dwelling with these authors. As I have worked to understand my own inner life, I came across this 1996 poem from Shel Silverstein’s children’s book, Falling Up. The line that had me hooked was “a voice inside of you that whispers all day long.” Two things struck me. One, the voice is whispering so I have to quiet my mind to hear it, and the voice speaks all day long.

One of the single greatest impediments in my ability to listen and trust my inner voice is a very real fear that my own voice is not trustworthy. I grew up with a foundational understanding of my sinful nature, an understanding that I could not escape from, an understanding that I was not able to overcome it. And while I cannot recall a specific conversation where I was told that my intuition was not trustworthy, I developed that belief and I certainly don’t think that thought pattern was ever discouraged. Even when I began to shift to a creation narrative that was founded in a place of goodness, the presence of Original Sin in our world penetrated the ‘goodness’ of my own voice.

I can honestly say that I cannot name one time, not one single time, that I have trusted my intuition and inborn voice 100%. For four and a half decades I have continually told myself that self-revelation was not of God. Sure, I could wrap it in the correct words like ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘God’s gentle voice,’ but I have feared that the whisper was my own…forever. As I have worked to try on new models of faith, I have defined some aspects of this thought insanity differently, especially as a parent. I remember the first time that one of my girls said, “I just get this weird feeling, Mom.” I almost cried. They heard from themselves and BELIEVED. I’m sure I dork-factored this simple statement by vomiting words of encouragement at the revelation. Many times since then, I have (in so many non-chill ways) told both my children to TRUST THAT VOICE OF KNOWING.

Even when I have been unable to listen to my own voice, I have worked so hard to develop in them a belief that their intuition and whispers are trustworthy. When I think back on the most devastatingly painful moments of my life, I am able to identify that so, so many of them could have been avoided if I had just – for even a tiny second – trusted my own internal voice. I could have challenged my self-inflicted shame of “good girl” choices. I could have stood my ground and not gone or done or felt obligated. I could have stepped out of relationships and into good risk. Perhaps, in some weird way, I could have lived the life that the Divine intended for me all along, instead of avoiding the preconceived judgement that I knew would come if I ever trusted.

A wise soul said something the other day that flat threw me for a loop in the best way possible:

"There is no process or system that is better to trust than the deep loud internal discernment God gave me." -my friend Kim

With these words, I began to unpack my fear. How do we start trusting? If you want to learn from a middle-age Kindergarten level truth seeker, here is my wisdom. I can’t hear if I don’t stop talking. Listening is not possible if I am constantly making noise. So the very first thing I need to do is shut my hole. While I am quiet, I breathe. My only “words” or “prayer” in breath is to breathe in Goodness (or the Divine, or Knowing – whatever you invite to teach you) and breathe out fear. I have so many fear voices, so I have to give them a swift kick in the ass to be able to hear my own truth. And then I sit. Sometimes in the silence. Sometimes as I drive. Sometimes as a listen to some music. And as the thoughts and words come, I don’t fight them or their origin or their “truth.” I listen. And then I listen some more.

What I know about growing and changing thought patterns is that it’s takes work. I cannot un-learn years and years of conditioning without years and years of new practice. I’m sitting here today, as I type on my porch, smelling the tomatoes and basil of my garden and listening. And what I hear is good. It’s my voice. It’s my truth. Me. Mine. Goodness.

What If: True Vulnerability is the Cost of Love?

How much does that cost? We learn that question very early in life, and if you are anything like me, you understand quickly that it is always about weighing the cost. What will the reward or pleasure be? How much will I have to give up of ____ to have ____? I’m not a tempered shopper. I often impulse buy with little regard for the consequences. The same cannot be said of the 3 other humans that live in my home. When I shop with my oldest for a special occasion, I hide the price tags because she will not even consider a precious dress or a perfect pair of shoes if they require a financial sacrifice. I love this about my family, but sometimes I just want them to shop with their heart!

As I have explored the many things that we have discussed in the past 5 weeks, I have often asked myself, what is it going to “cost” me if I say this out loud? What if someone that I admire disagrees? What if I forever change a relationship because I said something that I can’t (and don’t want to) take back? These things are the risky cost of living as your true self. People will not understand. People will doubt your motives. Especially if your growth is producing a shift and that shift changes the relationships in your life.

For those of us that long for more wholeness in our lives, who are striving to connect with people in ways and spaces that our past tells us are not safe, we have a high price to pay. The more I love, the more I work towards healthy loving relationships, the more I realize that the cost associated with love is vulnerability. This freaking word. It invades my life in ways that make me feel like I am being consumed. Yet, when I engage in the quest for my vulnerable self, when I dig deep into the well of truth telling and honoring feelings, the more I find a new and profound connection with the humans in my life. The guru of vulnerable space is my girl Dr. Brené Brown.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” 

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”

Brene Brown, Rising Strong

There is nothing I long for more in life than to be labeled a badass. It is truly #mylifegoal. The word itself is rich, but the strength behind it is not found in the ability to tell someone off or manipulate a situation. A real badass is someone who can stare the scariest of the scary in the face, and with all of the trust and humility they can muster, long to grow and be shaped by pain. There is nothing in the world that can do this better or more completely than vulnerability.

When we get vulnerable, we have to release the outcomes. When we allow others to see the truth of our lives, we have to believe them when they say they love us. When we walk through pain and the shredding of ego that is at the heart of vulnerable living, we can receive the great reward of love. But then, and only then, do we have the ability to love in return. Here is my theory: without a genuine vulnerable exposure of self, we will always know that we have a way out. When we keep pieces of ourself off the table of exposure, we will never trust love. If you have ever thought, “they will walk away if they know…” you understand this truth. A vulnerable posture, a truly vulnerably navigated relationship, has no room for ‘I just can’t go there’ thinking. To love is to give yourself away, even the messy, fragile, intimate, scary pieces that are sure to make you think, “Why did I say that out loud?”

If you have ever had a friend or a partner or a family member that has been the recipient of your vulnerable spaces, you know this feeling. I have been known to fear the next conversation or even dread the time and space that my vulnerable moments will be used against me. And, in the spirit of honesty, that has happened. There is nothing that stings like that knife wound. But, if you have experienced the gift of ‘I’m still here’ or ‘you can’t scare me away’ you know the treasure of vulnerability. Hold it close, because that is love.

What If: Our Ability to “Let Someone Have It’’ is Really a Revelation of Trust?

I was listening to a brilliant podcast this week and the interview spoke to this idea. I was immediately challenged to think about the truth behind this comment. The discussion stemmed from the distance between a father and daughter of more than 13 years. As they rebuilt their relationship, there was a moment where the wounds of the past exploded in the fury of hurt. It was in that space that the dad, Lenny Duncan, said:

“We were a year and a half into living as a family and she was doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing and I called her out on it. And she let me fucking have it. She said, ‘You ruined my fucking life. You destroyed everything. I’ve never had a family. I’ve never felt love. I’ve never felt like I had any worth. You stole everything from me.’ She screamed, Nadia, three inches from my face. And I walked outside and I got on the phone with my friend and weeped, tears of joy, because we knew she trusted me enough to let me have it, which means she knew I was not leaving.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify something that is key to this question. For this conversation,”letting someone have it” is speaking your truth. It is summoning the courage to finally say the things that have been on your heart and trusting someone enough to hear your deepest pain and most agonizing fear. This is truth telling and honesty, not shaming or berating. There is absolutely no excuse, no reason, to brutally wound with dagger pointed words, especially if there is not the established safety or security of relationship. That is manipulative abuse, not trust. Period.

Trust building is a sacred gift. By navigating the waters of pain and hurt and loneliness and fear alongside a co-journeyer, we invite others to battle with and take care of our hearts. As I listened to the revelation of trust in this father/daughter moment, I was reminded of times in my own life where I have broken through to new levels of connection with those that I have allowed into my inner sacred spaces. For people with wounds, and let’s be honest that’s most of us have them, we guard the soft spots. We know that by allowing others to see the vulnerable spots, we are risking further hurt. To find the level of trust that reveals love in the midst of the moments of fear of rejection is to launch a relationship into the next dimension.

If you have ever lost it, lost it in a way that all you could do was yell and scream and cry because rational thought has no accurate expression of your internal chaos, you know this kind of risk. But to have the one that you lost it on offer compassion or a unrelenting hug or a “I don’t care and I love you more because you just said that” is an absolute game changer.

Might I offer us all a challenge? Especially for those who need a little feisty release – let them have it. Let the person that you love and trust and are not quite sure how to express yourself to have that risky moment of truth telling. Not because you need to blow your top. Not because you need to yell. Not even because you have some things bottled up under pressure and they don’t have an exit pathway. Do it because YOU need to be you and they need to know that you trust them. I promise, these moments are magic.


What If: I Was Not Afraid to be Myself?

I’m 45 freaking years old. WHHHYYYYY is this still a question that I struggle with? You would think that with the internal excavation that I have done in my adulthood that I would have wrapped my mind around the fact that not only will everyone not like me, but I really don’t want them to. And here’s the real, true deal. I really don’t care about most of the big judge-y world. But there are some. The treasured few, that I allow to really know me. Within these precious relationships, I have found acceptance and love. I feel known and heard. I am challenged and pushed…until I balk. Until the moment comes that I feel that icky if they really knew me shiver come over my soul. I hate that damn shiver.

I know that the perception of my very out-there living life is one of truth telling. The danger with being someone that is regularly called “brave” or “open” or worse yet “vulnerable” is that I begin to believe that the stories that I tell and the writings that I offer are those things. And sure, I talk about things that most people would like to keep on the eternal down-low, but that’s just me. Talk about personality shortcomings, no problem. Talk about addiction and recovery, no biggie. Mental health? I’m totally down. I can tell all of these tales of life journeys with head knowledge and my beautiful rearview 20/20 vision. I’m all in. Until the shift happens. You know the shift?

When we move from head to heart, from facts to emotions, I don’t want you anywhere near me. I don’t want you to know that there are large chunks of my junk that I don’t want to tackle. I don’t want to admit that mastery is never going to happen in my world of real living. At the very core of fear is a very hot burning fire of doubt that you will ever believe, or trust, or even like me if you reallllly know me. If you could see the ways that I behave, if you knew the gaping holes of shame and insufficiency, you would see right through my tough exterior directly into the wounds that are still festered and infected with unhealed disease.

I have spent the last few weeks examining the next layer of healing that needs to happen in my journey of life. One of the things that I know to be the truest of true, when it comes to my own thriving, is my need to not keep a secret. There is nothing that will bore holes in my spiritual existence like the knowledge that I have done, that I know or that I am thinking about an idea in a way that I believe no one knows or will find out. Having the ability to deceive, or even the embedded lie in my head that I have the world fooled, is a dangerous and destructive path.

Let’s lay these realities down next to each other. I am not in a good space when I have secrets AND I don’t trust that you will still love me if you really know me. This is a recipe for constant chaos. There is a wicked dance of reveal…retreat…share a bit more…see if they run…give them a big one…prepare for rejection. This mental gymnastics meet has kept me on the sidelines of full honestly for so long. There are the life defining stories that feel vulnerable but are actually quite public. And then there are the ones that I still don’t have a resolution for, the ones that make me feel weak and unsure of survival. These are the secrets that still haunt me. They threaten sanity, sobriety, calm and serenity.

What I know about secrets is they multiply like gremlins. In a mind like mine, light and water are similar to partial truths or only sharing the parts of my life that I believe you will not judge me for. These choices for false vulnerability are the very tasty appetizers for my diseased soul. So what is the cure? How do I walk into these spaces with the hope that I can be loved? I do it one tiny step at a time. One minuscule risk in safe space for the sake of healing. There are absolutely unsafe spaces. There are untrustworthy receptacles of our love and hearts and hurts and pasts. But there are also those who not only want to walk with us, but they need us to risk so that they can risk. There is a beautiful, sacred gift when your vulnerability is met with not only love and acceptance but an equal revelation of pain and hurt. I don’t think it is an overstatement to call these moments divinely inspired. I certainly believe that my dumb decisions and moments of pain that are received in a gift of connection and trust can only be described as holy. To my treasured hope holders, you know me and love me. You give me faith in myself. You are a gift.

What If: We Took Gender Labels Off of the Divine?

Yep. We are going there. This is a big one for me that I need to talk about. Today is my birthday, so I am giving myself a gift. There is a glorious freedom that comes with each passing year. While I come across as someone that always speaks their mind, I also want to belong. My primary and consistent place of safe belonging has always been in Christian community. There are many things that I have carefully weighed the cost of confessing in spoken and written word throughout my years. This post is the first of a few where I’m going to use my 4 1/2 decades of life to hold me while I trust my knowing, honest voice to speak.

I know that people don’t agree, and that is ok. Just come sit in my living room any night of the week and you will hear four different perspectives on any given topic. I want to be very clear that I’m not looking for acceptance and agreement on all the things. I am walking into some areas that I have studied and lived and grieved and embraced for decades. In the process, I have met and been in deep friendship with people that are afraid to ask these questions because they know the cost of answering them the “wrong” way. Before I go any further, I am going to be firm on this. My blog will not be a place of shaming or mean spirited hate spewage. This is a place to ask ANY question, and in order to do that we need safety. I will gladly block and delete commentary that is not helpful and loving. You do not have to read anything I post. As a matter of fact, if it is not helpful, please do not. I desire to build a home for those that are looking and can’t seem to find a place to land. That requires us to not have all the answers. Together.

Now, back to the question. There is a dangerous thing that happens when God is labeled by our human words. First of all they are wholly inadequate. Words are representative of one language, culturally derived and hold weight. Unfortunately, when we cross borders and generations and context, words are loaded. They are loaded with assumptions and baggage. They are loaded with delight and disappointment. For instance, say the word dream and some immediately think of Peter Pan while others quickly associate their night terrors. That is the reality of communication insufficiencies.

When we are studying ancient texts that were written in other languages and to other cultures, we give great trust that our 2020 English translations are accurate. Unfortunately, most of us do not do the heavy lifting to understand the detailed nuisance of centuries of translations. Before we go much further, I want to define a few terms. Sex is a biological term. Gender, in contrast, is defined by the World Health Organization as, “the socially constructed characteristics of women and men, such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed.”

Hebrew (the language that introduces us to God in the Old Testament) is exclusively gendered. For instance a table (shulchan) in Hebrew is masculine while the sun (shemesh) is feminine. This binary reality has lead many faith leaders to use the masculine as the default. At the same time, we see examples throughout scripture where God represents a more female gendered reflection. For instance throughout the Psalms, the images of God as a mothering protector are many.

Because of the connection and association of words and genders, defining God seems impossible. What we know from the text is that from the very beginning of creation, humanity represents the image of the Divine. There is not one gender that is a more “true” reflection. Again, language and gender and cultural norms are completely insufficient for the deep well of hope and love that is God. So why is it that so many people of faith struggle with a gender neutral image of God? If we were to walk into most religious gathering spaces, there would be a gender assignment for the Divine. He, Father and Him are the most common, but this is not exclusive. Even churches that are sensitive to the need for gender neutrality sing songs with masculine language and bristle on the rare occasion there is a feminine pronoun or descriptor for God. While I could go on and on about this subject, those that have had this conversation with me before know that my personal call has long been to depict God in words like Creator, Healer, Divine, Spirit and Comforter. None of these words are exclusive and most importantly for my heart, none of these are easily associated in our culture with a gender.

Let me share one final thought to help you understand the weight of this discussion on people. If there is one thing that stands in our way of trusting and desiring God, it is our mistrust of people. I don’t care how many times that a wise spiritual person has told me that God is not human, they just as quickly assure me that God is represented in every creation – including humanity. So when we use ‘he’ or ‘him’ and even ‘she’ or ‘her’ to give representation to the Divine, we immediately assign humanly associated labels, whether we like it or not. If you have been a victim of incest and your Sunday School teacher prays to Father God, how can you pray? If you were assaulted by your mom when she was drunk on Saturday night, the last thing you want to hear at church is how “she” is holy and just. If you were date raped by your boyfriend, how can you ever trust that “he” is compassionate and able to heal? We cannot divorce our human context from our faith journey. Perhaps this small shift in language could be the open door that allows someone to see that God is not human. God cannot be boxed in. God, in all of God’s greatness is God alone.