A man walking through a desert happens upon an oasis,
He doesn’t take a moment to reflect on why he is thirsty.
He doesn’t ask if he should drink the water, if it’s his right or if it’s okay.
He doesn’t berate and beat themselves up for their need for water.
He doesn’t analyze the choices that left him desolate and wandering in the desert.
He doesn’t criticize himself for being dirty or not having a proper cup to drink with.
He desperately and joyously dives in and drinks deeply.
And only after he’s drunk until he can’t drink anymore does he take a breath, slump down and think.
He doesn’t think of regrets and feel guilty about his situation. Or how dirty he’s made the water by jumping in.
He simply feels exhilaration and gratitude or fortune at finding the water and being alive.
(At least, that’s what happens in the movies.)
One thing I’ve noticed recently reading two books: Breathing Underwater: Spirtuality and the 12 Steps by Richard Rohr and The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Pete Scazzero is that often when I come across “an oasis” of grace and truth, something that could feed my dry and thirsty soul with compassion and healing, my first reaction isn’t gratitude or joy.
My first reaction is frustration and impatience.
I read these books and it reminds me of how far I still have to grow and heal and learn and it brings back feelings of weakness or inadequacy.
It doesn’t feel good to feel weak. To feel undone.
And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. While beginning counseling and recovery is often accompanied by a feeling of huge relief and peace, the truth is, it also brings up feelings of weakness, brokenness, exposure and grief.
And sadness. Sadness at what has happened and a profound sadness that life, and this world, is still not the way it should be.
A good portion of these feelings stem from this belief that I’ve heard clients or others who have done some counseling, recovery or healing of their past voice, the belief and expectation that
I should be beyond this.
I’ve already gone through this.
I already know all this.
I’ve worked so hard, why do I still struggle with this?
This reminded me just how much shame and dysfunction distort truth.
How they isolate or seek to disconnect us from others.
From needing and transparency with others.
From acknowledging our feelings and legitimate needs.
From receiving the gifts of love, acceptance and grace from God and others.
It’s okay to be desperate for water, you can die from not drinking water. But needing love and acceptance? You have to earn that. You can’t die from that.
Or can we?
I think we can and so many slowly do.
It’s so hard to give up the paradigm that so much of life and live and freedom is given, not something entirely dependent on how hard we work or how smart we are.
It’s humbling to acknowledge that recovery is a lifetime endeavor, that healing is a process.
If we didn’t have to be interdependent on God and others we wouldn’t have to worry about good things being taken away from us. Our happiness and peace would entirely be up to us, our responsibility, under our control and dependent on our hard work.
No mystery, no waiting, no insecurity, no vulnerability, no anxiety to experience.
Of course, we may not believe that logically or say it outloud. But essentially, that’s what we act like is true.
Like the son in Luke 15 coming back home with a good sales presentation on a working arrangement that might make it palatable for his father to accept him back on the property, we just can’t receive forgiveness. Or forgive ourselves.
We want redemption and healing on our terms, on our timetable.
There is a story in the Bible of the nation of Israel who spent years in the desert. God provided them food, manna, daily. The couldn’t store extra, it would rot. They could only gather and use what was needed for each day.
It’s hard to go through a desert season, a time of wandering. We want more. We want to rush through the promised land, to abundance and overflowing. It’s easy to lose sight of how miraculous it is to simply having your needs met daily.
I’m heading to the beach soon with my family. It’s another place where sand and water meet. And the beach is pretty simple.
It’s family. It’s sand. It’s the ocean. And books to read.
It’s fresh air, unhurried walks and sunsets.
It’s sleeping in, free time, time spent without an agenda.
And one of the great things about the beach is, it doesn’t have to be new.
It’s a going back.
A reminder of God’s beauty, His grace, care and provision.
It’s the same way with a book like The Emotionally Healthy Leader.
Or a sermon.
Or a song.
Or a talk with a friend.
Or your spouse.
It doesn’t have to be innovative, the next best thing.
It may not be exciting but to a frantic thirsty soul, it’s essential.
It’s a familiar story that can still be so hard to believe.
Sometimes, the way forward, is back.