Why healing often involves hard questions...
Rebuilding involves questions. You can't get to where you're going without recognizing where you've been. Our healing is not compartmentalized. It's not confined to space and time. This side of eternity, we do not have the capacity to know and understand it all, but we still have the invitation to seek and recognize what He has made available for us to see. We live in a world of answer givers. Not many listen to understand. Most listen to respond. We have all been guilty of already knowing what we are going to say before the person doing the talking gets through their sentence. Our journey toward healing doesn't play by our rules. We cannot walk through healing as answer givers. We don't have the plans. We are not the Redeemer. If it's not about answers, then it's about questions.
Jesus himself was a question asker. Read through the Gospels and pay careful attention to how many times He responds to someone's question with another question rather than an answer. He wasn't afraid of hard questions. He knew there was more under the surface and He was on a mission to help people get there!
The world around us can go crazy (and it is) and still our promise is to remain steady, consistent, unshakable, immoveable. The temperature can rise all around us (and it has), bitterness, resentment, anger, rage, danger, unforgiveness, and yet our thermostat stay unchanging. What's broken around us doesn't define what's alive within us. The reality is, if you know Jesus, then you get to know healing. Regardless of what's been thrown at you.
"You keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because He trusts in you."
I had a bad habit of avoiding hard questions. Especially, when I feared a negative answer. Years ago, I had a rule for myself. We will call it “no scale Monday" (I didn't actually name it, but for the sake of this article lets go there.) Monday is a horrible day to weigh yourself because weekends tend to get a bit crazy. With schedules and activities, gatherings and down time, I mostly threw healthy eating out the window and did what I wanted on the weekends. Or at least I used to. That rule has been squelched and healthy eating now follows me into most every weekend. Because healthy is a lifestyle and not just something I do when I feel like it.
But in the past, taking the weekend off made most Mondays a hard scale day. Knowing the devastation in front of me, I simply skipped it altogether. Rather than face the damage done on a weekend of not caring, I avoided it all together. I would simply wait until Tuesday. Amazing what one round at the gym and a couple hundred less calories will do for you, even in just twenty-four hours. Yes, I realize not stepping on the scale didn’t mean the weight wasn’t there. It was still there. I even knew it was there! But, not acknowledging it enabled me to put off dealing with it and allowed me to stay in a place of unhealthiness.
Nehemiah wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions. He knew the state of his people in Jerusalem could not be good. They had been in captivity for years. Readjusting to the real world was bound to be a struggle. Though he feared the bad answer, he didn’t let fear keep him from asking. Nehemiah cared more about truth than he did comfort and, driven by love, was compelled to ask and a question he couldn’t take back.
“How are things?” He asked his brother.
(Nehemiah 1:2, emphasis mine.)
Hanani told Nehemiah the state of the broken walls. He painted a hard picture of the devastation God’s people were facing and how the exposure left them in a vulnerable position. Without walls, the surrounding enemies had easy access to the Israelites. The impending danger was limitless. They were basically sitting ducks, unable to adequately defend themselves and at the mercy of some of the worst enemies. Hearing it out loud hurt worse than imagining it in his head as he no doubt had done these past several months. There's something about vocalizing broken news. Something in speaking it out loud makes it real. Nehemiah was devastated at the thought of what his people were facing.
Knowing changed things.
Now that he knew what was broken, he could start calling on God for the bigger. Now that he knew where he was, he could begin to move forward. He could deal with the devastating reality of his people and he could call for the presence and power of his God. What happens when we no longer allow fear of the unknown (or known in some cases) to keep us from asking hard questions? When acknowledging what's broken within us is scarier than saying it out loud? Bigger doesn’t fear complicated answers.It demands them actually. Rebuilding requires just a few things; pieces, people and Presence. You have to have pieces. If there aren't any, then there is nothing to work with. You have to have people. If there aren't any, then there's no one to do the work and you have to have the Presence. Without it, you don't have plans for how the work happens. Any of the three without one another and you have a non-permitted build. In the lack of rhythm, you will not build something sustainable.
Sitting across from my husband three years ago, I finally asked. The tension had grown to be too much. Tiptoeing around and pretending nothing was wrong wasn’t working anymore. The minor things (like not putting your shoes away or misplacing the credit card bill) couldn’t take the blame for the lack of joy in our lives any longer.
We had had a hard run. Multiple family deaths and devastatingly crushing news from the ones we loved the most kept us spinning for most of the year. Not to mention all the difficult circumstances at work. Barely able to keep our heads above water, our unwillingness to ask hard questions only added weight to our tired treading legs. As long as we didn't acknowledge the elephant in the room, we didn't have to deal with the elephant in the room. Problem was, we might have been ignoring him, but he wasn't ignoring us. He was actually taking up more space by the moment.
I’m thankful I asked because the brokenness was there, whether I acknowledged it or not. God is not intimidated by our broken pieces, but He also won't work around them as if they aren't there. He doesn't see them the way we see do. We mourn the shattered, painful fragments lying all around and at the very same time He celebrates the authentic materials they will become in His hands. Don't get me wrong, He weeps when we weep and He cries when we cry, but His is not without hope of what's to come.
Brokenness always leads to bigger in the hands of the Master Rebuilder. He cannot have His hands in something and not be working it toward redemption. If He has it, then you can trust He has plans to reshape it for good in your life. He is the Redeemer. It's not just some fancy title we give Him, it is who He is. To be the Redeemer and not redeem is to be a contradiction and the character of Jesus would never allow that to happen. God has promised to restore your life, even the worst of it. But He's required you hand it over to Him while He works and He will wait for you to speak it out loud.
The beginning of healing starts with self-awareness. Jesus is most real to us right where we are and in healing He waits for us to join Him in our present reality. He doesn't fix what we won't admit is broken. We may put on our Sunday's best and walk into Church, but He always prefers us clothed in authenticity. Our surrounding circumstances often provide the perfect window into recognizing where we really are. But staying focused on them instead of partnering with Him, we miss the boat on transformation. Things are going to go wrong. Bad things will happen. We live in a hard to understand, messed up, fallen world. The events around us will send us spinning if we lend them such control.
The fruit of asking hard questions is more self-awareness and self awareness is where rebuilding begins. You cannot rebuild what you haven't first recognized as broken.
Let me help you get started. Imagine the last event that forced a non-Christ like reaction out of you and then practice asking yourself some of the below questions. If you have more to add to the list, that's great. I would love for you to add your questions in the comment section.
Why is this causing tension inside of me?
What is it about the situation that is making my temperature rise?
What is the fruit am I producing right now? (we can produce fruit that is not of the Holy Spirit. For example, the fruit of anxiety, worry, fear, stress, anger, unforgiveness)
If the fruit I am producing is not Godly, then what is the root it's been grown from?
What is the foundational lie I am believing so that this fruit can continue to grow in my life?
The objective is to recognize an opportunity for transformation. There is no one perfect. Not one of us is without fault and therefore every circumstance in our lives provides us with an opportunity to recognize where Jesus is working and respond appropriately. These questions allow us to be a part of the solution rather than just continue to heap mounds of dirt on an already growing issue.
These are just some of the questions I have made a habit of asking myself as well as inviting other people in my life to hold me accountable with. I don't fear hard questions anymore because regardless the level of difficulty in the answer, the promise of a bigger future outweighs it. Whatever pieces might be revealed will never be greater than the Presence already alive within me. Are there some soul searching questions you need to be asking yourself right now? Is there a brokenness you are not acknowledge for fear of what might be revealed? Nehemiah didn't have to ask. He knew the answer wasn't going to be good. But he trusted the Father more than his fear and because of his one simple question, he was able to partner with the Father and change the future for the Israelites.