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Center for Action and Contemplation
Encountering Reality
Encountering Reality

We Can’t Bypass Reality

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Therapist and author Aundi Kolber names the paradox of experiencing difficult realities while honoring our God-given dignity.

We must begin with honoring—respecting the inherent dignity and value that we and our fellow image bearers share. We honor our stories, our pain, and the actual flesh-and-blood realities we live with. There is no bypassing reality, and there is no bypassing the bodies that have carried us in and through this reality. This is where we must begin. Not because all truth is found here, but because without our whole selves there can be no true healing. When we experience difficulty through the lens of respect and dignity, we are more likely to be able to move through what comes our way.

Most healing occurs as we move toward wholeness and integration, which gives us access to fullness of life. Sometimes I think about this when I read Jesus’ words that He came that we may “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, author’s emphasis). How can we honor our pain and yet know we are created for fullness?

Kolber names some of the painful experiences of our shared reality:

The death, the loss of freedom, the fear, the sickness, the anger, the polarization, the scarcity, the pain. It feels hard because it is hard and has been hard.… Those who had experienced a certain level of healing before the [COVID-19] pandemic may have found themselves either triggered again or retraumatized. Folks who were already carrying the burden of chronic trauma, poverty, racism, discrimination, or other hardships may have felt those experiences intensified or worsened. Certainly, we do not want to make our home inside grief, but let us be clear: Unless we make room for the reality of our entire human experience, grief will insist on taking over the whole house.

But as we are able, God invites us to see what is so we can unlearn all the untrue narratives, keep our eyes open for safety and goodness, and enter the deeper and truer story. Dear ones, we don’t have to pretend that simply existing doesn’t hurt sometimes. It does and it has. Instead, without bypassing this reality, we are invited to move toward the resources that will allow us to soften into hope.

Kolber offers this prayer to ask God’s help as we honor our experiences:

God, here in this moment, empower me to honor everything that arises in my body, mind, and soul today; even if it means I have to return to it at another time.

Creator of all things, remind me that in honoring my experiences, You help me affirm dignity to the parts of myself that have at times felt stripped of it.

God, help me know that my desire for safety and connection is valid. In Your wisdom You designed me to need both.

But as I’m able, grant me the ability to open up to the possibilities of healing and newness while staying connected to the reality of Your love.

Aundi Kolber, Strong Like Water: Finding the Freedom, Safety, and Compassion to Move through Hard Things—and Experience True Flourishing (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Refresh, 2023), 56–58.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. We learn from the coyote curiosity and exploration. We also learn curiosity about our own perception and projection onto another being: what is the first thing we think when we see a coyote?

Story from Our Community:  

My heart sang at the use of “them” to refer to God in a recent meditation. I find that pronoun to be so much more resounding than the “he,” or “she” which I have used many times, reference to God. It sounds bigger, more inclusive, and so appropriate for this time in history. Thank you for using it and explaining it for those who may have been surprised by its use. My family is painfully divided over ways to see and teach Christ’s work today. Your work supports my ministry as I seek to love and teach love in these contentious and dangerous times. —Elizabeth K.

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