Sue Monk Kidd tells us that a crisis is a “holy summons” inviting us to travel through a liminal space. This involves a severing from former patterns, noticing “deadening loyalties that no longer serve us” and stepping beyond them (87). Kidd tells us that the Chinese word for crisis is made of two characters, danger and opportunity. She leads us into an analysis of the quickest ways we tend to react to crisis, which are: unexamined acceptance or angry rejection. But there is a third way that requires waiting and creativity—this is actual soulmaking that only emerges through transformation.
Kidd brings in John Sanford’s voice from whom we learn that soulmaking may be experienced as violence. It is destroying a twisted and inflexible way of being in relationship to one’s world. I have experienced at least my first awakening, which certainly was violent. I felt as if I had survived a ship wreck only to find myself hungry and alone on an unknown and uninhabited island. Over time, I am finding that this island is my soul and it is a creative place within me, where I experience God’s easy presence and feel for the first time in my life that I can stand up straight, unashamed and unafraid. I resonate with the narrow gate Kidd references from Luke 13:24. I have sensed my spirit easily passing through a vertical opening in a concrete wall.
I knew a little girl who I believed experienced profound emotional abandonment and perhaps physical abuse. I have known older women who experienced something very similar—a father whose personality is exploding and a mother whose personality is imploding. Many move through the decades of their lives as the frightened children they once were. But the overwhelmed child in the adult can be rescued and development resumed.
Often through childhood wounds we learn to dissociate from our pain. But as Jean-Pierre de Caussade tells us “The essence of spirituality is contained in this phrase: complete and utter abandonment to the will of God” (101). This will always include letting our present experiences and those we have hid from in our past come before us, naked and telling the truth we will learn to know before we can begin our metamorphosis. This letting go of our grip on the stories we tell ourselves does not happen in a prayer or two. As Kidd says, “it’s a winding, spiraling process” (102).
A couple of years ago my son gave me a small edition of Alice in Wonderland. I considered it irrelevant to my life and a nearly tasteless gift—no kidding. Now that was a strong reaction! Kidd opens up a possible connection for me with this intuitive gift from Benjamin. I had been put off by the chaos Alice experiences, just as I had refused to spend time with the chaos within my relationships.
Kidd points out that it hurt Alice and made her entirely uncomfortable to grow in her small room so she shrank herself to a very tiny size to fit, rather than break out of that restricting space. That is absolutely what I had done—repeatedly. I really put forth a lot of energy to refuse growing. I can see that now. But I feel compassion toward myself for my extended diapause.
Kidd discusses the similarities between Thomas Kelly and Thomas Merton’s insights into self-abandonment. Both seem to say that it is the work of the Holy Spirit within because we cannot find that creative, fresh way provided for us until we let die our insistence on the way our lives should have been or could have been. And this feels like utter abandonment. “Granting infinite, loving freedom, God offers us the experience, events and encounters that help us find the courage to open them ourselves, with gentleness” (Kidd 108). From that humble position we encounter God who comes beside us to slowly, oh so slowly, pry our clinging fingers from the illusions we clutched. Perhaps for the first time in our lives, we find we can relax not just our grip but our whole selves.
It is interesting to note that the word courage originates from the French word Coeur, which means heart. Only when our hearts are touched by love can we relax enough to exchange courage for fierce protection. We find our real lives are imperishable, they have been “hidden with Christ in God” ( Colossians 3:3). With Wisdom in our hearts, we have powerful love to guide us.
I am intrigued by Kidd’s winsome statement: “I sat quietly and wondered what it must be like to spin a cocoon” (119). I remember a morning lying prostrate in prayer, sensing a cloth being laid over me, completely covering me and telling God I wanted to come out, not go into hiding. I felt like my life had been hidden long enough. But just because I am ready to let go of my old life, like a leaf on a tree is finally ready to fall to the ground, it does not mean that I am not required to trust that the seed of my true self, planted before the dawn of time, will grow in good time. I must wait.
Written after reading Sue Monk Kidd's book, "When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions.