The Way Hearts Die: An Invitation to Stay

This pandemic dangerously sweeping through every nation like a dark shadow has our world in a mandatory standstill. We are forced to stop. We are forced to stay. So many of us have spent so much of our life running. Running from feelings we don’t want to feel, people who are challenging, and obligations that make us feel small and unsafe inside. We avoid certain emails and letters from our bank. We’re tempted to neurotically fix ourselves. But when we stay, it changes everything. Anjuli Paschall wrote a message we need now more than ever, Stay. As believers, we know true life is found when the vine grows out of the branch. It is time we don’t just know this truth but experience it. Grace, freedom and wholeness come when we learn how to stay. It’s a grace to welcome Anjuli to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Anjuli Paschall

Imagine for a moment you are alone . . . no books, no Netflix, no counters sorely decorated with dishes, no phone.

Imagine there is quiet.

The longer you sit, the more you feel. The silence is scary.

The argument with your spouse bubbles up to the surface, the sarcastic comment your friend made days ago still hurts, the loneliness you feel in motherhood slices open a shameful hole.

Your longings begin to rise. The guilt over not being fully present with your kids rubs you, the loss of a loved one aches, the guilt for not being further along in your spiritual life stings.

The longer you sit, the more your memories take you back to years ago.

All of these complicated memories and feelings make you want to jump up, reply to texts, or reach for a wineglass.

But for a moment, stay.

Imagine the very places you want to fix, avoid, get swallowed in, power through, shout Bible verses at, stuff, or run from are actually the very way to wholeness.

Imagine, instead of getting up to investigate what is under the couch or neurotically tidying the mail, you let all those feelings rise. You let them come up to the surface to breathe.

You open your heart, talk to Jesus, find love.

Women’s hearts are dying. Right there in the middle pew of our church sanctuaries, our souls are slowly slipping away.

Joy Prouty

Joy Prouty

It is a vicious pull between doing more and drowning.

Life feels like a string of constant disappointments: unpleasant surprises in marriage, friendships dissolving, miscarriages, postpartum depression, months on end with little appreciation and almost no sleep.

Our hearts are being wrung out to dry—squeezed and yanked in every direction. We live on the surface, somehow just surviving.

In all of our ache, where is the freedom Jesus promised? Where are the streams of living water?

If we’ve walked with Jesus long enough, we may feel a void inside of us. It feels like a brick wall or an endless dark night, a wilderness or dryness in the spiritual disciplines.

We accepted Jesus into our hearts to escape the void. But it’s still there. It makes us feel guilty, ashamed, uncertain, and afraid.

This wall is a barricade between our heads and hearts.

The question surfaces: “Why do I know God loves me in my head, but I don’t believe it in my heart?”

When we hit this spiritual wall, we do one of three things: withdraw, work harder, or walk away.

Perhaps not instantly, but slowly. In time, if you don’t answer the heart question, you will inevitably pick one of these paths.

When we withdraw, we abandon our very souls because we can’t make sense of our inner chaotic cell. We keep showing up Sunday mornings, but our hearts are passively engaged.

When we work harder, we fight. We battle on, grit our teeth, bear down, and labor on. We read more books, follow more Christian women leaders online, do another spiritual diet, manage our faith with more worship music, and silence all uncertainty.

When we walk away, we give up on Jesus and the church. Jesus just didn’t work out.

I know this wall. I have wept here.

I’ve smashed my fist into it until my knuckles bled. It’s a lonely place.

I’ve begged people to be with me, but it’s a place I had to be alone with God.

And as I’ve stayed at the wall with my own temptation to withdraw, work harder, or walk away, I’ve discovered there is another way.

Perhaps the spiritual wall is actually a work of the Spirit.

What if it isn’t there because we are doing something wrong, but because God is tending to the soil of our inner world? God is moving closer.

The wall we are pounding upon, tempted to walk away from, or passively disappearing at, is actually a well where Jesus is inviting us to sit with Him, drink life-giving water, and stay.

Yes, stay. Stay where you most resist being.

This staying is a slow and painful sanctification, and it’s the place where God is growing us. He is digging a passageway like a tunnel from our heads to our hearts.

We have to pull up a chair at the table of our souls and invite all of the fractured places within us (the memories, stories, and unpleasant feelings) back together and stay there with Jesus.

Only then do we realize that Jesus is the kind host, inviting us to linger, spill the milk, break a dish, be known, and stay, not as guests, but as daughters.

He wants to hear our laughter, comfort our ache, ask us questions, and heal our hurts. God, in love, always welcomes us to stay and dine at the table with Him. He is cultivating a home within us.

This is the sacred gift of staying.

Perhaps your dying heart on your sofa today is the very place you are supposed to be.

Not fighting to get ahead and not giving up on ever overcoming, not closing the door on your faith entirely but there, right where you are.

Simply opening. Simply accepting. Simply moving inward.

Simply staying.

Stay with the real you and real Jesus. Here, life is found.

Stay, sisters. Even when the world is cracking, courageously stay with your beautifully broken soul and story because God is always staying with you.

 

Stay is a tender call to enter, to open, and to experience the echoing darkness buried beneath piles of mail and laundry and years of pain. This is a call to follow the fears and frustration to the unknown, frightening places inside. This is an invitation to let Jesus pull out a chair at the table of your soul and hear Him say, “Stay. You and your heart sit down.” Stay is about how I learned to become a little girl again, asking a big God if He could stay with someone small like me.

Anjuli Paschall grew up as a missionary kid secretly wondering, “Why does everyone else understand what a relationship with Jesus is, but me?” It wasn’t until she ran into her fears instead of from them, that Anjuli found her gritty and glittering voice and the love of God meeting her there. She is a pastor’s wife, spiritual director, writer, and mom to five kids. Stay: Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking is her first book.

Alongside Anjuli, you will encounter a loving God who invites you to stay with him at the table of your soul, where you are free to spill the milk, to fumble through your words, to embrace the awkwardness and the joy, and to taste and see that He is good.

[ Our humble thanks to Bethany House for their partnership in today’s devotion ]