Aundi Kolber spent much of her life believing that the only way through pain was to white knuckle and shame herself. She hoped that if she armored up and tried hard enough, maybe she would finally be found lovable by God and others. In a beautiful turn of events, Aundi came to find through safe relationships, her training as a licensed therapist, and the profound compassion of Jesus–that she has always been deeply loved. It’s a grace to welcome Aundi to the farm’s front porch today…
“Aundi,” she said to me gently, “it’s okay to cry. It really is.”
As my mentor spoke, years of bottled-up tears tumbled down my cheeks, and my whole body seemed to exhale.
“You don’t have to have all the answers. It’s not your job to fix everyone. You can let yourself rest. You’re safe with me.”
Little did she know how much I needed those exact words; I was starved for them like a tree in the desert longs for rain.
It wasn’t that tears or emotions were new to me. But usually my big feelings were accompanied by profound shame and blame. One minute I felt as though I couldn’t hold them in any longer, and the next I felt angry about my perceived weakness.
My inner critic had become adept at warning me that my vulnerability and aches were not welcome—and so I did everything possible to project the strength I believed would make me lovable.
Growing up in a family with significant relational and attachment trauma certainly did teach me I had no choice but to be tough, and my experiences seemed to prove that love was as flimsy as a stack of cards.
And so of course I learned to hide, suppress, and numb my pain.
But this is what happens when pain goes unvalidated and unwitnessed: We learn to internalize the false story that we aren’t worth the effort to be cared for.
Yet through the deep, unwavering grace of a God who is crazy about us, I have come to learn that our bodies are designed to heal.
We are quite literally created with the capacity to move through hardship when our minds, bodies, and spirits have the support they need to fully process pain.
Our ability to move toward wholeness and healing doesn’t happen because we pretend, ignore, or white-knuckle our way through the hard stuff of life.
As my mentor reminded me, healing happens when we begin to try softer with ourselves in the face of all that threatens our peace.
Ultimately, we move toward healing as we learn to steward toward ourselves the profound compassion God has for us.
A New Story
During my fourteen-year journey healing journey as a survivor of childhood trauma, I have come to experience the story of belonging and abundance that I believe Jesus invites us all into. It is a story of connection to the God who allows us to live from our truest selves—emotions and all.
Yet our culture and—even more significantly, our families—often teach us that pushing down trauma and pain is the only way to be in the world.
But Jesus tells us a different story, doesn’t He? He tells us that we don’t have to shame the pain; that instead, God is with us in the pain.
God is our Waymaker through the pain.
Jesus—the God who took on flesh to feel all the emotions and realities of our humanity—came and met us in the muck so that we can experience what it’s like to be known, loved, and fully human.
The God Who Weeps
It’s possible that my favorite example of the way Jesus invites us to try softer is in His interactions with His friends Mary and Martha after their brother, Lazarus, died.
The shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35, esv), sums up Jesus’ response as they and others grieved near Lazarus’s tomb.
Jesus absolutely knew what was about to happen: Even though His friend had died, He would be raising him back to life momentarily. But—don’t miss this—Jesus still wept.
What kind of God is this?
His friends had just lost their dear brother—of course they wept.
Yet Jesus didn’t shame them; instead, He honored and entered into their present grief and validated their humanity.
When Jesus lamented with Mary and Martha, He was allowing them to process their emotions.
Joining them in grief, Jesus knew that as they processed their feelings, they would tap into their bodies’ natural ability to integrate difficult experiences.
And as the Creator of their neurobiological structures, I suspect He even recognized that their minds and bodies needed to do this so the pain didn’t become a form of trauma.
Notice that God-in-the-flesh did not rush Mary and Martha along but instead provided empathy and patience.
This is a model for us as we seek to pay compassionate attention to our own experiences.
It might sound strange to most folks, but Jesus’ weeping is one of my favorite things to talk about.
This is the Jesus I know and serve and give my life to; the One who holds the redemption story in one hand and the fragility of our human emotions in the other—and loves them both.
An Invitation to Try Softer
Today, dear reader, I wonder if you can sense the invitation from your Maker to begin to honor the experiences of your own humanity.
Perhaps you can do so by letting yourself rest one moment longer in the presence of someone who helps you exhale.
Maybe you can listen when your body asks you to feel an emotion.
Even more simply, you might allow yourself to pay attention to what is actually going on in your inner person.
Regardless of your next step as you learn to try softer, my prayer is that you and I each know and experience the God who is profoundly compassionate with us.
Licensed therapist, speaker, and author Aundi Kolber lives in Castle Rock, Co with her husband and two children. She is passionate about the integration of faith and psychology and has received additional training around her specialties of trauma and body centered therapies. Aundi is the author of Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us Out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode and Into a Life of Connection and Joy. As a survivor of trauma, Aundi brings hard-won knowledge about the work of change, the power of redemption, and the beauty of experiencing God with us in our pain.
In a world that preaches a “try harder” gospel-just keep going, keep hustling, keep pretending we’re all fine-we’re left exhausted, overwhelmed, and so numb to our lives. If we’re honest, we’ve been over-functioning for so long, we can’t even imagine another way.
It is the joy of Aundi’s life to invite readers to understand that God is stunningly kind to us—and because this is true, each of us are invited to steward that compassion toward ourselves too. With a thoughtful combination of story, faith, and research-based practices, this book will guide you toward cultivating a gentler posture toward yourself.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]