Relentless Podcast, Episode 14: A God Whose Presence Lives in You

Have you ever had a friend message you exactly what you needed to hear at the perfect moment? A few years ago, I received word that a friend I’d journeyed through Cancer simultaneously with had just been admitted into hospice care. It took my breath away. I was mourning in the mountains, when a friend messaged me this:

“To inspire someone is way more than making them happy or amazed or even more than making them feel good. It is to lend them spirit when they are short, and of course because of the incorporeal nature of air and spirit, the act of inhaling becomes known as inspiration. In that sense, too, it is like mechanical ventilation for a soul that’s lost its resolve for a moment.”

There comes a time in all of our lives where we need the encouragement and inspiration of another. The flip side of that coin is that sometimes when people need us, our first response is hesitation; because if we’re being really honest, which we are, helping hurting people is really, really hard.

Many times, when the people around us need inspiration from us- they need mechanical ventilation from us, we don’t want to offer it because, let’s be honest, hurting people are difficult to be around.

My husband and I were in the throes of raising three adolescent children, which can be a difficult feat in and of itself, but add in their history of childhood trauma, and effectively find us at the end of our rope. It was during a video consult with a child trauma specialist that I heard the analogy that transformed my perspective entirely.

“Do you know the secret to getting out of a dog bite?”

“What?” I had no idea what she was talking about.

“Let’s say you see a dog & reach out your hand to pet it, but rather than welcome your affection, the dog sees you as a threat and attacks. Now your entire fist is trapped between the canine’s teeth.”

Now that sounded familiar. Living with someone recovering from trauma  feels a lot like being caught in a dog’s bite- unpredictable & painful.

“How do you get your hand out with the least amount of damage? Human instinct will make you want to jerk back, yank your hand out of the dog’s mouth, but that’s when the damage happens. The secret? Push in.”

I’ll admit that enduring hostility, even from a preteen, is painful. Everything within me wants to pull away, to retreat, to put as much space between us as I can manage. Yet in that very moment, everything the specialist had just said, my children’s trauma-informed behaviors, it all clicked into place for me.

The secret to healing is to push in, to stay close. Then, what was once wounded in relationship can be healed in relationship.

In order to be prepared to press in when the going gets tough, however, we need to regularly attend to our spiritual oxygen levels. So, I have for you today- 3 strategies for getting more spiritual oxygen in your life:

  1. Shut down, slow down, and invest in solitude and silence. Push in with Jesus.
  2. Body, mind, and spirit.
  3. Expiration and inspiration in tandem. Both inhalation of the Spirit of God and exhalation in the relationship with others. Reciprocity- the secret to our healing.

The best part? We have a heavenly Father who constantly and consistently models this response to our ill-informed reactions.

When God had every reason to pull away, to shut down, to self-protect, he did the opposite; he pushed in, because God knew that what we needed was not distance or punishment. We needed presence, so he gave us himself.

After the resurrection and Jesus’ ascension into heaven, a miraculous reality became truth for those who follow Jesus- the indwelling of his Holy Spirit.

No longer will God just be with you; God will be in you.

This brings us to Altar Stone #12: Look for God’s presence within you.

This week, I invite you to retreat from the crazy chaos of life, and in solitude and silence, push into Jesus. Leave the externals behind you for a moment, and turn inward. Where do you see evidence of God’s presence within your very being?

When God should’ve pulled away… and left us to our own mess, he pushed further in. He is not content to be anywhere but with us… He is our inspiration, our breath of life. Knowing that we will grow short of breath in the living of this life he gave us himself, and when we take in the inspiration of God, we have something to give to those around us as well.

QUESTION: What do you see when you look inside yourself? God has promised to dwell within the hearts of those who believe in his son, Jesus; when you embrace the silence, what rises up from within you? Listen for his still, small voice of peace this week, and share with a friend what you experience.

Podcast Transcript
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This Undone Life Together Podcast: Season 2 – Relentless

A God Whose Presence Lives in You, November 3, 2020

 

Are you aching for a love that will never leave, a presence that will push back the dark? If so, I have good news for you. God’s love is relentless even when your faith isn’t.

 

Welcome to the Relentless podcast, a 15-episode podcast designed to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the stories and the biblical history that make up the pages of my newest book, Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. My goal is simple. First, I hope you feel less alone.

 

I hope by sharing my story and my honest journey with my own faith that you feel less alone in yours, but ultimately, my goal is to help you find solid evidence of God’s presence in your story, because whether you can feel him or see him or not, he is with you. I believe that with my whole heart.

 

Today, we are talking about chapter 12, “An Indwelling: A God Whose Presence Lives in You.” This is hard for me to wrap my mind around (the idea of God’s living and active presence living in us). Yet, that is precisely what he promised. Today, I’m going to begin by reading about a story I wrote in my second book, I Am: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is.

 

Actually, the background of the story is when I wrote this particular chapter in the book (this is day 52 in that book), I had just received word that one of my dear friends, a friend who had cancer at the same time as I did, had been put on hospice. Her husband texted me and let me know that she had been put on hospice that night. I was just crushed. I was up in the mountains at my cabin writing I Am, and getting that news was like a sucker punch (a gut punch).

 

Probably because she’s a good friend, yes, but we had walked cancer together, so her journey was so tightly looped with mine. Our journeys were so close together, so it was just crushing to hear this, and it really took my breath away. In the middle of sitting alone in the family room up in the mountains, I was so overwhelmed with grief. I got an email from an online friend of mine who lives overseas, and this is what he wrote.

 

Having no idea what I was experiencing in that moment and without knowing my sadness, he sent me the following words: “To inspire used non-reflexively from the Latin inspirare has, of course, the stem spir in it. In it, very literally it is to give or put spirit into someone. To inspire someone is way more than making them happy or amazed or even making them feel good. It is to lend them spirit when they are short, and of course, because of the incorporeal nature of both air and spirit, the act of inhaling also becomes known as inspiration. In that sense, too, it is like mechanical ventilation for a soul that has lost its resolve for a moment.”

 

That day, when I got the news about my friend, I had lost my resolve for a moment. I was lacking air. I was out of breath. Through the words of this online friend who I’ve never met in person before, God breathed himself into me. He exhaled his presence into me, and I felt encouraged.

 

The pain didn’t go away, but I felt the living, active presence of God in me, and he used another human just like me to accomplish it, which is so bizarre, but this isn’t always easy to do. I sit there and think it was so nice of this gentleman to reach out and write, and God used it in a beautiful way, but many times when the people around us need inspiration from us (they need mechanical ventilation from us), we don’t want to offer it, because let’s be honest. Hurting people are difficult to be around.

 

That doesn’t sound very nice, but it’s absolutely true. I know this because I’m one of those difficult people. Over the last several years, as my youngest kids (the ones who have a history of early childhood neglect and trauma) approached adolescence it has gotten…how should I say…a little complicated. I’ll just leave it at that. It has been complicated.

 

All adolescents or most adolescents go through a time when they’re a little bit difficult to be around, but when you add layers of trauma on top of that, it makes it even more difficult. The truth is when my children misbehave or when they behave badly or when they are not very nice to me or when they are not pleasant to be around and sometimes just out-and-out mean to be around, the last thing I want to do is be close to them. I want to pull away. I want to shut down. I want to self-protect.

 

We do this with each other, too. It’s not just children. Right? If there is somebody who is difficult to be around, we want to self-protect, shut down, and pull away. It hurts too much to be around people who are hurting at times. However, this whole idea of inspiration (mechanical ventilation) is God recognizing that we are out of air. We’re sucking all of the air out of the room, and we need more, and rather than pull away he pushes in.

 

In Relentless in this chapter, starting on page 185, I tell a story that was probably the most anchoring and transformational moment in the entire writing of this book. It helped all of the pieces come together for me as I was really searching for this thread of God’s presence in my life as well as in Scripture. This is what happened.

 

“Several months ago, I spent well over an hour on a video consult with a well-known expert in trauma therapy and healing for children. Having connected through a mutual friend, I came prepared with a long list of questions, and to be quite honest, frustrations. We were neck deep in the most difficult year of parenting our youngest three children.

 

As they quickly approached adolescence, the memories of their childhood traumas both conscious and sub-conscious turned our household into a war zone, and my own trauma and too-slow emotional and physical healing only added to the intensity. We needed help. Then came the call with Debi Grebenik, and in the middle of a few tears and too many questions, she shared a common trauma analogy that shifted my entire mindset.”

 

By the way, this trauma analogy is from a man by the name of Dr. Daniel Siegel. You’ll find it in the book. This is Dr. Daniel Siegel’s analogy. It’s his metaphor, but it is revolutionary. This is what happened. “‘Do you know the secret to getting out of a dog bite?’ she asked. What? I had no idea what she was talking about. She went on. ‘Let’s say you see a dog and reach out your hand to pet it, but rather than welcome your affection the dog sees you as a threat and attacks. Now, your entire fist is trapped between the canine’s teeth.’

 

Now, that sounded familiar. Living with someone recovering from trauma feels a lot like being caught in a dog’s bite. Unpredictable and painful. ‘How do you get your hand out with the least amount of damage?’ she asked. She didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Human instinct will make you want to jerk back and yank your hand out of the dog’s mouth, but that’s when the damage happens.’ She paused for only a second. ‘The secret? Push in. Push in.’

 

It didn’t take more than a moment for me to make the connection, and then I burst into tears. ‘When a child or an adult is in the middle of a trauma response, instinct will tell you to pull away, shut down, and self-protect. Those who have been deeply wounded often strike out at those around them, but the secret to healing is to push in, to stay close. Then, what was once wounded in relationship can be healed in relationship.'”

 

Y’all, we have walked through 11 and now 12 chapters of this book. We have started with the garden where God was all about relationship. That relationship was damaged. Then, we went on to the pillar of cloud and fire and the covenant and Jacob’s experience with God and the ladder reaching from heaven and earth and Elijah experiencing God’s presence in a whisper in the cave to Jesus, the incarnation, and John the Baptist and the disciples and the transfiguration and the Last Supper (all of these significant markers in Scripture).

 

From Genesis and the garden of Eden all of the way through to the death and resurrection, God keeps getting closer to us. He keeps pushing closer in. When God had every reason to pull away, to shut down, and to self-protect, he did the opposite. He pushed in, because God knew what we needed was not distance or punishment; we needed presence, so he gave us himself.

 

The incarnation was incredible. It was God in the flesh walking on earth, but even then God was not content. It wasn’t close enough. God wanted to be even closer than Jesus was with us, so Jesus says, “I am going away, but I am only going away to make way for the Spirit to come.” In other words, Jesus says, “No longer will God just be with you; God will be in you.” Literal inspiration. God’s presence breathing life into our mortal flesh to give us life between now and the day we die and we live again to see Jesus face to face.

 

It is incredible! That dog bite analogy is common modern psychology in treating trauma. Yet, God knew this all along. The entire story of the gospel is God loving us so much and wanting to be with us. We have just chomped him off with our own sinfulness. We have dug our teeth in, and we are trying to break this relationship. Rather than pull away, God pushes further in, because he knows the pushing in will bring us the healing we so desperately need and we so desperately want.

 

How do you and I do what Jesus did? How do we live from this place of getting more spiritual oxygen? How do we take in even more of the Spirit? Because I need more. That’s one of the prayers I pray quite often. I say, “More of you, God. More of you. I need more of you.” I have three strategies for getting more spiritual oxygen in your life. By the way, all of these start with the letter R, because I like things that help me remember.

 

  1. Retreat. Sometimes I just need to retreat from the busyness and activity of this life to shut down, slow down, and invest in solitude and silence. I have to step away sometimes. It’s temporary. This stepping away is temporary. We can’t live disconnected from our lives, but I need to push in with Jesus. I need to push in with Jesus in order to receive the mechanical ventilation he gives me through his Spirit, and that means I need to retreat. I need the solitude and silence of pulling away from the noise and chaos of life to really connect with him.

 

  1. Rest. Not just retreat but rest. I need rest. My body needs rest. My mind needs rest. My spirit needs rest. I need rest, and if I want more spiritual oxygen, if I want that mechanical ventilation to do its work in me, not only do I need to retreat with Jesus but I need to rest every single day. My life cannot be about always going, going, going. I need to retreat and rest.

 

  1. Relationship. The interesting thing about inspiration is you have to have expiration and inspiration in tandem. We inhale, but if we always inhaled and didn’t exhale we would explode. We need this back and forth of inspiration and expiration. We inhale the Spirit of God. We connect ourselves to the mechanical ventilation of a living, active God in us.

 

Then, we exhale in relationship with others. It’s the back and forth, which is, once again…you keep hearing me say this…reciprocity. The secret to our healing is this reciprocity or this attunement with each other. We have it with God. God made emotional attunement with us. He has poured out the inspiration of his presence in us.

 

We carry his living, active presence in us, but we also need relationship. Retreat, rest, and relationship. We experience a measure of God in relationship with each other that we can’t get any other way, so we mustn’t live in isolation. We need this ongoing inspiration and expiration all of the time.

 

This is your next step here. Your twelfth Altar Stone is I want you to look for God’s presence within you. Look for God’s presence within you. That means retreat, rest, and engage in relationship. I want you to pull away in solitude and silence. I want you to push into Jesus. It doesn’t have to have a certain formula. It doesn’t have to follow a certain process. It doesn’t even have to be a certain length of time.

 

I want you to retreat from the crazy chaos of life, and in solitude and silence I want you to push in with Jesus. I want you to inhale his presence with you. Just take it in. God is doing the inspiration. All you need to do is take it in. To look for God’s presence within you, rest, take care of yourself, but also engage with those around you.

 

With the Holy Spirit, God pushed in closer than he has ever been before. We have that Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing the fact that someday we will be with him in heaven. Face to face with him, his presence will always be with us. We will have full, unmitigated access to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit living in us right now (that deposit letting us know what is yet to come), we have access to God even now.

 

When God should have pulled away, he could have and should have and left us to our own mess, but he pushed further in. He is not content to be anywhere but with us. This blows my mind! He is our inspiration, our breath of life.

 

Knowing that we will grow short of breath in the living of this life, he gave us himself, and when we take in the inspiration of God, we have something to give those around us as well. Look for God’s presence within you. When you find it, mark it. Mark it. Mark the evidence of God’s presence within you. This is your twelfth Altar Stone.

 

Thank you, friends, for being with me today. It is so much sweeter and more bearable to do this life together. Even better, we have a God who has promised to never leave us and to always love us. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus said. “I will come to you,” and I believe him. Now, that’s something worth living for.

 

Are you aching for a love that will never leave, a presence that will push back the dark? If so, I have good news for you. God’s love is relentless even when your faith isn’t, and the circumstances you fear might drown your faith could become the stones giving testimony to it. Join me, and let’s find evidence of him together.