“What I mean by misfit is someone who is being as intentional as you are about embracing the gifts of the Dark Wood and finding their place in this world, if not more so.”
— Eric Elnes
“Change your whole way of thinking! Heaven is already here!”
— Matthew 4:17, translated by Eric Elnes
“The kingdom of God is within you.”
— Luke 17:21
“The kingdom of God is already among you.”
— Luke 17:21
Yesterday I was in a small group gathering at the church. It was a wonderful opportunity to share personal stories of struggles in the “dark wood” and meaningful “gifts discovered.” (It was during the monthly Emmaus Ministry Fourth Day Reunion Group at FUMCFW — the first Wednesday of each month at noon in Room 230. Ask me about it if you want to learn more.)
One person shared that he is coming to realize how important it is for him to “empty himself” in order to live faithfully and follow God’s calling. And we all could relate to that in our own personal journey.
For me, memories echoed back to the most difficult time in my life when I had little choice but to empty myself . . . first literally. (As a 13-year-old kid newly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the treatment made me so sick that I went from 115 pounds to 75 pounds in less than six months.)
I spent a lot of time in that dark wood before I really began to discover gifts in and from there.
Probably the biggest gift I discovered is that it changed my whole way of thinking.
It truly was a kind of conversion or awakening. Many different experiences influenced my “wake-up call,” but the deep, personal, transformative moment happened not through church but in nature. (And perhaps it was more a series of awakenings than one moment.) It was simply in our back yard on a spring day much like today. Steeped in gratitude after finishing a long round of radiation and returning back to my home in Little Rock, I discovered that something shifted inside me.
As I settled into a peaceful, trusting presence, I realized that I was not alone. (Years later I came to think it was an internal shift of awareness from isolation to solitude.) I really was part of something much bigger. And I was filled with wonder. Though I didn’t sing “amazing grace” at the time, I’ve come to understand that the song is about this experience of profound presence and sense of freeing joy and wonder.
Through much of my adolescence and beyond, though I could fake it to fit in, there was a deep sense of being a “misfit” as in “isolated.” Yet I began to discover over and again that much of what sustained me was being intentionally present in solitude and drawing from a well in the depths of my soul. Later I discovered that I could find a caring community of “misfits.” In such gatherings, I could discover even deeper gifts of healing and courage as we became more intentional about helpful ways of being together.
Basically, this other way of thinking is to notice the wisdom deep in the soul. I know some of you haven’t looked at this link below that I posted recently. But I invite each of you to take a look at the comparison of “ego stories” and “soul stories.” I keep returning to it to consider the difference in my own life. And I keep learning new ways to move from a fearful and isolated “false self” misfit, to a full-of-wonder “true self” misfit who knows that “Heaven is within and among each of us.”
If we have eyes to see.
Grace and peace this Palm Sunday and as we move together into Holy Week.
Here is a blog I wrote last fall on “Ego Stories and Soul Stories.” It fits well here, so I recommend it for further reflection.
Or you might at least want to take a quick look at these contrasting columns of “ego stories” and “soul stories.” Though I’ve read it many times, I keep learning something new about myself every time I take a fresh look.