I went to a writer’s conference this week. I’m not sure that’s an adequate descriptor for the event. I have been telling people it was a writer’s retreat. It ended up being a spiritual transformation for many of the people in attendance. I include myself in that number. But as I sit and process today what happened to me and what is continuing to happen, I realize yet again that the process of transformation is rarely instantaneous. For me, it seems to be excruciatingly and arduously slow.

The big takeaway for me from this event was “integration”. Integration means I stop splitting myself into polarities. I stop seeing myself as either perfect or stuck, depending on my behavior. I accept the imperfections into the totality of my being and realize that who I am today is a combination of good and bad, perfect and imperfect. This is not a new topic for me, it’s just something that God keeps bringing to my attention as an area that needs work. My problem is that every time it comes up, I grasp it and I think, ok, I get it now, I got this! I am integrated. Life is going to be amazing from now on.

I fall for this crap every time.

The crap being that now that I understand integration versus being split, and I feel integrated, somehow life is going to be happy and perfect from then on. Sounds ridiculous, right? But somehow I get fooled into thinking that. I thought I had these huge revelations on the retreat and that my bad side had once and for all shook hands with my good side and we were all good. But it is easy to do that when everything is going perfectly, like it was at the amazing retreat where you’re sheltered from the real world and you are living in a magic bubble of love, peace, joy, cool Baltimore breezes and free breakfast.

I was feeling full of joy when I got home because I felt like I had finally achieved this big step in my life. But real life showed up last night and I immediately showed my imperfection. Which is supposed to be ok, right? I’m supposed to be ok with this now because I am integrated. (Insert laugh track here.)

It didn’t happen that way.  Apparently I still have the same old problem accepting myself as less than perfect. My less than perfect reaction to a situation at my home really disillusioned me, and then my disillusionment led to more disillusionment: It made me very sad to have to admit to myself that I hadn’t really accepted the imperfect me yet; that making a mistake could lead to another trip to the pit of self-punishment, self-loathing, the same old place that I go to by default whenever I don’t perform according to my standards.

I feel like a little girl who was having a beautiful day at the amusement park until her dysfunctional parent blew up at her, blasting her with insults and anger. (note: I am my own dysfunctional parent.) I feel shaky, vulnerable, and confused. It makes me want to give up on trying to be whole, because it feels like every time I stick my head out of my shell, the other me picks up a big rock and drops it on my head and I have to retreat with a concussion and try to recover. It makes me want to keep my head tucked into my shell and never try again. I get to the place where I just don’t trust the process anymore. I don’t trust God at times like this. Is that too honest for you?

Have you heard of the story about when God, through Moses, led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt? The Israelites thought they wanted to be free, but when they found out they had to pass through the desert before reaching the land of milk and honey, they stopped trusting Moses. They decided they wanted to go back to the land of captivity. Yes, it was back breaking work, but at least there they knew what to expect and they were fed and clothed and had shelter.

This is how I feel. I know that God works everything for my good. I know that my identity should not be based on my behavior but on my status in the Universe as God’s child. I know all the rules, but for whatever reason this lesson has not penetrated to the level of a heart change. And today, maybe just for today, I am tired. I want to go back.

Painting Pictures of Egypt
by Sara Groves

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

CHORUS:
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

BRIDGE:
If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

I really am sorry, family, for dragging my heels on this journey. I’m sorry for the frustration I cause you. I know you love me and you want for me to live a joyous life and that it hurts you when I seem to be resistant to that. I give you my solemn pledge that even though I may feel like giving up sometimes, I will not give up. I will keep trying to make it. I’m doing it for you, for us. I love you all very much.

Written by Tina Gasperson

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