It Takes Longer Than You Think

This reflection first appeared in my Begin Again monthly newsletter for September 2022.

When it comes to our interior journey into authenticity and wholeness, we all begin with unrealistic expectations.  I mean that everyone tends to think that the journey can be made relatively quickly so that we can carry on with our lives as whole, integrated individuals and leave the pain of our wounds behind.

I have lost count of the number of times someone expressed surprise (and dismay) when they discovered that they still have deeper issues than they were aware of. They did not expect it because they had already experienced real and deep healing in their life, and thought that their brokenness had already been addressed. Oftentimes this realisation makes them feel discouraged – at least momentarily – as it dawns on them that this interior journey is going to take a lot longer than they had expected. 

I have lost count of the number of times someone expressed surprise (and dismay) when they discovered that they still have deeper issues than they were aware of. They did not expect it because they had already experienced real and deep healing in their life, and thought that their brokenness had already been addressed.

As a fellow pilgrim who has gone through this cycle of realisation and dismay so many times that the realisation no longer discourages or dismays me (a lot less than before at least!), let me share a journey “secret” with you: However many conversions you have gone through, however many experiences of healing and deepening in your relationship with God, Self and Neighbour you have experienced, you are still earlier in your journey than you think you are. Truly. (This is not bad news!)

And if you truly desire wholeness and maturity in love, you will absolutely need to become in some sense a contemplative. By that I mean someone who grows to recognise and love reality as it truly is instead of being someone who tries to create the reality you want. Ironically, it is the contemplative who, in accepting the reality they inhabit, is able see where they have choice when others feel trapped. And it is the contemplative who has the interior freedom to act in ways that set herself and others free.

And if you truly desire wholeness and maturity in love, you will absolutely need to become in some sense a contemplative. By that I mean someone who grows to recognise and love reality as it truly is instead of being someone who tries to create the reality you want.

For those who have been on the interior journey a little longer and experienced more cycles of failure and redemption, there slowly develops not only an acceptance that this journey is slower than we had thought or wished for, but also a quiet joy. 

Why would there be cause for joy, you may wonder. For me, it is because over time I realise:

1. How thorough God wants to be in loving me and healing me. He is not in a hurry to “fix” me and move on. He is taking his time with me, gently, tenderly, not missing any part of me that needs the Good Shepherd to find and bring home.

2. There are more wounds in me than I realised, and the more I am healed the easier it becomes for me to recognise that there is more in me that needs to be resurrected and integrated into my life. When I realise just how much in me needs work, I become so grateful that this is a long journey – because I need more time!

Our interior journey is not linear. Neither is it a quick ascent to the summit where all is well and perfect. I think we all start the journey thinking that we can power through by the grace of God somehow and move on as healed persons who don’t have to deal with our brokenness anymore.

…if we let ourselves stumble along this path long enough, we might discover that the healing we receive is not the one we sought, and yet is greater than what we had asked for.

But if we let ourselves stumble along this path long enough, we might discover that the healing we receive is not the one we sought, and yet is greater than what we had asked for. I for one never expected that instead of having my wounds taken away, I would be given the capacity to befriend them and integrate them so that they become a source of compassion and wisdom instead of destruction.

When we taste the goodness of God in our redeemed wounds, perhaps we will stop fearing the discovery of even deeper wounds inside us. Maybe we will begin to see the interior journey less as a quest to be completed and more as steadily entering the infinite love of God where there is no end. 

Are you discouraged by the slow progress you seem to be making in your interior journey? I hope that my reflection here might give you a new perspective to your experience!

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