Have you ever been brought to your knees in agony, your insides coming out, sure that you were in the throes of your ultimate destruction?
How many times have you felt like you were coming completely undone, only to realize, down the road, that your shell was only cracking,
so that the greatest expression of your true nature could pour forth?
How often have the cracks in your façade, in your best-laid plans, or even your heart, shed light on the deepest and most neglected parts of your being?
Have you discovered that even in the worst of times, you feel as if you’re broken, but yet there is yet more to the story?
“There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” — Leonard Cohen
As a pastoral care chaplain at All Souls church in Tulsa, I hear, witness, and hold space for countless stories of despair giving way to hope, grief opening to healing, loss making space for abundant gain.
People come to me, or I to them, in some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. Often, they are grappling with illness, relationship troubles, mental health issues, financial crisis, or death. I’ve heard countless times; “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” or, “I will never be the same.”
These are achingly true statements.
When we are swimming through an ocean of grief, it is hard to imagine that we will reach a new shore where we may find a new version of ourselves. That new version, though not the same as the one we left behind, is beautiful and precious.
When we are being broken open, growth looks like destruction; it is difficult to believe there is more to the story.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”― Cynthia Occelli
When I was in my second semester of seminary, I had such an experience.
In August of that year, I had started trauma therapy, a recovery program, and my graduate theological studies all in the same month. Those experiences hinged on unearthing and hard truths. Any one of them would be sufficient to break a person open, and they did.
Seven months later, all the facts I was facing about myself, my history, and my concept of reality compounded on one another. In the darkest month of the coldest winter Tulsa had seen in years, I had what is commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown. For about a week, I could not leave my house. I could only cry, journal, spend time with a trusted friend, and sleep.
Even though I lived alone, I was not alone.
During that time, long before I worked here, I was a member of All Souls and was participating in a Leadership All Souls class. My friends in that group did not know what was going on with me, only that I had told them I was having a hard time and needed their prayers.
They gave me so much more than that.
One came to my house to check on me. Another made me a week’s worth of soup and brought it to me, no questions asked. Several sent simple messages of support, and assured me I was loved and in their prayers. With few words, and deep love, they showed me what Love Beyond Belief looks like. And through that love, I came to believe that I would get through that moment of brokenness—however upside-down and inside-out I felt.
I accepted my trauma-related mental health diagnoses. I went diligently to therapy and support group meetings. I got my dog trained as a service animal. I slowed down on my studies and shifted my career goals. I even discovered that I loved and was called to pastoral caregiving. I let go of the image of who I was supposed to be, and became who I was meant to be—a person I could never have imagined, but whom I would not change for the world.
Here at All Souls, when we say we Love Beyond Belief, we mean just this: that when you cannot believe that there is more to the story, we will love you until you come to believe it, and beyond.
There is more to your story of abandonment.
There is more to your story of heartbreak.
There is more to your story of religious betrayal.
There is more to your story of grief.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the love gets in.
Are you or a loved one in need of pastoral care? All Souls’ Care Team has a commitment to meet the pastoral care needs of our members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Care Team Hotline: 918.724.TEAM (8326)
Learn more about All Souls commitment to providing care and living out Love Beyond Belief, visit allsoulschurch.org.
Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in February to explore the theme of BROKENNESS.
We’d love to have you with us in-person or online, together in community and covenant.
Live stream services are at 10:00 a.m. CST for our Traditional service or the 11:30 a.m. CST Contemporary service.
Listen to all our services, including the Humanist Hour (Sundays at 11:30 a.m.) on our weekly podcast, too.
Steven L. Williams serves as the Pastoral Care Chaplain of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Steven is a regular contributor to BeyondBelief.online and is the author of our feature story, The Humanity of Difference.