“When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2
In my yard growing up, we had a “jungle” in the back corner along the fence. It was an area that the lawnmower couldn’t handle because the weeds and brush had already won over the grass. I remember playing kickball and reaching into the jungle with great fear and trepidation. My arms would emerge victorious with squishy playground ball in hand and scratches up my arm to prove that I am a warrior. The fear was great but my courage was stronger. As a grown up I have come to believe that my work is to step out into the wilderness to help those who are suffering. I dream of traveling the world to bring hope and healing, but just like that little girl, I find the wilderness I am called to reach deep into, through the fear and pain, is right in my own backyard.
When my youngest daughter started full day kindergarten, I started a business and ran out into the world, but the screaming voices and chaos in my yard kept pulling me back. I felt like a failure but something deep inside me knew that if I went one more step forward to try to heal the world and didn’t first tend to the wilderness of my heart and in my home it would be all for naught. In that moment, I pushed pause. I narrowed my circle and tuned into the jungle in my heart. There are places inside me that need pruning. It hurts to do this work, but it is the only way to get to a place of health. As I sat in a room full of people doing the tough work of addressing the war of the heart with the Allender center, I discovered places inside me that were on fire. I tended, I grieved and raged and fought for those parts of me and just like that playground ball I pulled forward some more of my essence victoriously. It was exhausting and I wanted to be done, but what I am learning to embrace is the truth that the hero’s journey is never over. God continues to call me deeper into healing and transformation in my own heart and home.
Having teenaged daughters is bringing forward a whole new flavor of pain and brokenness. I was sure I was finished after navigating the pain of high school with my two sons, but I think there is a special invitation in parenting my girls. I am learning to sit in the weeds with them when they will let me. To offer eyes of compassion and care, to advocate and fight for and with. This is the best work ever. What is even more difficult are the times and places when I see their pain so clearly and they close the door to keep me out. I stand outside the door feeling the pain on the other side as if it is my own. The door is hot and it feels like my beloved girl is on fire on the other side. I bust down the door to rescue her and she swiftly kicks me out; “Please leave me alone, I don’t want to talk.” “Don’t you know; this is what I do? I help people who are hurting. Please let me help.” I plead. “No, go away! I don’t need help; I need to be alone.” This is where our stories clash into a chemical war. It feels like dynamite in my heart and I leave the room with such horrible feelings of failure and fear for her future.
As I spoke with my spiritual director, she reminded me that the girl on fire is really me. Ellie doesn’t carry the trauma story of being left alone in the dark without eyes to see or hands to tend to the wounds. She has ever only had the eyes of care and compassion seeking her and pursuing her. Right now my pursuit feels like abuse to her, because she needs to separate and find her own way. It feels like torture to me.
As I learn to respect her boundaries and stand firm in love, I hear a young abandoned part of me calling.
I leave my post and break down the door reaching into the fire to rescue my teenaged self. She is feisty and desperately needs my care. As I tend to her with curiosity and kindness, my hyper-vigilance around my daughter lessens and I become safe again both in my skin and in my home. I am reminded of the wisdom of Glennon Doyle Melton who said “It is not our job to protect our kids from the pain and fires of life, but to point them toward the pain and remind them that they are fireproof.”
Jean Masukevich is a trauma sensitive yoga teacher and integrative coach with over 20 years of teaching experience. Her mission is to guide others to greater mind, body, Spirit integration and connection to their authentic self. She cultivates communities of care where individuals and groups heal and share their hearts and stories through movement, writing, meditation, integrative prayer, creativity, and the sacred art of listening. Jean holds an advanced certificate in grief and trauma from the Allender Center of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and is a certified Spiritual Director through Sustainable Faith. Jean serves both children and adults and is available for in person and remote coaching. Contact her at Sowthatjean@gmail.com.