The potholes in our souls

I was disappointed in myself for not being tough enough to take the flak, disappointed and ashamed. But as pilgrims must discover if they are to complete their quest we are led to truth by our weaknesses as well as our strengths." ~ Parker Palmer, Let your life speak, 22

Well drat - I didn't really want to re-read that right now in my is a season of unknowns and acutely experiencing my weaknesses. Oh, I know my strengths too and I am very clear on my vocational calling. But the ongoing lack of "being tough enough" to hoe this row in this season has been such a struggle.

My temptation is to blame "it" (any seeming failure or disappointment) - like Palmer did - on things outside of myself. It's easier to blame the "institution" or the people or the circumstances around me then take an honest look at my weaknesses and liabilities and let them lead me. For me...Stephen too often conveniently serves as the target of my blame. Oh, how many times I have to stop, confess and ask for forgiveness. He is ever so patient with me in the mist of my current "swirl."

"We will become better teachers [and humans] not by trying to fill the potholes in our souls but by knowing them so well we can avoid falling into them" (52). [parentheses mine]

In other words, I don't have to make my weaknesses and limitations as strong as my strength - I just need to gently be with them. So, I feel invited - especially during Advent - to sit with my weaknesses, not to shore them up nor to try and inspire or equip them with a new methodology or reward. Just to sit with them...welcome present and inquisitive and patient with them. They have something important to tell me. I want them to lead me to truth - truth that sets me free. And, as Parker invites us, in the midst of the doubts and despair that he's had on his vocational journey, he's learned this: "That self care is never a selfish act" (30). So I am creating some spaces and taking some breaks to be gentle with myself in the midst. 


  • In what areas of your life are you experiencing a sense of "not enoughness" or disappointment in yourself and your "liabilities"?
  • What are the phrases that you repeat to yourself in these moments? (e.g. Why can't you...? When will you ever...? You should know better...? Just pull up your bootstraps...?) In what ways does your phrase "shame" you - and how do you react to it? (i.e. ramp up and get to work or shut down?)
  • Can you give some "care" to that part of you that feels not enough? What would that even look like? (e.g. saying "no" to adding more to your schedule, taking a 20 minute break to enjoy something you like/take a hot bath/journal your thoughts, etc.)