Stubborn Releasing: Walking with My Kid through the Desert

Stubborn Releasing: Walking with My Kid through the Desert November 19, 2014

My daughter’s been going through terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days.

Something I can’t write about because there are confidences involved and as Aslan would say, “other people’s stories” that can’t be revealed. Suffice it to say that she showed great courage, much more courage than I ever showed at her age, and now pays the price almost every day.


It’s so much harder to walk with a child suffering than it is to walk through my own wilderness.

I spent last week at my 2nd spiritual direction residency. We explored the “releasing” rhythm.



Dark night of the soul.

All those times where it feels like God’s abandoned us, where spiritual pleasures disappear, where like Jesus in his 40 day wilderness temptation, our only company may be wild animals. . .

And angels.

The first day we each laid down something that symbolized our lives with God in this releasing rhythm. I put down a picture of my daughter, gave a brief synopsis, and released her so that my companions in the residency would carry her to God with me over the 4 days.

I learned a lot during the residency. That God leads us to the desert to test us and see what’s in our hearts. That in the desert we’re stripped to our fundamentals and as all the false ways we construct our own self-worth and identity die, we find God—sustaining us, loving us, calling us by our true name—Beloved.

I told the director of the program that I don’t think I’ve ever had a dark night of the soul—and I sure hope I don’t ever have one. Dark nights come when we’re faithfully seeking God, practicing spiritual disciplines, and yet God feels absent. Given my spotty spiritual practice and wayward heart, anything close to a dark night pretty much seemed to be my own fault—my own sin and brokenness leading me straight to that parched place.

“Or,” she said, “Maybe it isn’t your sin that leads you. Maybe God leads you to desert so your sin can be revealed.”

I was so taken with that concept that I went back to my room and created a table with 4 columns: Desert experience; what initiated it; what happened during it; what fruit it bore.


Indeed I saw that many times I didn’t get myself into the desert—often others helped kick me there. And maybe God didn’t abandon me, as I so often felt, but led me, walked with me, loved me, even if I couldn’t perceive His presence.

She also cautioned against trying to control my daughter’s wilderness experience.   Letting God lead her through her own desert so she finds God sustaining her, not me, will be key.

Sigh.  So I’m walking in the desert with her. Nudging her. Sometimes forcing her to pray or receive prayer. Not so good at releasing. Not so good at not being god.  Yet.

I relate much more to the Canaanite mom begging Jesus to take away the pain for her child—pressing forward even when he says no, even when he calls her a dog. My pastor preached that story Sunday. Today a colleague posted this poem “Stubborn Blessing” about her on Facebook.

I’m not so good at releasing, but I’m good at being stubborn. So here I go—stubborn releasing. . .

Stubborn Blessing

Don’t tell me no.

I have seen you

feed the thousands,

seen miracles spill

from your hands

like water, like wine,

seen you with circles

and circles of crowds

pressed around you

and not one soul

turned away.


Don’t start with me.


I am saying

you can close the door

but I will keep knocking.

You can go silent

but I will keep shouting.

You can tighten the circle

but I will trace a bigger one

around you,

around the life of my child

who will tell you

no one surpasses a mother

for stubbornness.


I am saying

I know what you

can do with crumbs

and I am claiming mine,

every morsel and scrap

you have up your sleeve.

Unclench your hand,

your heart.

Let the scraps fall

like manna,

like mercy

for the life

of my child,

the life of

the world.


Don’t you tell me no


© Jan Richardson.

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