Not Doing Well, Part Two

It can seem like such a simple phrase: “I’m not doing well.” But when expressed with honest reflection and curiosity, it can be an incredibly vulnerable statement and a window into our most formative stories and the most deeply entrenched messages about who we are. We realized this last week, after a last-minute pivot led to the first part of this series, which surprised us by how deeply and broadly it resonated. Today, as Rachael Clinton and Dan Allender continue the conversation, they return to the moment of disruption they mentioned last week—the need for something that interrupts our spirals of sabotage and escape.

Dan: “I’ve got to have that spiral, that sabotage contended with to begin to open the door to more.”

Rachael: “And the Spirit is not just contending with that moment. The Spirit is contending with all the moments that we’ve not been well, and how that’s been handled. […] The reality is, most of us have a history of it not going well when we’re not well. We already have some disordered imagination around what’s possible.”

If it’s not clear yet, it’s worth saying directly: What we’re engaging is about so much more than “Oh, I’m just tired.” Contending with our familiar cycles and spirals requires that we deeply contend with the places where we have made agreements with harmful forces, where we have vowed to not ask for help or reveal weakness.

Rachael: “When something has harmed us, has hurt us, has failed us, what kind of decisions do we make about ourselves, about God, about the world, that actually become more true than what we’re meant for and what can be true?”

If we’re open to engaging our places of unwellness in new, courageous ways, it will inevitably lead us back to our earliest stories and families of origin. Was it okay to not be well in your home? Was there room to not have it all together, to not keep pushing through the pain? Have you ever experienced knowing something or someone big enough to handle your complexity and not-wellness? There is a narrative weaving through these questions, a well-worn path we must be able to recognize.

Rachael: “This is not easy. These are painful places. And the Spirit is wanting to disrupt and contend with our false beliefs that we have to be well, that there’s no goodness or care or comfort for us when we’re not well, and that the only options are isolation or to dissociate and fragment. So I want to name that we are also in the realm of hope.”

We glimpsed this movement toward hope in the response to last week’s podcast—the tremendous relief many listeners expressed in hearing someone say “I’m not doing well, and it’s okay if you’re not doing well too.” As Rachael reflects, this is an Isaiah 43 hope—we might be flooded by rapids or surrounded by flames, but we will not be consumed or swept away because we are not alone.

Dan: “In not being well, my heart is well.”

Rachael: “We’re now in the realm of what it means to be kingdom Gospel people.”

“In not being well, my heart is well.”

That hope—however faint—is why we can contend with historic, harmful messages that feed into our unwellness. Because we know we are not alone: The Spirit contends with and for us, alongside the beloved community of resurrection people—those who do not shy from death or minimize pain, but also know that another story is still being written.

Dan: “I need resurrection people, and I need kingdom people. […] Even in our weakness, even in our not doing well, there is something of the glory of God that is meant to be a gift to one another.”