Refine Retreat

Learning to Handle Truth

Words have begun to slip free. Not many. Nothing earth-wreckingly profound, but still, after weeks of nearly nothing, I’m thankful for the drip–however slow it may be. The waves of self-doubt rise, on the heels of coming back down the mountain.

Learning to handle truth can be a slow process. Sickness sidetracks me and laundry mounds and topples my plans for the day, then for a week. Plus one more. Also?–I’m a much slower processor than I used to be. (Or maybe this is growth?)

I’ve sat a lot. I’ve made art with my littles, using it as both release and escape from the churning that rocks me from the inside out. Writers write, that’s what makes one a writer. The actual act of laying words to screen, pen to page, and so on. I’m on extended retreat, I keep saying. It’s both welcome (necessary) and terrifying. I’m just prideful enough to wonder if the words will ever come again.

A page from my art journal

What if I never write again? I think I just may stop–

These are the melancholy words I utter over the phone to a friend. She’s patient and quiet. She’s an expert in holding space for me in my processing. She doesn’t press but instead sends an email the next day, with an article providing reasons to keep writing. I shrug and open it. Right now,  I need a reason to keep writing.


The final morning at Refine, I told the women that God had spoken to me in the shower just a couple of hours before we gathered for goodbye’s. I heard the phrase, “You Can’t handle the truth”, and while I initially joked about the words coming through the teeth of Jack Nicholson, in that well known court room scene of a certain film, I knew it was God’s voice, not Jack’s that spoke to me over the shhhhhh of the shower water. I knew it the way one is certain of anything because the evening before, during worship, God had spoken to my heart on a related issue. This follow up statement served as further confirmation that I had indeed heard from Heaven and not Hollywood.


I’ve been fighting, trying to stuff God into a box. He is unmanageable, and unpredictable in all of the right ways and the wildness of God is something I have both loved and feared. I’ve worked hard to whittle Him down, to minimize the wonders of His hands. I don’t know all of the reasons I do this, but I think if I am honest it’s mostly because I want it to make sense–faith, God, redemption. I want God to be safe–and perhaps if I am utterly naked about it, it’s also because I have long lived as my own god. I have worshipped a God created in my image.

I have treated God like a riddle to be solved. I have wanted to put Him through my formula, to have Him come out on the other side explainable, predictable, and completely manageable, so I can say, “Well of course He did it that way, that’s how He is”.

But He’s right–I can’t handle the truth.


God is anything but containable and His fierce love and passion for His people is unrelenting and wild. There is no box, no hole in the rock or ground that can contain Him and that terrifies me. I am learning however, that the hugeness of God is big enough to hold my doubt.

He’s asked me to do hard things. I’ve trembled and obeyed not out of terror, but out of awe and a deep wanting to please Him. I’ve said yes, as a means of both obedience and performance. I’ve wrestled with wanting and rejecting any recognition for the work. I know well, the darkness of a prideful heart.

I’m human. Sometimes my humanity makes me sick.


We’ve been home from Refine for a couple of weeks now. I’ve confessed my frustration, as a writer, at my inability to encapsulate what happened there with words. As if my small words are necessary to validate the experience. I’ve so badly wanted to define and articulate the sheer majesty of the weekend but every time I try, I wind up blank. My mind, an echoing hallway of images without words.

I can’t handle the truth. It’s too big. I’ve wrestled with doubt about the whole experience. I’m realizing though that just because I can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen as I remember. My failure to find words doesn’t diminish acts of God.

God is too big.

The works of His hands are a big deal.

Sometimes, too big for words.



18 thoughts on “Learning to Handle Truth

  1. So ermines He wants us to be like Mary… Just to ponder these things in our heart… And I know for me… Sometimes the long silence is the journey taking me from theory to reality.

  2. Oh friend, know that I am praying for you. That God will give you words to express the ache in your heart. But if you don’t find them, that’s okay. I also agree some words are just to be pondered in our hearts. Blessings!

  3. As I was reading your post, Jeremiah 29:12 came to mind: ‘In those days, when you pray, I will listen.’

    I also feel He’s telling me you’re having a ‘Job’ moment, Kris. Love you can share your heart so we can all dig in a little deeper. Remember to lean in. He’ll reveal the words to you when He’s ready….when He knows you’re ready. ((HUGS)) and prayers ~ L

  4. First of all, you are so very brave my friend. So brave. In so many ways, and I know it is by His strength – but you, pushing through the doubts and the hard places to lean in to Him? That is the grit of a faith walk. For a word girl like yourself, sitting in the quiet might be one of the bravest moves to date. I type this with tears in my eyes – I’m so proud of you, my sister. I KNOW He has big things for you…He’s preparing you. The words will come – whether written or spoken – the message is being formed. Love you and your heart so very much! <3

    1. Thanks, Ashlie. I don’t feel very brave, but I am grateful you are in my corner, holding me up with your generous prayers. He is speaking, and I am hearing…even if I resist in moments. It’s a journey, right? Always in process…

  5. Amy Hunt

    I love this. I love seeing what God is doing. We can’t handle the truth. He asks us, what if you don’t write again? What if you just choose to trust me right now, even with that fear? What if you let me show you what you’re most afraid to see? Are you willing? Are you willing to let me grow your capacity to trust, even though it’ll hurt? Hard questions, indeed. Lifting you up, friend, as I know these are hard questions He’s had me face and they’re hard questions He eventually asks us all. It’s all good . . . such evidence of His cultivating of us.

  6. Oh yes, my friend. So much of writing is figuring out how much to leave silent, what should remain unsaid, the mountains we are meant to climb with words and those we should only ponder or talk over with friends. This are good but difficult tasks.

  7. Kathy Schwanke

    I often feel the restlessness.

    Sit down and put fingers to keys with nothing, or worse-frustration. But then I remember that I belong to the Master Gardener. And in it all -the fruitful words or the blank screen, in my right mind or out of my mind, success or failure -it is all for Him. For His glory.

    And then, like you are doing, I re-surrender, determine to rest in His love, to please Him by trusting and obeying, and keep on moving forward by faith.

    Not of this world…
    (love the art!)


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