Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Jumping into Serendipitous Grace

Written by: on November 16, 2020

My spiritual directee arrived ten minutes late.[1] I had already spent 20 minutes trying to settle my new puppy into her crate with treats and such but was unsuccessful. By the time the spiritual direction session began, my pup was still losing her puppy mind with separation anxiety, and I was super distracted. I just kept thinking, “This will be a total shit show of a session.”

I could see it in her countenance and in her eyes, my directee came ready to share. Something was pressing and she was ready to be pushed. She seemed completely unphased by the loud, piercing puppy noise in the next room.

We opened our session with five minutes of silence, which of course was not silent. I then prayed, asking God for the ability to hear what emotional currents lie beneath the anxious noise emanating from the directee, myself, and my pup.

The directee brought her reflection cards to the session though she knows I have a similar deck.[2] As she shuffled through the deck looking for a connecting image, I sensed God nudging me to introduce her to a different set of reflection cards created by Melanie Weidner.[3] As my directee shuffled through the new deck, she quickly pulled cards whose images resonated with what was happening internally in her spirit. Upon inspection, there was a common theme to the images: new birth and possibility.

We began to explore why she selected those images, for they were contrary to her present lived reality. For weeks she had been participating in a trauma recovery group to examine deep wounds inflicted upon her soul throughout her lifetime.

I listened to her share and instantly felt led to accompany her through a visual prayer practice my spiritual director has taken me though a number of times. It is called the paradox prayer, and it involves naming shame and tackling it head on, but always with the grace of God present.[4] It is a very embodied practice. Though I have personally experienced the power of the paradox prayer, I have never facilitated the practice with a directee. I was scared at the possibility. What if it takes the directee to a place that I am not equipped to help her though? What if she experiences more pain than healing?

While asking these fear-driven questions, I took a deep breath and listened. I knew that if I was to accompany my directee to unknown places in her heart, I needed to remain a non-anxious presence, a differentiated leader.[5] Upon this realization, I felt a silent embrace.  My pup had finally quieted down. I’m not sure when that settling happened, as I had been so very focused on what my directee was sharing, but I was grateful for the quiet as we proceed through the session.

Spiritual direction is a dance between director, directee, and Spirit. Spirit was leading this session in a way I could not have predicted. As I sensed and responded to Spirit’s movement within myself and my directee, something happened in my directee. I can’t fully explain it, nor can she, but it was like a metaphysical integration occurred within her. I could sense it happening. As tears flowed from my directees eyes, I knew she sensed it, too. Something in the space we inhabited shifted in a way that was indescribable. In hindsight, I wonder if what I witnessed wasn’t the transformative miracle of reconciliation?

Remaining on the edge of the unknown feels safe, but it robs us of frisson, or those sudden passing sensations of excitement that come after the jump into the free fall. Until I jump, I’ll never really know life and why it is worth living.[6]While jumping into the unknown is scary business, when Spirit leads and serendipitous reconciliation is possible, why would I not take that leap?



[1] I have received permission from my directee to share a snapshot of our session in this blog post.

[2] I was introduced to reflection cards by Katie Skurja. Katie was one of my professors at Portland Seminary. Reflection cards invite people to examine internal realities through imagery. Often the images help give structure and context to emotions and events that are difficult to articulate. You can find out more about Katie’s work here: https://www.idmin.org.

[3] Melanie Weidner is an artist and spiritual companion. Her beautiful reflection cards can be found here: https://listenforjoy.com/collections/all.

[4] Katie Skurja introduced me to this prayer. She hosts Prayer for Inner Healing workshops through The Companioning Center: https://companioningcenter.thinkific.com/courses/inner-healing-training-for-practitioners-level1-t-jan-mar-2021.

[5] Edwin H. Friedman. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. (New Your, NY: Church Publishing, Inc., 1999, 2007) 183.

[6] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza. Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Spontaneity. (London, UK: LID Publishing, Ltd., 2016) 263.

About the Author

Darcy Hansen

11 responses to “Jumping into Serendipitous Grace”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    Darcy, I’m curious about the paradox prayer that you mentioned. I’ve never heard of that before. Could you elaborate some more on that? How it works, what your experience of it has been, etc.?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      The paradox prayer goes like this:
      Even though I am______, I am loved and accepted by God.
      Even though I am______, I love and accept myself.
      Even though I am______, I trust you, Lord.
      Even though I am______, I ____________.

      The blank is filled in with your biggest fear or that thing that carries a high level of shame with it. So for me, I have filled the blank with words like “worthless,” “a horrible parent,” “forgettable,” “incompetent,” “insignificant,” etc. My spiritual director has me evaluate my shame level first on a scale of 1-10, 10 bingeing the highest. She then has me repeat after her the paradox prayer, filling my shame triggers. We then take whatever relationship or situation that the shame is associated with into the light of God and examine it, asking God for God’s perspective. We then evaluate my shame level after the visual prayer.

      Personally, it has been a game changer. For years I have been (and continue to be, on really hard days) shroud in shame. My SD says, “You can’t think your way out of shame, you have to feel your way through it.” The paradox prayer helps facilitate that, while holding both truths with open hands. It has taught me to respect and embrace my human-ness more and to live more peacefully within my limits.

  2. Greg Reich says:

    Thank you for the view into your life of spiritual direction. I also appreciate you sharing the paradox prayer! Very insightful.

    I am always amazed at our fear of the unknown when in reality it is an everyday event. We believe that by scheduling out life each day that we know exactly how it will turn out. To plan for one day has a measurable amount of uncertainty. To plan for a year more so. To plan for a life time is off the chart of uncertainty. I am a big planner but I have learned to realize that my best laid plans are in many ways inadequate even though I constantly chart the course and make navigational adjustments. It is here I am learning the value of faith, flexibility and the holding of my plans with an open hand. I keep dreaming, I keep planning but I do so knowing that I peer into a glass dimly.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Yes! The unknown IS woven into each and every day.

      One of the issues I have with the leadership papers we have to write is the “what’s your plan and how will you get there” component. The bulk of my plans have not transpired the way I’d hoped or dreamed. Walking with Jesus is a day by day endeavor. Like you, I hold those hopes loosely and adjust along the way. I think that’s what it means to live by faith:)

      • Greg Reich says:

        I agree! I am a planner for many reasons but the biggest is that without a destination in mind people tend to journey in circles never quite reaching the destiny that God has for them. Wandering can be good at times but not good for a permanent process. I as a gun nut I think of it this way. When hunting geese a rifle is a poor choice since it is designed for pin point accuracy but a shotgun is designed to scatter shot over a broad area and on a flying goose a broad area is required. When shooting at a bulls eye on a target a shotgun is a poor choice since the intent is to have pin point accuracy when aiming at the bullseye. In my DMin journey I take the rifle approach since I have a clear destination in mind. I take the same approach when I teach. But in other areas of life where a broad perspective is needed I take the shotgun approach. This allows me to be flexible and not exert unrealistic expectations on things that don’t need pinpoint accuracy.

  3. John McLarty says:

    Those moments when the Spirit is clearly taking charge are both scary and sacred. Sometimes the Spirit works through the director, other times through the directee, and other times in both. How might this experience shape your practice going forward? What would it look like next time when you fear you’re out of your depth or stuck for how to proceed to put that on the table?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Katie facilitates a workshop that delves deeper into prayer for inner healing. I will take that course as a continuing education component. Still, I do know Spirit works in wonderful and wondrous ways. Ways I can’t always predict. In spiritual direction, it is imperative to enter each session with open hands, ready to give and receive as the Spirit leads. The more I am led into unfamiliar waters, the more confident I’ll become in hosting space for the possibility of inner healing. The truth is, I can’t force or manipulate that healing. Only God can do that work, and it happens in God’s times and way. Getting a front row seat and watching it happen before my eyes- well that is just sweet grace upon grace.

  4. Chris Pollock says:

    Love learning new words! ‘Frisson’ is a new one for me 🙂 thanks Darcy.

    Jumping is exciting. Have you ever jumped and regretted it afterwards? Or, is there anything really to regret if it all applies to the ‘God (who) works all things together for good’?

    What about waiting at the edge then, jumping into what turns out to be painful? Yet, on the other side of the pain, a progression into a ‘next level’ anti-fragility or reconciliation?

    Apologies, for all the questions! I love to jump, too. What about protecting ourselves from jumping into another’s abyss? So, I appreciate the attitude of presence, to come alongside, as a voice of Love resonating out of (on the outside of, yet seemingly within) the darkness to give encouragement, if by no other way, by reassurance for the one whose darkness it is.

    God bless you in the ministry of imminence you’ve be called to!

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I remember when I became a children’s leaders in BSF. I regretted that Yes for the first 3 years of serving in that role. I hated it a little less years 4-5. By the time God called me out of that role after 7 years, I had finally grown to like teaching kids. I learned a ton, and it was a step that definitely needed to happen, but it was tough. I would never choose to do that again. I was a baby Christian. I didn’t know I could say No to the invitation. I assumed since they asked, it must be God’s will.

      I have had a number of instances where the jump from the ledge led to something painful. I’ve written about some of those jumps in past posts. God definitely has met me in those spaces. Would I choose to jump again knowing what I know now…I’m not sure. Yes, would be the good Christian answer though.

      Protecting ourself from another’s abyss requires Friedman’s self-differentiation. I struggle with that regarding a particular person who always seems to be in the abyss. I have to stand at the edge and just be present from afar. I can’t change their reality as a consequence of various circumstances and choice. I love them, but can’t be in the pit with them.

  5. Shawn Cramer says:

    Like Dylan, I’m grateful for you introducing us to the paradox prayer. I suppose it’s rooted in the prayer, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief”?

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