Coming Up for Air
Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Gabriel Ramirez
What does it mean to love yourself, and why is it essential to the Christian life? This is what we explore with our students in the second part of the 18 Inch Journey. The first three weeks are spent learning the Lord’s nature and how to engage His voice, and from there we practice buying into what He is saying. This process isn’t easy. It takes practice and requires an abundance of humility and self-compassion. As we learn to be corrected and affirmed by the Lord simultaneously, we build true identity.
Jesus modeled all of these things—self-compassion, grace, boundaries—and we believe that cultivating them is essential to living a whole life. Learning to love yourself is to come into agreement with His thoughts about you. Simply put: it is not enough just to hear His words over us. We must actively practice believing what He’s said. This practice, when rooted in the words of the Father, confronts our pride and shame and builds true confidence.
These are things that we teach our students to practice in their everyday lives. Over the span of two months, they regularly practice being patient with themselves and their process. After we dive deep into self-awareness, whether in a teaching session, a correction moment or a one-on-one conversation with a leader, we practice “coming back up for air”. We frequently take smile breaks, charge them to take a step back from processing and encourage them to not isolate and spend time having a lighter conversation with a friend. We teach them to take ownership when they make mistakes and to forgive themselves. We make space for them to be vulnerable with their roommates and small groups and to practice verbal self-compassion by acknowledging where they’re at in their process without engaging shame. These are simple practices of self-compassion and at the core they say, I am not in a hurry. I am wonderfully in process. There is space for me to fail, to learn, and to try again.
Self-awareness without landing in the Father’s voice and self-compassion can quickly become a crutch we lean on to avoid growth. The goal of true self-awareness is to confront us with Truth so that we have space to repent, grow and make sustainable change. This is where we connect with our great need for the Holy Spirit. We cannot make change in our own effort. It will either lead us to shame or striving; often it leads to both. But when we engage the Holy Spirit and practice compassion for our own process, we become participants in our own story, connected to hope and the reality of the Gospel: that with Him, we are capable of beautiful change.
We invite you to ask the Holy Spirit this question: Holy Spirit, how can I grow self-compassion and awareness of my need for you? What are some practical steps I can take to grow in this area?