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When anything comes at us that feels like the clenched pain--rejection, violation, terror and the like--the Inner Fist hits back. When it hits inside, it punches holes in our confidence, pummels our joy, hammers home the thought that, as usual, the universe and its creator are against us. Sometimes the Inner Fist hits outward, making us lash out at others or become pleasure-chasing addicts.
The Inner Fist strengthens itself by drawing around it expectations that we believe will make the hurt inside magically dissipate. As writers, some of our fist-builders are thoughts like these:
"I will get published and...
...I will have honor instead of shame"
...I will have worth instead of worthlessness"
...I will have abundance instead of deprivation"
...I will be popular instead of ignored or bullied"
Can any publishing experience bear the weight of expectations like these? Not likely. So the Inner Fist goes on punching us inside.
Unclenching the Inner Fist is the heart work of a lifetime. Until you grant access to the pain--to God, yourself, others--the Inner Fist will remain a destructive force in your life. It requires great courage, grace, faith and hope. It is the only path to peace and to creating great art that changes lives. That changes the world.
What unclenches the Inner Fist are ordinary graces--things like delight, wonder and play; learning, mentoring and teaching; communicating with open honesty; freely giving you time, skill, creative output and praise with no expectations simply because it's fun and makes you feel alive. Above all, the gracious work of love--God's, your family's, your friends', and yours for them--builds skin over the raw places.
At times these winds of grace may feel like a tornado. They may feel like self-immolation. Like tossing your possessions out the window. Like standing yourself before a firing squad. Who am I without my defenses after all? You'll never know unless you let light inside.
You might just find that the place of your deepest pain is a well of great beauty--your truth--which when drawn out, has the power to unclench other Inner Fists. I think of Anne Lamott's raw honesty in Traveling Mercies and Operating Instructions. Of Donald Miller's meandering hunger in Searching for God Knows What.
Have you felt the Inner Fist in your life? What ordinary graces have unclenched a finger or two for you? What books have encouraged you in your own heart work of healing and maturing?