Join Josh and Kit as they again speak with Connally about her latest book And Yet, Undaunted: Embraced by the Goodness of God in the Chaos of Life.
Creation – the way things ought to be
Fall – the way it is
Redemption – in Jesus redemption is possible
Restoration – how things will be when things are set right between us and God.
“…the holes in my soul, I have discovered them to be portals to the heart of God…”
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
Hey, friends, a few months ago, before any of the COVID-19 stuff began, we recorded a podcast with Connie Connelly Gilliam about her new book. And yet undaunted, we plan on dropping it later in the spring or early summer. But given all that’s going on, we listen to it again and thought this is really fitting for where people are today. And so we want to offer to you earlier than anticipated in hopes that it’ll really speak to you. So, again, we didn’t talk about COVID-19 in it, but I think you’ll certainly find implications and understand why this is such a helpful resource for us with all that we’re going through. So please enjoy. We are very excited today to welcome Connelly Gilliam onto our podcast, kindly has been a longtime friend and she is she works with us navigator. She’s the author of two books. One is called revelations of a single woman loving the life I didn’t expect. And the other is a brand new book called and yet undaunted, embraced by the goodness of God in the chaos of life, which she co authored with Paula Reinhart. Connelly is a dear dear sister in Christ. She speaks nationally on sexuality, gender and race and the unremitting goodness of God found in Christ. She holds an MA in theology studies from Regent college Vancouver, British Columbia. And she has seven nieces and nephews and is a godmother to five. She also in my experience is an incredibly smart, articulate, wise, godly woman. So we’re honored, kindly that you’re with us today. Thanks. So I just want to start off kindly with this. There’s on the back jacket of the book, there’s this paragraph I want to read it says life is hard. We often find ourselves walking through stories that don’t feel like they should be ours. And yet, here we are, we wonder where a good God is in the midst of it all. And I know from the years I’ve worked with regeneration, there are people who walk through our door and people who visit our website, that is a sentence they can really really relate with, whether it’s their single much later in life, they expected their their marriage just blown up because of some kind of sexual infidelity. They have children who are going through something very, very difficult. They themselves are wrestling with unwanted same sex attractions, and a whole myriad of issues that that leave us in a place where I didn’t think this is what the Christian life was supposed to be like. And maybe even as I look around, and other people, my church, it doesn’t seem like that’s what it’s like for anybody else. So that’s, that’s why we’re interested this book, and it’s why we’re so excited to talk about it. But what prompted you to begin writing this book, what was what was happening for you that this, this book kind of came to be?
Well, in a lot of ways, it’s a combination of many strands of life and struggle, which we can get into as we go along. But it really got came into focus when Paul and I were speaking in Riga, Latvia. And they are a group of women, which ranged from Pentecostal to Catholic and everything in between, had invited us to come there and speak and speak essentially, about the heart. What, what it is to have a heart and to know the heart of God. And if you know anything about Latvia, which I did not, it’s a country that’s been overrun by the, the Russians and the Germans sort of back and forth. It’s a country where there’s been a ton of suffering. There’s a deep, deep massage and mystic experience, they’re lots of abuse, lots of sexual abuse, lots of infidelity, in part, because there was so much oppression, and you know, how like, sort of it the oppression always plays down and plays out, throughout a family and through generations. And, and we realized when we showed up there, that if what we were offering, and we were interested in this idea of creation, fall, redemption, restoration, and its implications for the heart of the individual believer and their journey, that of what we were offering could it is sense if it could make it there, it could make it anywhere. And we watched his very tough guarded faces, slowly softened. And just vulnerable hearts spilled out over the course of this weekend. And we came away from it, Paul, and I came away and thought we should probably turn this into a book. And that’s what that’s really was kind of the inception of it. Wow,
wow. Some, some people were listening might not know, can you give us a quick? You ran through this this piece of creation, fall redemption restoration. What do you mean by that?
Yeah, that, that basically understanding the big story of what God has been is and will ultimately bring to a close and the new beginning his big story understanding that it’s so much easier if you understand the beginning that there was a creation and the God is a creator actually had a good heart towards his creation. And he set things up with the word of oddness, there was way things ought to be, and it was goodness. And then there’s the fall, the way things are, this is this, which is hard, like life is hard, whether it’s from junk within or junk without. And then in Jesus redemption is possible. And things actually can be different in this life, not 100%, not always as we wish, but there can be shift, there can be change, there is hope, even in the now. But that ultimately, restoration is the fourth chapter in the big story of the gospel. And that’s how things will be when things are set, right between us and God, and there’s a new heavens and a new earth. And what we were trying to do in the book is to tease those very big, big concepts is big chapters of the gospel, to tease them down into the gritty realities of the lived experience of the reader.
And that’s what I really appreciated, you know, those four areas were really a great framework for me when I read the book. And I also loved how then you will love your stories. And so you had real life stories, you know, people who really, like I could relate to your stories, and the nitty gritty and the suffering and the hardship and the disappointment. So you know, we know that you can’t give away what you don’t have. And so I just would love for you to share a little bit about what you what, what you are learning about that idea of not just accepting your life, but embracing it, including the painful parts. Yeah, sure. A little bit about that.
Yeah, you know, I was just thinking this morning about a flute. And I was thinking about how the holes in the flute are actually what allow sort of an incredible melody, to come through it. And I think so often, I and I think many of us try and live life to kind of acquire, consume and make sure we got everything nailed down. And yet what I’ve discovered and in my case, I think it was the unanticipated, sustained singleness, combined with premature early tragic deaths of two different nephews in my family. And then, you know, the handful of other just hard things in life, that those those gaps actually ended up becoming the areas where I discovered more of the goodness of God then so I mean, I don’t say that lightly and I don’t say that without like counseling and healing prayer and tons of journaling and vulnerability with friends and you know, going for lots of power walks, you know, I mean, all kinds of things. But, um, but I think in essence, the holes in my soul have, I’ve discovered them to be portals to the heart of God. And, and that’s what allows for an embrace, versus just a hardening an embrace of God and what he’s doing even in the tough places, versus just armoring up and gutting through.
So kind of let me ask you about that. Because I think that our, our knee jerk response, in the midst of that kind of suffering, that kind of confusion, that kind of, again, I go back to, is this really what the Christian life is supposed to be like, the kind of confusion and just this story doesn’t seem right. Like how do you keep your yourself open your heart open to God? others? I mean, it’s, it’s, it feels like almost like an instinctive response to say, I have to close this off. So I don’t feel otherwise I’m just gonna, I can’t function. So. Yeah, would you just
yeah, I mean, right. Because the like the turtle, if something attacks the turtle, the turtle goes into the shell, right? It is it is very instinctive. And in that sense, there is, you know, there’s always that place for pulling back for finding sanctuary, in a sense and for not just always continuing to bust out with a total you know, strong embrace of everything around you. But innocent hold back, I do think there’s a place for that. But it’s that in that place. And typically, I think it involves a few close friends or trusted voices, at least, a deepening personal commitment to know God through His Word, through prayer. I would say, in my case, at least, I would say there’s something about corporate worship, as well. That takes me out of myself. And in a sense, seeking to meet God in those most vulnerable places in my soul, is what then allows me if we continue with our turtle metaphor, to like, then find the courage to poke my head back out wisely. And then take a few more steps, and then perhaps a few more, and so it goes down the path again. Does that make sense?
Yeah. So I think that one of the, you know, growing up in a, in the, as a child of the Enlightenment, I think the Christianity that I that I grew up with was very much about and I don’t know that anybody intended for this to be the case. But this is kind of the will the water I was drinking with this I that, that when there was suffering, the kind of the best we would do is remind our brains of what is true about God. And it was almost like that was that reminder was somehow enough to get us through the suffering until somehow that rain had diminished enough that we could then kind of move on and, and do the real Christian work of whatever. And what I hear you saying is, is remarkably different than that. It’s not absent of that. But But what sounds different is that the the place of the of the pain, the place where those holes are, is actually an access point. To experience God. I think when I think about my life, and think about the, you know, the myriad of people who come here and the holes, I mean, if they were to kind of name their own holes, to say, like, I can experience God there. And that sounds almost contradictory to my experience of those those holes. But there’s a mystery there. I don’t want to say more about that. But I find it both kind of in like what you’re saying both beautifully inviting. And also, I think practically very challenging.
Yeah. Well, I think it is, in a sense, practically challenging, because, first of all, as you said, the weight of all of experiences, if I’m suffering pain, it must be because God is absent from the situation. And that’s, that’s almost like a presupposition we carry, and, and to what it like the challenge for me, and I think I’m slow, right? But the challenge, say taking these, either of these deaths of these nephews, look sort of tragic and shocking deaths, and not sort of decidedly tragic and shocking deaths. What is it to actually sit and say, okay, the, the feeling like to linger long enough to actually feel what that feels like, which is horrible, right? It’s horrible. I mean, only someone who’s in like, extreme denial, could pass over it and think just declaring a truth would be enough to get ones through. It doesn’t mean that true is not true. But the simple declaration of it is necessary, but not sufficient. And so instead, for me, it’s been like this slow journey of learning how to stop and feel or ask God to help me to feel if I can’t, frankly, whatever it is, ache, loneliness, bitterness, anger, confusion, envy of those who aren’t in my same shoes, right? And then to stop and say, it is in this exact space, that I invite you to reveal your love to me. And there is super something supernatural in that because you don’t control that. Right, you don’t make something happen as a result of actually making oneself and maybe this is what’s hard, you’re actually being double vulnerable, because you’ve taken a hit. And now you’re taking that hit place, and you’re offering it to God and say, please come meet me here. And that’s it’s double vulnerability. And
seriously. Yeah. And so kindly. You alluded to this a little bit, but what helped you do that? What allowed you to get to that place where you didn’t shut down? You didn’t, you know, power through it, and you you actually stopped or allowed yourself to have that double vulnerability. Can you say a little bit about moments words, people experiences that helped you? Sure. I
mean, I feel like I have been had a richer riches of experiences in this area, which again, I think points to just my slowness, and my my For a ton of input, I did. I ended up signing up for this was at the false church angle Ken but signing up for the healing prayer. And I think I went six months in a row for two hours a pop once a month, where I would be simply listened to and then prayed over deeply. And, and the areas where I would be talking or they’d be praying, and it would touch something deep in me, they would pray deeper into so that was a big part of it. I’ve done counseling along the way received counseling. I just started taking risks with my real friends, right? I’m just telling the truth about myself. This is hard. This is really hard. And I don’t know what to do. And I’m angry. Yeah. And it’s hurtful and I’m lost. Yeah. And I’m mad that y’all aren’t going through the Mad you don’t have the same struggle. And and then you kind of discover you get wiser with that. That’s always awkward at first, right initially, and some people don’t know what to do with that. And they just are like, oh, okay, we want a cup of coffee or a glass of water.
What am I saying?
But you give people grace you like, right, I wouldn’t know how to respond to me either right now. But did you find the other friends who actually can take it? And you know, I’ll never forget, after my second nephew had died, and I was with a group of women who I get together with every summer. And we were watching the 25th anniversary of Les Mis Les Miserables in LA. And it’s in the music’s very compelling, right. And I just started to cry. Like, I couldn’t just I didn’t know what the tears exactly when we’re being triggered. But they started come. And I went and I sat down, I got up my chair. And I really went back and forth in this because I’m proud and I’m don’t want to be weird. But I went and I sat between two of the friends on the sofa and was like, I can’t take this. And I put my head down on one woman’s shoulder. And she’s a bit older than me. So it kind of felt like a big sister. And I just started to cry. And she just patted my head. And she said it’s too much. It’s too much. I said it is and I wept. And those sweet women, it was a group of four women. They just sat with me and they started the lamest DVD over again. went through it all second time while we just sat there and I wept.
That’s such a great story. Yeah, that’s such a great story. And I love it just makes me hunger for a long for that kind of community for the church.
You know that? The other thing is, I mean, so, so much strikes me about that one. Yes. I mean, I think we’ve, we’ve lost, and I’m taking notes as you’re talking. I mean, we’ve lost how, how do we be loving, safe, good friends, to people who are suffering? How do we find safe loving good people who can befriend us as we are suffering or walking through painful times? And I think that, you know, when I was talking about that childhood enlightenment thing, and that, I think that part of what my experience of that in my early years and I think, honestly, before I found regeneration, regeneration was a safe place for me it was the kinds of answers I got to the pain and difficulties that weren’t just going away in my life, seem to just speak to my head and leave the rest of me alone and even be able to lay your head on someone’s shoulder or didn’t feel their embrace, never hand laid on you in healing prayer or someone to listen long to Yeah, not not to offer the, you know, the quick counts for the Bible verses. And I think on the other side of the table as the person listening, I think sometimes what, what parades is faith is actually my own discomfort and my own lack of faith that God can actually move in this place. And so if I’m not like when you talk about that double vulnerability, there really is it is it is a real vulnerability not a false one when you open a painful place to the Lord because if if you do not find him there then then you’re in you’re in a deeper place of rain than you were to begin with and and it just it just strikes me there’s something about I think modern Christianity that wants to rush past the crucifixion. I think when we do that we we actually leave ourselves less able to really believe in the resurrection and anyway, it’s your book not mine, but I’m just know what you’re talking about. So I don’t
think I don’t think like I’m sharing in Christ’s sufferings are any that was like not in my background at
And, and I don’t even know someone said what was that really, really mean? theologically? I don’t even know if I know but there’s Something about meeting of the heart of God who himself knows what it is to weep in my meeting him and my broken place like, I will never forget this moment where I was this was after the death of my first nephew. And I had this almost engagement broken up. And I’m like 43, two or three. And, you know, this is not the time when you want to have an almost engagement broken up and have a dead nephew. And I was talking to a supervisor, from the navigators who I really respected a lot. And he said, I think you need to spend some time with the widow of name, which is a story about Jesus and the widow whose only son had died. And so I’d never had I’m gonna read the Bible 100 times, I’ve never paid any attention. I had no memory of the story. So I go to the passage in Luke. And, and I look at it and it says, about this widow who’s weeping. She’s going with a group of people outside the town. And it says, Jesus saw her and his heart went out to her. And, and that word is the Greek word is blag. Nisha, my, I love this words by Nisha my, because it means to be turned over in the guts. And for the first time, I thought, Oh, my gosh, the Lord of the Universe looks at me, in this place of my unanswerable ache, and he is physiologically affected. He is turned over in his guts as he looks at me, and I can’t even tell you like that. I was looking up every reference displaying me. You know, it’s like, I want to absorb the reality of a God who is encountering me with a gut level reaction to my sadness, my oh my gosh,
Wow, that is really powerful. I’ve never heard that word or heard that spoken. But that really resonates with me in a way. That’s just, I don’t know. It’s like, wow, that that gives me a deeper appreciation and understanding for those places where I’ve been where I’ve felt like God connected with me, and I couldn’t quite it’s a little bit inexplicable. But yeah, that what that language is, is very powerful.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was it was that passage, and then some of the related ones were actually they were integral. So I’m having conversations with friends, getting healing, prayer, going to therapy, going for long walks, you know, journaling, but I’m also sort of like, deepening in this. deeper, I don’t know what you call it, like it’s a deeper revelation of the core, like the gut level core of who God is. and it moves towards us and is and is affected by us, when that God is affected by us, was just something I intellectually probably believed, but hadn’t experienced Lee known,
which is why these experiences as absolutely horrific as they can be, and are, are so critical and necessary and foundational in our understanding of who God is. Yeah, yeah.
I mean, definitely I agree with that.
One of the things that makes me think of as I go back to that kind of James case, misses, you know, the head on the stick kind of approach to Christianity, like I one of the fallouts of that I don’t think that I ever could articulate till right now is that, I think that’s also how I viewed God, like, so that, you know, like, his guts turning in response to me. Yeah, there was no category for that. It was, that’s, I gotta sit with that one for a while. I’m kind of speechless about that.
Yeah. Well, you know, like, there’s that story of Jesus and the woman who’s been bleeding that whole time. Right. And, and she touches him, and he says, Who touched me and everyone laughs because so many people are touching him. And then he says, I felt the power go out of me. And there was something this is to your point of God is not just a head on a stick. Like, like God in this case, incarnated in Jesus known, you know, as the son, but he actually, again, it’s like he has a physiological experience of relating to us. Yeah, I don’t even get why that does for me what it does, it’s something that does not might be too attached to him in a far deeper way.
But it’s a it’s a little bit of a layer of the mystery. Yeah. Because there is a mystery and some of these places that you’re describing, give us some Some glimmer of insight into some of that, you know, so we’ll just have to be sitting on that.
But let’s, let’s just stop and kind of turn our faces to people listening from it. And just I just want to say, as we’re saying to ourselves, say to you, listeners, if you if you’re listening and you’re you fit one of the characters we’ve talked about or not like, your own marriage in trouble because of sexual infidelity. Or maybe you’re the person who’s been unfaithful, you have been out of control sexually, and it’s caused you pain and no one is no one’s paying attention to your pain, because you’re the one causing pain, you’re in pain. Or you’ve you found yourself bearing a burden that you never asked for. But that is a part of your life through a prolonged singleness, or loneliness or death of someone you care about, or struggle with same sex attractions or some other sexual issue like, this is this is for you. I mean, I, I want to spend some time with Jesus and the and the widow of nain. And so good Connolly? Well, let me at the risk of sugar and I want to find, I’m thinking about some, I’m thinking about men for a minute, and I’m gonna be able to stereotype here, but I can almost hear some of the men I know. And I know this is true for women too. But saying something to the effect of, I’m not sure it’s worth it. Like, maybe I just want to let my heart get a little hard, I can just power through this, because that seems like a heck of a lot of work. And I think I can function. Okay. And you know, there are other people around me doing the same thing. So you word for for men or women who might kind of want to just slip into that.
Yeah, what I say I get it. Like, in many ways, if I could have not had the experiences, or could have just gotten on top of it all, and remained alive, without having to deal deeply, I probably would have, right. But I think I think what it is, is the real question is do you want life with a capital L. And that’s goes for women that goes for men. And, and maybe you don’t, right, maybe you want life with a small l that you feel like you can manage. And right now it’s working for you to manage it on your terms, there’s not a lot you can say to that. But if you want life with a capital L means you have to be willing to dive in deep, you have to be willing to like to scuba, into, you know, barrier reefs that might have some sharks or some eels, you know, or some sting rays. But, but it’s worth it, because that is actually the path to the beauty and to the life of the capital L.
Well, and that’s what a lot of your book pointed to was? What is your vision for your life? And what’s God’s vision for your life? What is the fullness of it, really invite that, you know, kind of invite that all these things that can happen to you that are so tragic, can also be a part of creating this vision, that that God has for your life that you can embrace. And so just find that find it. As you know, as I told you, that your book has been very inspiring for me and I look forward to continue to share it with many other people, I think it’s very important now
that we’ll have a link to that in the show notes and kind of like your, your, your both. As we’re kind of wrapping up, I feel both the sense of my my butt has been kicked. And I and I feel just so like there’s a there’s a hearth waiting that I want to move towards, even if there’s pain in between. So yeah, it’s
and I think it’s worth it. I mean, I mean, you can look around and you can look at our world and say, you know, it’s kind of flattening. And a lot of it’s just becoming manage what you can Yeah, and make your choices to try and protect whatever little bit you have. And let you know armor up where it’s, it doesn’t look good for you. Yeah, I just think I think there is a bigger story and I think it’s worth the risk. And I think we don’t get it all on this planet. But there is still life to be had in the now with really capital L life.
Yeah. Good word. Good word.
We’ll get one or two don’t you? Would you close in word of prayer, maybe close. Just with a prayer for those who who are listening. Yeah.
Lord, I am so familiar because of my own story. And through reading Kelly’s book and having so many people come into the doors of regeneration that many many of us wonder, Is this the life that I’m supposed to have? This isn’t what I expected. This is so much harder. The Lord. I love that when we invite you into these places like we’ve been talking about that we don’t just numb out or gloss over, but we invite you in. But I pray for each man and woman who are listening right now. They take a moment right now and just reflect on where they need you where they need to invite you into their pain, that they would do that. Or thank You that You are faithful, and that you are present. We pray this in Jesus name, amen.
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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