• Dana L. Butler

on living in the uncomfortable tension {or: all the stuff I didn’t say yesterday}

Hey, my friends,

I gotta say this first: Your responses to my post from last night, both here and on my Facebook page, have been such healing balm for both Stan’s and my hearts. I’m just undone.

{Quick note: If you missed yesterday’s post, it’d be a good idea to head over and read it before coming back to this one.}

Given the degree of honesty in yesterday’s post about my personal sense of grief, loss, and uncertainty, I want to go back and delve a little deeper into a few things I mentioned briefly, but maybe didn’t elaborate on as much as I would’ve wanted to if I were writing a book instead of a blog post. 🙂 (I know, I set myself up. I’ll go ahead and say it — that post was 2,440 words. :-O )

So… here I go. Commence sequel.


I mentioned Stan’s OCD/high-functioning Autism, particularly as these things manifest in his Scrupulosity, or “religious OCD.” Couple o’ things about this:

Discovering these things about Stan’s wiring has by no means caused me, or Stan himself, to “label” Stan, to box him in so he’s merely a victim of a “disorder.” While OCD and Autism are very real in Stan’s life, and that realization has been sobering for sure, the greater impact of this revelation has been overwhelmingly positive.

It’s given Stan an understanding of himself, a grid for his struggles, that he didn’t have before. Whereas in past years, he’s struggled with self-hatred over his inability to “get it together” in the arena of his faith, he’s now able to see himself through new, much more compassionate eyes. There are reasons these things have been hard for him. He is not a failure. His brain is simply wired differently than a “neurotypical” person’s.

These discoveries have been incredibly empowering. Having an Autism/OCD lens through which to view Stan’s struggles and his strengths has, just like it has in Isaac’s case, given us ideas of how to approach Stan’s questions and difficulties, how to manage life in light of them, that’ve changed us, changed our family, in some really good ways.

You approach a person so much differently when you view them as having a hard time, or simply not understanding something, than when you see them as uncaring. You give their heart the benefit of the doubt so much more often. You approach conversations about difficult topics differently. So many things make more sense now.

I think what I’m trying to say is that neither one of us sees Stan’s OCD as a label, and neither of us sees Stan through a “victim” lens. Rather, while it’s been painful, this has been an incredibly helpful, empowering, paradigm shift for us.

Stan isn’t defined by a diagnosis or a “disorder.” As in Isaac’s case, Stan’s wiring is a gift from God that simply takes more intentionality on both our parts to figure out, requires us to look at life from a different angle, and, for me, reshapes and expands my heart as I continue to learn to love him well.


Here’s another important thought: I have no desire for Stan to “come back” to Christianity in the form it took for him before.

I don’t want that for him. God never wanted that for him. That was never how following, obeying, walking with Jesus was meant to be.

Christianity was never supposed to entrap hearts in fear. I really believe God’s heart breaks, grieves deeply over the way a large portion of the western Church has painted and experienced what it looks and feels like to live a life surrendered to Jesus.

I meant it so much in my previous post when I said that if Stan can come to a place of seeing the freedom from fear and legalism that he’s now experiencing as a gift from Jesus, as the beginning of what it really looks and feels like to live surrendered to Perfect Love, I believe he will be captivated, drawn into authentic, meaningful friendship with God.

Christianity is about the Gospel, and the Gospel is about Jesus taking away our fear, our shame, our guilt. About Him paying the price for our sin so we can be free, released into uninhibited, confident, child-like receiving of His love, His enjoyment of us.

I’ll hop off this soapbox for now, but just wanted to re-state that what I ache for for Stan is real freedom. Authentic friendship with God that’s transformative from the inside out. Not a return to the way he lived before, but that God will move Stan through (not around) this season, all this soul work, and into reality with Him.


It’s strange, the way the dismantling of Stan’s prior Christian experience has been this huge, scary loss for me, and has simultaneously been laced with hope — this freedom from perfectionism, performance, shame, legalism that I see taking hold inside of Stan.

I trust God’s ability and desire to bring Stan through this and into the relationship with Himself that Stan was created for, and I will pray, will live my entire life as a prayer, until Stan finds authentic, shame-free companionship with God.

AND, I also have to live in touch with the reality that, like I said before, sometimes our God, who is unyieldingly good no matter what, doesn’t do the things I think He should do.

I can’t ignore this, because what I don’t want to do is live in some form of denial, only choosing to acknowledge what I know is God’s best for Stan, and missing ways in which God wants to make His heart known to me in this season.

Here’s what I mean:

One of God’s key invitations to me now is to be willing to live in continual prayer and hope for Stan, while allowing this massive uncertainty to continually bring me to my knees, to keep me acutely aware of my need for Him.

Learning over and over again to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.

And as much as we tend to see them this way in the western Church, with our mostly dualistic framework for so many things, these two heart dispositions aren’t mutually exclusive — the faithful contending in prayer, and the living in touch with the reality of loss and uncertainty.

And the invitation to simultaneously hold both of these heart dispositions, to live in the painful tension between the two? It’s the place where encounter with God, for me, has always been the most personally, profoundly transformative.

The discomfort of this tension is the place I’ve learned trust, surrender, real worship; the place I’ve experienced the most intimate companionship with Him.

It’s the place where I find Christ is being formed ever more deeply inside me.


A note on day-to-day life:

I’m continually blessed by the way Stan’s new-found freedom from self-hatred, from constantly feeling like a failure, has impacted his life as a husband and father. He is more patient, and more at peace with his own and others’ humanity; more attentive, more present, and more forgiving toward himself and toward his family.

And… he still sings Jesus Loves Me to the kids before they go to sleep at night, with zero pressure to do so.


I have quite a few precious friends whose experiences of Christianity, of the Church, have caused very real, legitimate damage. Many of them move on to totally distance themselves from Christianity, church, the Bible, God. They’re hurt, angry, and it makes complete sense that they are.

Like I said, this was never God’s heart or desire for us. ::insert broken heart emoticon::

(Is it weird that as I was trying to find words just now, all I could think was “broken heart emoticon?” Oy. Technology. Also my brain is mush, apparently.)

Stan’s an interesting “case,” though. Rather than putting as much distance as possible between himself and Christianity, he still wants to be at church with me, wants to stay connected with me and with our pastors regarding his journey, supports my walk with Jesus and my ministry role.

It’s stuff that makes me stop and ponder.

The prayer that Stan’s prayed as of late — God, if you really want a relationship with me, please reveal yourself to me in a way that’s not academic, in a way that impacts my heart — it really lays bare this deep, still-burning desire for real friendship with God.

Stan’s heart is open and tender, humble and authentic… and I believe it moves the heart of God.

So I take lots of deep breaths these days. And I sit, and wait, and lean into Jesus, and {imperfectly} love.

{And in the interest of not writing a complete novel again today, I’ll stop here. Thank you again, friends, for the way you love us. Y’all are such gifts. Like, beyond words.}

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