When the Only Way Out is Through

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” ~Isaiah 43:2

The first time I heard the story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, our friend stood in the living room and captivated all of the children with his re-enactment of it. He spoke the words from memory, and his exaggerated movements and animated features told me he’d done this before.

On this imaginary bear hunt, the explorers find themselves up against multiple obstacles. They meet with grass, river, mud, forest, snow, and cave before finding the thing they sought all along. They repeat the words, Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ve got to go through it!, every time they meet an unexpected challenge

While our kids squealed and followed along, I hid in the corner of the room and wondered at his enthusiasm and energy in the face of so many little people. At the time, I sat squarely in the middle of the weeds of motherhood, with three small children and a busy husband. I had just moved from a Victorian brownstone in London to a tiny, fixer-upper in New Jersey , and felt confident I would never grow to love it. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up while kids clung to my legs. I knew a little something about going “through it”.

Going through it meant not going around the hard moments. It meant not going over the loneliness, or under the exhaustion, or around the pain I felt when I reached my thirties and realized I hadn’t lived up to my potential. Instead, I had supported my husband while he lived up to his. I walked through those years looking for a way out of them, and I never found a way out of the weeds, other than to fight my way through them.

Looking back, the journey of self-discovery and mothering littles in my early thirties feels like a small blip in my timeline. At the time, it felt all consuming, but now, the Through Years are a memory that left behind a defining mark.

Lately, I’ve felt God whisper to me that I’m in the thick of another season of walking through. I find myself waking up with a sore jaw after nights of grinding my teeth through vivid dreams and real-life worries. I tell God I’m through with things. I fling my job or my future goals or my attempts at parenting teenagers in his face and throw my hands up and say I’m through. Done. Fini. And I sense him telling me, “Oh my darling. Buckle up. You’re just getting started, there is no going around this one.”

In this season, there is no around or over or under. There is walking through with the Holy Spirit holding my hand the entire way.  And like muscle memory, my soul remembers what this felt like and how it leaves a mark, but how vibrant and alive and triumphant I will feel on the other side of this adventure. I will walk through, and I will not be consumed.


Are you going on hunt for something today? If you find yourself in the weeds of vocation or parenting or personal growth or illness or whatever else, know that I’m walking there beside you. Sometimes there is no way around it, we have to walk through it, amen?