My search for certainty began when I was two years old. Though I didn’t realize that certainty was what I was searching for until four decades later, standing in a queue for a cup of tea in the corner of a conference room.

H and I were in California attending a three-day coach training certification course. On the second day, I awakened with a familiar low back ache that threatened keeping me in the hotel room rather than seated at a conference table.

Folding myself into a rental car, I returned back at the venue welcomed by a new comfortable swivel chair, ice pack lying in the seat, and a greeting card signed by others on the training course–ministry leaders and corporate execs. Obviously, word about my situation had travelled fast among a group of empathetic strangers.

During a coffee break, as I gently reached forward attempting to extract a plastic cup from the upturned stack, one of those leaders intercepted my reach, gently offering help.

“What brought on the back ache?” he asked, while pressing the lever on a thermos of hot water, filling the cup on my behalf.

“Oh, this always tends to happen whenever I am doing anything new. My back goes out when I feel overwhelmed or incompetent,” I whispered while holding pain in my lower back with both palms.

“That’s interesting,” he said, making small talk while ripping open a paper envelope holding a tea bag. “Do you remember the first time you felt overwhelmed by something new? Because our physical bodies often revert to the way we first held fear.”

And just like that, his question triggered a rewind on the filmstrip of my life story, freeze-framing on a childhood memory.

“Yes, I do remember,” I told him, “but I haven’t thought about that in years.”

He waited, making eye contact. And I replayed the event back to my new friend in short, pithy sentences.

I was fifteen. My mother had moved from Missouri back to her home state of Oklahoma-without me. Exhausted from co-dependency caused by her alcoholism, I made an uncommonly brave decision, choosing myself over her chaos. I stayed behind to finish high school. A few months later, things fell apart. And a favorite Aunt provided rescue with an invitation to share her one-bedroom apartment in Tulsa.

Leaving my childhood furniture in the house of my best friend, I boarded a Greyhound bus with a one-way ticket in hand. A giant furry teddy bear– a cherished parting gift from peers– was propped up in the seat beside me.

When was the first time I felt overwhelmed by something new and held fear in my back? I was a scared little girl frozen in the body of a teenager, trying hard to look brave while using a teddy bear as a shield of protection from creepy strangers.

“Our bodies often tell us when there is something unresolved that needs healing,” my new friend interjected. “What might God be trying to communicate to you through your back going out?”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was organically practicing his coaching skills at the snack station.

Coaching is a relational experience in which one person facilitates another to discover their God-given potential. Through the practice of listening to where God is already at work in an individual’s life, a coach creates an environment for conversation that leads one to make their unique Kingdom contribution. Breakthrough happens as the result of mentoring and coaching an individual’s personal development.

The purpose of coaching is discovery rather than teaching or telling because whatever we discover, we own. And ownership is the first step toward clarity needed for transformation. The more we discover, the greater the potential for making choices that lead to change.

I owned the epiphany that led to a breakthrough that led to making choices that have radically changed the trajectory of my life ever since.

When you become a listener of life rather than a responder to life, you break through facades of self-protection and discover the real-self that God has been protecting since he created you.   

Assuming I was invited to the coaching course as a consolation of my husband’s leadership gift, my deepest fear was being exposed publicly as incompetent. I was a scared little girl trapped in the body of a woman who didn’t believe she was a leader yet. I didn’t believe I had influence of value that made me worthy of being in the room.

What was God trying to communicate to me through an uncomfortable back ache?

You are loved for who you are, not what you do. Your performance doesn’t alter my love for you. Your worth and value in the room come from your birthright as my daughter. You can do all things because I live within you. You are not in charge of outcomes; that is my responsibility.

Perhaps God is trying to communicate the same message through your uncomfortable uncertainty?

Now, when my low back begins to ache, the pain comes with a gentle warning; questions that perhaps, are not just for me, but for you too.

What are you taking on that is not yours to control? What are you attempting to create in your own strength? What false narrative you are telling yourself? What is the truth in the story God is writing for you?

I went on to finish the leadership coaching certification course, paired with a seasoned female coach who helps male corporate executives find meaningful breakthrough in their work. An intimidating resume but a teddy bear of a human being who ultimately coached me into launching a writing career when at the time. I could barely utter, “I am a writer,” with confidence.

My second year of life was one of stoic quietness accompanied by a hunger-strike coinciding with my parents’ divorce; a time often described by relatives as “the year Shelly didn’t smile.” Age and experience aren’t requirements for the soul to know something is awry, slanting the natural order of things.

Perhaps I knew intuitively then, what I understand experientially now. Circumstances don’t determine the future or alter your purpose. Your uncertainty is God’s opportunity to make the certainty of His love known to you.

Listen to your life and hear you are fully known and deeply loved. That certainty is why you can be courageous and live into what feels beyond you.

As someone who has learned to listen for where God is at work alongside others now for nearly a decade, coaching has become one of the most fulfilling things I do in ministry to date. We cannot get to clarity alone. And it is a privilege to help you achieve breakthrough. If you are stuck and need help moving forward, lets’ start a conversation. Begin by answering a few questions on the form linked at the bottom of this page on my website.