Aundi Kolber

by Aundi Kolber

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.



I can still see a version of a younger me: nineteen years old, looking tough on the outside, but internally shaking like a leaf. I had just started my college basketball career, and though I may have appeared successful in many ways, the reality was that I was desperately trying to find my way after a traumatizing childhood. The world felt precarious. I had thought that leaving the place where the abuse and neglect happened would help it end; I didn’t realize that the unprocessed pain lived on as a story my body held. I thought that if I just acted like the person I wanted to be, it would be enough. But even then, I knew that there must be something more to what strength meant than the way I was doing it.

During my college years, I took to writing a Bible verse on my basketball shoes as a sort of anchor that I would glance at and reflect on before games. As sweat dripped from my brow, I’d see the words from Joshua 1:9 on my shoes: “Be strong and courageous.” I love that verse. But at the time I thought that it meant something akin to “grin and bear it” or “pray harder.” I had no other framework to understand it through because though I’d experienced glimpses of God’s goodness, the reality is that I had loads of unresolved trauma that caused me to think that survival mode was just about my only option.

When You Can’t ‘Fake It Til You Make It’

Now as a licensed therapist who specializes in trauma, I understand that my body was reacting the way she was designed to. I had learned from a young age that I had to seem okay because no one else was coming to save me. Between a highly dysfunctional family, an abusive caregiver, parents with addiction issues, and a traumatized family system—I didn’t have the space to even consider what it might be like for life to be different. This was simply my reality. When there isn’t the safety present to actually express that you’re afraid or you need help, the body subconsciously and instantaneously finds ways to adapt. I achieved, pushed past my limits, ignored my desires, gave more than I was comfortable with, morphed into versions of myself I didn’t want to be, and sank into depression when it all became too much. For at least twenty-five years, I thought this is what strength meant; that it was the only kind of strength that even existed. And I paid a high price to live that way.

A Scaffolding of Love

In truth, it’s taken until my late thirties to understand how to hold all the paradoxes that exist in us; to honor not only the value in the way God created us to survive (when needed), but also our God-given desire to live into something more. Several years after college, I began to wonder: What does strength actually mean in the upside-down Kingdom of God, where the “last will be first” (Matthew 19:30) and weakness is lauded as strength? (2 Corinthians 12:10). What is it that allows us to live in this paradoxical way? Thankfully, Scripture and neurobiology agree: It’s love that does this work in us. Love changes us in ways that fear and danger simply cannot.

This is the love offered to us by a good, kind, compassionate God who moves toward us through the incarnational love of Jesus. This is the God who assures us that “a bruised reed he will not break” (Isaiah 42:3). This is the God who grieves with us in our pain, walks with us on our individual journeys of healing, and empowers us to find a more expansive, restorative way to be strong. Like the ocean tide that is both soft and bold, fierce and gentle–moving like one powerful force; this is the fullness of how God designed us. Strong like the Creator of the universe; strong like water.

Strong Like Water Practice:

If it feels like a resource to you, I invite you to borrow this prayer:

Inhale (through the nose):
God, as I am able,

Exhale (through the mouth):
Empower me to live from Love.




Aundi Kolber is a licensed professional counselor (MA, LPC) and author of the critically acclaimed Try Softer as well as her new released book, Strong like Water. She has received additional training in her specialization of trauma- and body-centered therapies and is passionate about the integration of faith and psychology. As a survivor of trauma, Aundi brings hard-won knowledge about the work of change, the power of redemption, and the beauty of experiencing God with us in our pain.