Stillness frightens me. It always has. The last time I can remember sitting comfortably in stillness was as a child. I have an entire storage bin full of journals. It sat in the same spot I placed it in when we moved into this house four years ago. I can’t say I opened it before then anymore than I can say I was conscious of the reasons why.
One day I cowered down in the attic space it rested in and dragged it out. It was heavy. It carried as much weight as the contents within in. I opened up the cover and felt an immediate physiological response. There they were. All of them lying on top of one another and there were dozens of them. I pulled one out. It was a spiral bound journal with angels on it. I sat on the floor of my son’s nursery and opened it.
“Dear God,” it read.
My hands started to shake and I couldn’t understand why everything down to the handwriting made me anxious. I skimmed through several pages to find entries all titled, “Dear God.” I closed the journal where it laid on my son’s changing table for nearly two months. I walked past it many times. I never opened it back up. It frightened me.
In the next two months since dragging that bin out, a lot happened. Life was shifting and as usual, the tilt terrified me as much as the unknown. Truth is, I was drowning and every direction I turned to felt like an added weight to hold me beneath the water. This time felt different. I knew what pain, uncertainty and fear felt like but this time I was anchored to it.
I did what most of us do. I kept going. I made sure to keep my head just above the water to breathe in what I knew was expected of me while the rest of me was treading beneath the surface. Like many of us, I was hiding what I didn’t believe people wanted to see. We somehow train ourselves to become robotic at our routines but we do it mindlessly. Some call it running on auto-pilot, but I call it drowning.
When life calls out to us, many of us are afraid of the questions. So we hide, ignore, distract, over-compensate or numb ourselves to being asked the questions that lead to fearful answers. Eventually one must answer back. When I answered back, life answered me.
I retreated to this spectacular lakefront home I had visited before. The owner is a woman, wife and mother herself who I had felt magnetized to without ever having met her. I reached out asking if I could stay at her home for a few days, unsure of her answer given it was off season. Her gracious invitation let me know that I had made the right step forward with answering back at life’s call to me. So there I went.
I packed everything I thought would fix things. You know? The stacks of literature, audio books, magazines, journals and even my daunting to-do list. I had already set out an expectation for myself and I now realize it was the wrong one. While I set out to be still, I was doing everything to be busy. While my expectation may have been a productive one, I was setting myself up to fulfill what my soul couldn’t bear. It needed to be quiet and I didn’t know how to do that.
The first day was what many would describe as a productive one. I graded papers for the upcoming week, I paid bills, I followed up on phone calls and I even made a behavioral chart for the kids. I did all of this while being surrounded by occasional glances of the view that stood in front of me, but I couldn’t quite see it. I was busy and anything but still. I tried to go to bed, but couldn’t. I thought of the kids, my “to do” list and everything heavy on my mind. The next thing I knew, it was 5 a.m. and I was up.
I put on a music channel on YouTube titled “morning meditation music,” while I sat on a small loveseat in front of the panoramic window with my cup of coffee in hand. I watched as the sun came up and for the first time, I sat still. I watched the water break ice on the lake and birds leave the white blanketed trees to dance in unison with one another, but something happened.
The music stopped and a song came on out of nowhere.
Surprised, I looked up at the TV to see what happened. Did the 3 hour music channel turn off? Instead there was this woman sitting in front of a microphone with this angelic voice singing to me. I turned around and listened. She took my breath away. All of a sudden tears started to roll down my face. I looked back at the water in front of me and wept uncontrollably. I couldn’t catch my breath and my face was the only reflection in the window staring back at me while the sun continued to rise.
The words in the song were delivered by this woman I had never heard of or seen before, but she was just the messenger. Life called out to me and it was demanding that I answer.
I was still.
I was listening.
In that exact moment I thought about that journal. I thought about why I couldn’t open it. Why my body responded when I read the first few words titled, “Dear God,” inside of it. I thought about the young girl who was deeply rooted in faith and had a profound relationship with a higher spirit. I wept for the young girl who was scarred and bruised by all of the times her trust had been broken. Instead of calling out to who she used to call out to, she called out to everything outside of Him. That young girl grew up into a woman, wife and mother who never knew how to make her way back. Going back would mean I would have to relive all of the reasons why I turned Him away. It would be like voluntarily throwing weights around my neck and asking me to jump into the water.
Yet there I was.
The words of the song brought me to my knees. I felt Him just as I now know He brought me here for. It was as if He knew I couldn’t receive the message at home. I would have done everything to avoid it, but I couldn’t here. There were no kids, no husband, no phone calls, no noise and no demands. All I heard was His words being sung to me. It was in that moment that I realized it was no coincidence that this particular song came on out of nowhere. He wanted me to listen and for the first time in years, I did.
Life calls out to us in many different ways, times and reasons. We get to make the choice of whether or not we want to respond. Many of us retreat, even if for different reasons or in different ways. For me, my faith was what I buried out of pain. Just like that storage bin tucked away where I couldn’t see it or reach it. I was searching for something I didn’t even know I was trying to find, but in all of the wrong ways, relationships and reasons.
Sometimes we have to go back to who we were in order to arrive at where we’re supposed to be. We get detoured and lost. That’s what life does to us sometimes. It calls out to you and we don’t always answer back. Today, my soul was rested and still because He had something to say. In that moment, that little girl and I made peace. I was no longer avoiding the stillness. My fear had been lifted and I wasn’t afraid that I’d drown if I trusted in Him again.
All because, this time I answered back.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.”
These are some of the lyrics to the song that I later found out is called, “Oceans” by Hillsong Worship. If you want to listen to the song, you can find it here:
In Love & Truth,