Forced Pause

With the forced quarantine and isolation, has anyone else realized how devastatingly lost they’ve been?

This has been the question, in one form or another, on my heart and in my mind. Has anyone else ever gotten this far down a road they were never meant to travel? Has anyone else talked themselves into not looking back? Has anyone else been terrified to stand still? Has anyone been here, deep down a rabbit hole of their own design?

What a forced pause does is….. force you to pause. My prayer of ‘I don’t know where to start’ remains a centerpiece in my hour by hour existence. I find moments of peace, where I am able to truly surrender, but my spirit is not what it used to be. Peace is only found in small moments, eventually the test of spirit is lost against all the anxiety and fear that surrounds me. The honest reality is … my spirit is not strong. She became cynical and selfish and tired. She stopped practicing what she preached. She became stagnant and dusty with excuses. And then she became shocked when she realized how diminished and weak she really was. So when the lies of depression clouded the sky and anxiety rained down suffocating the small amount of spirit left, well… she drowned. She let the rain fall, she encouraged it, and when it became too much she gave up. She surrendered to the wrong things.

I reopened my bible. That was one of my responses to ‘I don’t know where to start’. I know it feels pretty self explanatory, but it wasn’t for me. In the move I brought little with me, but it turns out despite all my bad decisions I made a few good ones. I don’t just have one of my bibles with me, I have four. Why does one bring four bibles with limited space especially during a time of ignoring their faith/ running from the center of themselves? I don’t know if I can answer that except to say while I don’t always know why or when God intervenes in our lives… this was defiantly one of those moments.

Reopening your bible after years of letting it collect dust on different shelves is a strange act, but one that came with little output at first. I don’t know if you know this but there are A LOT of books in the Bible. I’ve read the Bible quite a bit in my past life. I used to know my way around it like the back of my hand. It felt hopeful but foreign to me. Similar to when you try sports you were once good at. Some of the skills are still there – you know how to shoot the ball properly towards the basket, doesn’t mean you’ll make it with ease anymore. You know you can sprint fast towards the goal, doesn’t mean you won’t pull a hamstring in your old age and out of practice body. That’s honestly how it felt reopening my bible. I knew the joy I had once found it in, the peace that my faith had brought me, and I knew how much I had once had memorized and organized in my brain. Shame and guilt and fear swarmed me when I realized I couldn’t conjure up any of my favorite verses. I couldn’t even remember where to find them. I held my bible in my hands and I found yet another pause inside all these pauses. Faith, to me, is surrendering to grace. Acts of faith are then an expression of that surrender and eagerness to live inside that grace – such as reading your bible and finding your own nuggets of truth through the stories. ‘Fun’ fact, similar to sports or weight lifting or yoga … if you do not use these muscles they weaken and break down. It takes willpower and a conscious effort to regrow them. I should mention I’m not saying this with any authority, I’m saying this as a person who is now having to be very intentional to regrow muscles she never thought she’d lose.

I don’t know where to start.

It seems to be my life’s prayer right now. It’s the most honest I’ve been with myself in a long time. I feel like I have so much to say, to cry out about, to be outraged by, to ask forgiveness for, to ask for help for… that sometimes or maybe I should say almost all the time it just overwhelms me and I short circuit. When I look at the full picture of the mess, my mind and body shut down. It reminds me of a home I used to live at, more than once I was down in the basement with a flashlight looking at the fuse box and figuring out what fuse needed tending to. That’s how I’ve had to begin looking at my spirit, my life, and my aches – as a fuse box. It’s a weak fuse box, this thing has been through the ringer so it’s not one that will hold up when too many things are causing a stir at once. But, when the inevitable happens and something shorts, I try to get myself to the internal fuse box and see what fuse is the source of the rest of the problems. Sometimes I can see it on my own, sometimes I have no light to guide me and it takes longer as I pray through it.

I don’t know where to start.

As for my bible, throughout the Easter weekend I listened and read the Resurrection story (found in the Gospels for those who may not know – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). This morning however, when I understood I needed to keep going – that for me healing will be found in continuing to dive in – I found myself responding to the Psalms. So that’s where I’m going next. The cries and hurt and love and prayers of David. He’s a bit of a mess, but faithful in his cries and I guess I can’t really see myself anywhere else. I’m a mess, but I want to relearn my faithfulness. Because I haven’t been. Faithful to my spirit, to myself, to my person, my being. I got gobbled up by the idea that if I can run away the problems would be left in the dust but the thing about that is…. even if you can outrun them for a time, you may find yourself in a forced pause. Maybe even a pause that the nation hasn’t seen since the Great Depression. And you may feel anxiety and fear and regret and shame and isolation and confusion ….. and then you may wonder to yourself and be in awe at the question…. Does God love us so much that he would nearly pause the world to get our attention? To bring our eyes back to him? To use the loss of everything in order to rework our hearts? To heal us with grace?

That’s pretty radical grace.

I want to believe in radical grace again.

The World in Quarantine

It’s been a while. Years in fact. And I’m not just talking about since the last time I approached a keyboard with the intent to write here, a blog that once brought healing to my own soul. I mean it’s been years since I’ve submitted to the outrageousness of grace. I feel nothing but shame when I state that and yet… my ego wants to defend it and explain away all the reasons that this occurred. As if stating that it was on my list of “Things To Do’ is an adequate argument.

Sitting in quarantine has felt much like a ‘Holy Saturday’ the space of waiting, sitting…. being stuck inside a demanded pause. Life is no longer what it was and at the end of this… I just don’t think life can ever be the same. And that’s where I find myself. In the awareness of how deep this radical pause must go.

On Good Friday I woke up and felt uneven. It had been weeks of quarantine for NYC, something just under 30 days. At first I wanted to blame the long days of required ‘stay at home’ as the reason for the shakiness but the more I dwelled on it across the morning, the more I realized I was stuck inside a critical moment. That Easter had creeped up on me in a different way than it had in years. Without the ability to hide behind the practice of spending time with others or cooking a meal, I was stuck to sit and dwell on the actual reasons… the deeper, more profound purpose of Easter. I’m ashamed to say I tried to push that aside and fight it. Dealing with it, sitting in it, would mean sitting with all the things I’ve been running from. Because if I’m honest, I knew what all the miles and years represented. I knew how hard it would be to be still. I knew it would begin a crack in my ability to just adapt… expose that adapting is not healing. It’s simply begin able to continue until the hurt is muted or quieted down by time. So I sat inside that critical moment and I did something I hadn’t done authentically in years. I prayed a very simple, very honest prayer…

“I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to start.”

It was my heart’s plea. The most honest and truthful thing I could say. Could feel. Could express. A little while later I reached out to a friend I hadn’t truly spoken with in over 8 years, a friend I knew could dive in where I needed to go – even if I wasn’t quite ready to go there. I also reached out to another friend who allowed me to join her service that day and to connect 1/1 virtually the next week.

These things are not simple to me. This is not a moment unnoticed. I didn’t know where to start and then I was lead on how to start. This is not a miracle moment where I can say everything is fine. It’s not. I am not fine. My faith is not healed. My connection with God is clouded by ego and bruises and empty miles of space between us that I let get there. And I don’t quite know how to truly get back.

But… this may have actually been the bravest, most truthful thing I’ve done in a very long time for myself. To submit to the painful awareness I’m in over my head. I had no idea where to start.

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. Sitting. Being still. And being still, in this sense, doesn’t mean while staying busy. I often like to purposely confuse those two together. This kind of stillness demands more from us than the busyness of phone calls and social media and tv marathons and the occasional thriller novel. This kind of stillness is to come to a place within ourselves where we are willing to dig in and be intentional with ourselves. This kind of stillness, this kind of waiting is…. uncomfortable.

Though Holy Saturday will soon pass, the symbolism will live on as the days continue here in quarantine. We are in a very scary, unsteady, unnerving time. Could it be, though, that we are also in a space where we are being given a reset? I mean when in our adult lives will this ever happen again? Demanded stillness. Despite all the anxiety and fear and uncertainty it also feels…. sacred. If we let it be.

How? I’m not sure yet. This is just my acknowledgment of what once was and what may be someday.