Friday, June 06, 2014
The things I least want to write about are the things I most need to write about.
Ok, I said it.
A few weeks ago we had our annual women's retreat for our church where I got to be the speaker. Because of unforeseen scheduling conflicts I didn't think it was going to make. But through an extraordinary door of Grace our group was able to attend with the number we had registered. Our time together was wonderful; it was everything it needed to be. God's Mercy was evident.
Our retreats typically begin on Friday night and end on Sunday morning. We have three sessions scattered throughout with a huge chunk of free time on Saturday. One of the offerings available during this time is to receive a massage from a licensed massage therapist. For the first time since we began having retreats, I got one.
The room was quiet, soft music playing in the background. The woman offering the massages greeted me warmly. I got situated in the chair, and she got started. Within the first minute she found the place in my shoulders where I carry everything--grief, strain, disappointment, heartache, failure. As her hands got to work she said, "Baby, you've got to give it to the Lord." The irony was not lost on me. I tell God stories to help others do just that. I have a theological degree and years of professional experience in guiding hearts to the place of surrender. And for all my knowledge and ability I can't be free of my own burden.
Her hands moved along the muscles, moving and manipulating them, working out the knots. Still she kept returning to that one spot. "I think I can fix it," she said. I just surrendered to the process, knowing the opportunity was rare, willing to let her try.
"Can I go deeper?" she would ask. "Yes," I answered, and she would penetrate deeper into the knotted tension in my shoulders. I could hear the popping noises as she worked. Again she would ask, "Can I go deeper?" Again I would give my consent, each time consciously relaxing my arms and shoulders and body to her grip, imagining myself as putty beneath the strength of her hands as she kneaded the knots away.
The time was over much too soon. I left with the admonition to drink lots of water and that I might be sore later on. When all was said and done I went back to my bed and slept for two hours.
The soreness never really came. For a couple of days I felt so good, free of pain I hadn't known I was carrying. It's like I had gotten so used to the knotted tension held within my body that I just accepted it as normal. I didn't know I could experience life any other way.
Her words to me keep echoing inside my heart and mind: "Can I go deeper?" The thing my body experienced beneath her hands is the same thing my soul has experienced in the presence of God's Spirit for the last six months. Since December the LORD has awakened longings lying dormant within me. Awakened them, then left me awake in the disparity of my dreams and crushing reality. I have had no framework for understanding God's work, just a screaming sadness I could not shake. Each experience taking me deeper into pain I did not know was there.
There is something about grief. It is possible to experience deep loss, not just the death of someone we love, but forms of dying that surprise and confound us because there is no body of a loved one to watch over. And because there is no outward evidence of loss, it is too easy to pretend we didn't lose. But grief remains. And either we deal with it or we are held captive by it.
Our retreat was all about how Jesus sets the captives free. I am learning that release from my own captivity can sometimes be a painful thing. Sometimes its easier to pretend the cage holding me isn't there--I can make my home in the space around me and learn to be content within its boundaries. But the nagging feeling that I was made for more--meant for more--won't go away. It hurts because I have no idea what more looks like, what its shape is. I just know that while it includes and encompasses the life I already have, it is greater than what I am living. And then I wonder, "Am I just deluding myself? Is there really more?" Why would God wake me up to want something that is never going to happen?
The trust part of me believes that freedom lies on the other side of submission. I cannot name or even describe clearly the process He is bringing me through. But I believe by faith that it is accomplishing within me something I cannot accomplish on my own, that this ache is honing something important in my character that He needs me to have. And maybe it's something I need me to have, a virtue or grace that will spell freedom over my life which cannot be gained any other way.
The only thing of value that I believe I bring to the process is a willingness to let God have His way, to surrender to the process, even in the pain, as I yielded my body to the hands of a woman who knows where the knots are and knows how to unravel them. I guess in the end this is what the LORD is always seeking to do--unravel us from the knots we tie ourselves in.