06 Mar The Discipline of Waiting for the Storm
In the midst of a difficult time for our city, for friends, for family and for herself, Tara knew it was time to care for her soul. If you haven’t read our post this month on soul care, you can find it here. Once you read it, you will recognize how Tara combined several of the soul care practices she outlined as she found herself waiting for the storm to roll in. In the midst of your own personal storm, how can you practice soul care?
– The Anam Cara Spiritual Directors
I went up into the mountains to find some rest. It had been a hard week (who am I kidding, a hard few weeks) and I knew that I needed to stop, to breathe, to feel, and to listen for God.
A storm had broken over my heart the evening before. Fires in our city that consumed houses, friends struggling with life-consuming illnesses, dear souls I journey with aching over broken relationships or broken dreams—all combined to ravage me from the inside out. I’d felt the emotions building for days, like the tears were simply pooling around my temples, pushing against the dam of my daily living. When the tension of brokenness and desire finally ripped through the atmosphere of my life I was a snotty, sobbing mess, struggling to breathe, struggling to remember who I am and who God is in the midst of all this pain.
When the mountains called me this morning, I went reluctantly, spent from the night’s wailing. I don’t rage when I’m struggling with God, I weep, and that weeping drags everything out of me, until I’m naked, until I’ve got nothing left.
And there was rest in the hills. A cool breeze, a journal, a disconnection—not from the world or the pain or the problems—but from my own self-centeredness in the midst of them. Aspen and swallow, sun and small jumping spiders had whispered God’s glory once more. Even the sound of a distant chainsaw at work spoke of something that the Spirit was up to in me.
By mid-afternoon, I felt at rest. Not restored, not replete, but in a peaceful place both outwardly and inwardly.
From the Adirondack chair on the patio, I sucked in lungfuls of air, preparing myself for the journey back down. As I rocked, I watched clouds gathering on the horizon, stratus to cumulus to towering cumulonimbus. In big sky Colorado, you can watch storms approach for minutes or hours, depending on their form. As the thunder echoed against the peaks around me, I felt myself grow restless again.
I could just leave now, I thought.
Maybe it was the aspens, or the way the hearth inside the lodge smelled faintly of old fires, or maybe, just maybe, it was the Holy Spirit that repeated those words back to me so that I heard, really heard my desire to leave before things got uncomfortable, to head for cover before the rains came.
So, I took a deep breath. All the way down to my toes, as I say to my directees, and I stayed where I was.
I stayed as the wind turned cooler by degrees, noticing my need to control, the way I strain toward comfort, as if comfort were a great good.
I stayed as the sky turned slate, letting compassion wash over the tensions I felt in my jaw, my shoulders, my spine. Tensions that signalled my own difficulties with darkness that comes, bidden or unbidden, my overriding impulses to fight or flee.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
A stanza from Jane Kenyon’s poem rumbled in me as the thunder rumbled closer still. I didn’t like that poem. Hadn’t liked it, I thought, but here it was, grumbling from the stratus of my own subconscious, making itself heard. Something about it had caught me.
I continuing rocking, breathing, staying with the restlessness, the struggle, the desire to leave the difficult in favor of shelter and safety. A hummingbird, one that I’d heard but not seen in my ranging of the property, visited me like a vision, hovering in front of me as if I were a strange flower. Slowly, I began to see how the swallows were playing on the upswells of the approaching storm, moving from one side of the valley to another like wave-hungry surfers. As the chill sunk deeper into my skin, I realized that this group was a family—a mother or father and fledglings—and that the parent was using the approaching deluge as a kind of training for flight.
I smiled internally at God. Alright, I thought, alright. I understand.
The pain isn’t without beauty. Waiting for tumult to come rather than running or resisting is sometimes the best thing to do. I can live through the discomfort, can even find God, playing on the upswells, within it.
I want to tell you that I stayed on that patio until the rain came, until the clouds crested and covered me, forcing me inside. (Colorado rain is cold, after all.)
But I didn’t. I don’t know if it was the errands to be run this evening, or the movement away from the darkness a moment too soon. I felt peace getting up, peace in gathering my things. It didn’t feel like running, and I knew that raging at the storm would leave me as spent as my weeping had the night before. But I wasn’t certain what was my schedule and what was release. I wasn’t certain if I was leaving the poem of that patio before the last stanza was said.
I got into my car and drove back down the mountain, not to the valley but to the high plain. The whole time the dark mass of the storm tracked me to the west, its ominous presence less like mentor and more like menace. I felt myself wanting the storms wet fingers to grasp me at the pass, to close in and surround me at last. I wanted to tell you that I’d pressed fully into the discipline of waiting for the storm, that it caught me and changed me. I wanted the pretty ending to this post.
Instead, as I sit at my desk at home, the storm is gathering again here. The grey clouds are threatening, but no rain has come. Apparently, the discipline isn’t done with me yet. There is more to hear of God’s heart in this bright darkness (to butcher the image of the luminous book I’ve been reading). There is something of waiting as the horizon darkens that is teaching me something true—about Him, about the world, about myself.
I rummaged through my things to find the rest of the poem I thought I disliked. “Let Evening Come.” Kenyon’s stanzas are full of surrender and strength. After my afternoon on the cusp of storm clouds, I feel those three words thrumming in me like lightning, the touch of heavens to earth.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.