This Stirring Feeling
I’m trying to put into words this thing I’ve been feeling lately. The lock down is forcing many of us (me included) to be more introspective than we might typically allow ourselves to be. The isolation can get us stuck in our heads with thoughts we might have otherwise just brushed away.
We’re stuck in these seemingly endless loops of time; days that mock us with their sheer length and breadth. Before this COVID, ‘stay at home’ order went into effect, I never could have fathomed that 24 hours were capable of lasting so long. And while some of us are living life in nearly full isolation, I’m less than alone, for which I’m thankful. I’m sharing my extra long days with my husband, our four kids and our dog.
Many businesses have been forced to close, parks are closed, walking paths are closed, my favorite beaches are closed, which means all the things that I’d love to use to distract myself, alleviate my stress and frustration or just get out to clear my head, it’s all been stripped away. So I, like you, am left home with my thoughts.
Questioning and assessing isn’t an odd thing for me. I tend to think of myself as a “digger”. I’m the sort who doesn’t shy away from investigating difficult or messy things; stuff that some might prefer to keep locked away and hidden (even from themselves). I’m usually willing to look at that stuff. I’m ok with asking God forbidden questions. Some might even consider me irreverent for the sorts of things I choose to ask God about. But what I’ve come to believe is this: if there are portions of my life that I refuse to look at because the answers I’m searching for seem unknowable, then by default the answers to those questions will remain unknowable. Or, if I choose to steer myself away from certain subjects, refraining from asking hard questions because maybe I’m afraid of God; what his answer might be or how he might respond to me, I limit my own ability to truly know and experience God (good or bad). I’m the one holding him at a distance; choosing to keep him small and unknowable in my own mind; far away and unapproachable and I ultimately stunt my own growth in the area(s) I’m refusing to look at. I can’t grow the muscles I choose not to exercise.
So, even though the act of intentionally listening to the questions I hear floating around inside me may dredge up some excruciating memories and emotions that I’d really rather put in a choke hold and drown than spend any amount of time gazing at, I choose not to look away. Sometimes it takes me a day or so to acknowledge the angst I’m feeling and actively address it but I want to be a person who chooses to lean in.
For better or worse, I’m not often accused of being an under-thinker and I’m finding in this season of isolation, my analytical-assessor side seems to be operating on overdrive. And although this constant gear-turning can be exhausting, I believe there’s value to be found in this season.
I don’t think we’re meant to, either figuratively or literally, sleep the, ‘stay at home order’ away just to wake up on the other side, exactly as we started, minus a few months. I’ll admit that I’m a little (lot) bored, the days are too long and I might be stuck in my head a bit but I think God’s intentionally stirring things in us (in me) that we might typically, under non-lock down conditions, easily ignore or maybe we wouldn’t ordinarily notice there was even anything there to ignore. The noise of the world around us is typically so loud, muffling and muting the gentle nudges to question, ask, forgive, learn, pray.
This thing I’ve been feeling lately...I KNOW isn’t unique to me. I’ve had conversations with others who are feeling a very similar swirling. I think we’re all there a little, caught in this place of wondering, asking, begging and fighting for answers; answers that just a few LONG months ago we maybe hadn’t considered we’d ever want to ask. Some of our current thoughts might never have popped up on our radar apart from this ‘trapped at home’ season.
I like to imagine that each human being on this earth is walking around with an invisible internal well (a water well of sorts). I’ve always pictured mine looking a lot like an old wishing well; stones stacked up in a short circular pattern around the opening with a viney plant climbing over the wooden supports for the bucket that hangs over the deep, cool and refreshing water below. I don’t know what your well looks like. Maybe you imagine yours exactly like I imagine mine or maybe yours is much fancier; jewel encrusted with rainbows encircling it, I don’t know, but here’s where I’m going with this: however your well looks on the outside is completely up to you and your creative imagination but the inside is different. Each of us are tasked in this life with an important job. Among all the titles that have been bestowed upon you: sister, brother, friend, teacher, lover, gardener, etc, you also bear the title of ‘well maintainer’. The cleanliness of your well’s water and the depth of your well is your responsibility.
I think we all start our lives in similar positions. Of course, there are the odd ball outliers who just seem to be naturally extra deep, more tuned in, more present and accessible but generally speaking we all start out in approximately the same place: with a basic well, moderately sized and fairly clean. As we age, all our experiences get tossed into that well. Some sink to the bottom and settle, some float and are easy to fish out and others pollute. The more we allow ourselves to process our life experiences, our hurts and losses, our success and failures the cleaner our well water stays and the lessons we learn and the knowledge gained deepens the well.
So suddenly, my well feels murky. I find myself in this odd place with an uncomfortable stirring feeling, like the things that once felt rather settled and immovable inside me are being mixed around AND need some attention. And then there’s this other thing...I’m feeling a soul hunger, a wildness has been calling to me...it’s God. The feeling reminds me of what C.S. Lewis writes in his book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
I recognize God’s voice calling me and he’s calling me into something more wild than ever before. The questions he’s nudging me to ask him and the encounters he’s encouraging me to ask him for are things that, in years past I might have considered to be off limits to me. Accessible only to a chosen few; the hyper spiritual, his favorites, but I no longer believe that!
And as I find myself fully unsatisfied and unwilling to walk away without more than what I’ve had, I can’t help but think of the story of Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob literally wrestles with God, he refuses to let go of God until God agrees to bless him. I’m finding myself in a similar place; BEGGING God for radical encounters with him, like all that I’ve had up till now just won’t do. And it’s not like my faith has been one dimensional all these years. For much of my adulthood, it’s been vibrant and growing in size and shape but suddenly all that I’ve had up till now feels like the first floor of the skyscraper it’s meant to be. I’m HUNGRY for more, for more, for deeper, MORE and it’s like I can hear him calling me out right now; asking me to wrestle with him. It’s like he’s saying, “Show me you want this. Fight for it!”
I know I’m not the only one feeling this restless hunger for something that’s always seemed unreachable, impossible to know and far away from any experience many of us have ever had with God. And Even as I say this, I’m aware of a familiar feeling…a temptation to casualize (if that’s even a word), the ache I feel. I think there’s a voice that most of us hear, that tries to hold us back from authentic growth and our vast true potential. I believe that this is a session for MORE. God is calling, beckoning, whispering and what he’s saying to you might not even have shape or form. Maybe you just feel this thing moving around, rolling and picking up speed. Maybe it’s a familiar feeling and you know it well. Maybe it’s all new. Which ever it is doesn’t matter. What matters is this: what you’re feeling is an invitation for MORE.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.