As I’ve continued to struggle through this month of learning God wants me to learn to carry stillness and of thinking I heard God say something additionally awful to me about two weeks ago, I’ve been sharing more of the details with some key people in my life and have been reminded of the value of commuity in helping us discern.
Yesterday, I published a piece for CenterQuest that shares more details of that “additionally awful” thing I thought I heard God say and how my community is helping me to discern what to do with it.
One of the people along that path of discernment is my former supervisor for my spiritual direction traning program, Kay. Kay is one of God’s great gifts to my life. She’s strong and she’s kind and she’s rooted, and she has often helped me notice connections in my journey that I wouldn’t have seen on my own.
Our SD session last week was no exception.
I told her about my session with Elaine last month and how what emerged was a sense that God’s inviting me to learn a new way of being inside my circumstances. I told her that I’ve been struggling and arguing with God about this ever since. I told her about what happened two weeks ago on Halloween night, when I thought I heard God saying he would be taking Kirk from me. And I told her I have felt so stuck, not knowing if what I heard that night was actually God’s voice or some pernicious voice or just my own subconscious freaking out in some strange way.
Then Kay helped me see something new. She didn’t tell me where she thought the voice came from. She never sought to answer that question for me. But she did draw a connection between what happened in last month’s session with Elaine and what happened on Halloween night and its aftermath.
“Isn’t it interesting,” she said, “how you went from hearing God say you are going to learn a new way of being with the external chaos of life, only to enter into an experience that seems like you’re one small figure inside a hurricane? Everything’s swirling and upended because of what you thought you heard God tell you about Kirk.”
She was right. It has felt like a hurricane ever since. I have felt like a tiny figure inside a swirling chaos of confusion.
And so she wondered with me:
How might God give me an opportunity to carry stillness in the hurricane of this — whether what I thought I heard was actually God’s voice or not?
When I took time to pray in the session, what came out was mostly tears.
“I hate arguing with you,” I told God. I cried and tears dripped down my cheeks and nose and all I kept thinking was how much I want to be on the same page as this God I’ve come to love so much. How much it hurts to be in a different place than he is.
Eventually, I asked him to tell me what I need to know regarding what happened on Halloween night. I hoped to hear a definitive answer, some yes or no that it was him or not him, some sense of closure to this weird thing I just keep carrying around.
Instead, what I got was breath.
Myself breathing in and out. Him breathing with me. Facing each other, breathing. Then sitting together on the cliff’s edge, looking out over the water, breathing.
Just breathing. In silence. Breath.
It was rather radicalizing for me to just be with God in this way. Sure, I’ve sat with him in silence before. Usually it happens in times when I’m struggling toward surrender, as he just waits with and for me to be ready. Other times it happens in contemplative prayer, where there are no images, just silence.
This time felt different.
This time felt like an invitation to be with God in my breathing. I’m constantly breathing in and out. And as I breathe, God is in the breath. He’s the one who gives me breath. He’s as close as my own breath, or even closer. As I breathe in and out, God sustains me. He’s with me every second of every day. In the one thing that brought me relief on Halloween night — hearing Kirk’s breath — God continues to sustain us with this blessed breath. Even when we die, when we have no more breath, we wake up to the same sustaining presence of God.
Right now, God doesn’t have answers to give me about what happened. He doesn’t seem particularly concerned with giving me those answers that I seek.
Rather, he’s more concerned with breath. With standing, sitting, and just being with me in every moment through that in-and-out blessedness of breath.
This, I’m seeing, is one way of learning to carry stillness. Just breathing. Every moment. With God.