Love beat like a drum in my veins. Its rhythmic words: be gentle with yourself. It startled me, it sought me, it surrounded me — so that I could sing along one day. Sing, to you.
During the rainy season here we watched the river change regularly in depth, tone, and speed. We didn’t know what it meant at first. It just was different from day to day. Soon, we began to notice patterns. When a hint of dark moodiness would show up we began to realize swelling and flooding was imminent. From somber green to muddy brown, from a little bit tempestuous to full on wild, it would go.
When my earnest dark tones, okay moody, starts to show, I frequently feel like forewarning…forecasting. “Just hide me”, I’ll say or sometimes, “Hide you!” But, whatever we do, make s p a c e. The waters are rising, the swelling has been heralded, the river is about to flood.
Then I feel guilty. “Ugh, I shouldn’t be that way”, I tell myself. So (at the surface) I eat better, exercise more, breathe deeper, etc. Still, every so often (OK, approximately once-twice a month) the waters gets darker, the deeps roar a little bit louder, the places feeling hushed start to gush…a little bit swifter.
Oh flesh, I need you.
Yeah, I said it, I need the prompting to overflow. Like the algae all over the river rocks I’ve got places inside me that need disturbed every once in awhile too. That doesn’t mean I like it, or even after so many years of living it…it doesnt mean I always recognize it. I can be kinda slow like that, realizing the river out back is about to flood before I realize I am.
It’s akin to the way I used to look out at the sky and admire the big puffy clouds, jump in the car to go take photos and at some point later…”oooh they looked that way because rain is coming…”. Insert big rain drop emojis here.
”How can I be so disconnected?”, I’d wonder. So (at the surface) I’d try to slow down, use my weather app more often, try gardening to be closer to the earth, etc. Yet still, approximately once to twice a month (I wish I was kidding, but that’s an improvement! ) I get caught unaware in a downpour.
The heavens declare the glory of a Creator and there is no place where its speech is not heard. Some days, however, I just want to be heard. I get loud. I pour forth speech. I recently read somewhere that an artist’s work is important in that one creates as a way to understand self. In fact —relies upon it— to understand. This resonates deeply within me.
We don’t always recognize our loud —our flesh— for what it is. We often don’t see beneath our moodiness, our angst, our overflowing places, etc. We often miss what these things are saying to us, the gifts they are bringing, beneath the surface. In the same way I don’t always notice that big puffy clouds foretell of future big, fat, raindrops.
When we first moved to live next to a river, I saw its changing, but I didn’t know what its changing meant. Exploring up the river, up the mountain, and finding powerful waterfalls there was an incredible surprise to this midwestern girl. I had only imagined what could be so powerful a source to feed such a river but beholding it…took my breath away. Then, brought it back again with fullness and amazed laughter.
What does that have to do with anything? It’s that same breath, joy, laughter waiting for us in the quest of knowing ourself. I know there are questions surrounding this, how to go there, why to go there. But they are questions worth asking because how we see through our own eyes is our window to all the rest of the world.
I know it’s not easy, but I’m singing about it to you because the sparkles of joy in the rushing waters are too good to be missed. We often stop at the surface, the flesh, because we do not like what we find there. We cannot imagine joy.
It is a logical conclusion to think if this is at the surface — darkness, muddiness — the source must be darker still. Although there may be some truth to that, it could never be the whole truth. The wholeness of you is a vast place waiting for your exploration, waiting to take your breath away, because you have been made in the image of, you are a creation of, El Elyon, God Most High.
You are wondrous. We need our flesh to grab our attention and invite us into this space. Yes, I said it, we need our weaknesses, our failings, our neediness, our sins, to cry out to the One Who loves us beyond all of that, so that we can follow Him there. There being, us. The source of all that stuff we don’t always understand, are startled by, sought by, surrounded by.
El Elyon asks, “Where are you?” as an invitation into the deep places of ourselves, to be honest and lay bare — because He wants us to know the joy, the reality, that as Wendell Berry says, “We are alive within mystery, by miracle.”
Our Creator invites us to know His gentleness so that we too can be gentle with ourselves, so that we can be gentle with others, so that they too can hear the voice of love…beating like a drum in our veins, surprising, seeking, surrounding. “Standing at every corner raising her voice, crying out!”
”It’s strange to be here.” -John O’Donohue
It is! I want to tell you that I feel the strangeness with you, and that it is good. The recognition of the strange is one step away from wonder. For me, this step is often what I at first perceive as a clumsy step or misstep at best.
I get surprised by downpour inwardly, outwardly and probably will for the rest of my life. I could either waste time being hard on myself for it, or I could laugh.
I am praying as I write this that we will face our weaknesses, our unknowns, our fears… and laugh, because there IS joy. Joy is the inheritance of all who call on the name of the Lord.
Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) is the soul-friend who would take us up the mountain and say, look and see, listen and hear.
May amazed laughter follow your floods more and more. Here are a few tools for the journey.
- Keep a journal. It works like keeping a nature journal, it trains our eyes to see.
- Find a safe place to simply talk when the floods and moods begin to change. Ask a friend to ask you, “Why?” however many times it takes for something real to come out of your mouth. Below the surface, below the circumstances. There’s more. If you don’t have a friend, be your own. Even if the answers feel dark…we are not looking for pretty, we are looking for true.
- Recognize that OFTEN there are real, physical needs driving our unrest. Be willing to welcome those messengers inviting us somewhere we need to go, but wouldn’t choose to on our own.
- Give thanks even before you find the mountain waterfalls, trusting you will find. Give thanks because movement, change, disruption is a sign of life. You are alive. You are alive within mystery, by miracle. Give thanks.
- Lay bare before God. Do this by your journaling, or with the help of a friend, or alone crying or screaming or sitting silently, letting the tears do the speaking or the silence do its work.
- Make a plan. Put it on the calendar. Where/when can you do this? A field, a bedroom, a bathtub, a hotel room? Someplace you can let the waters flow. Know that this isn’t selfish. It is the potential of entering the place called prayer, where we can then ask for eyes to see, to understand, to listen. Releasing what we’re holding, realizing where we’ve been hiding.
- Fortify yourself with this: if you grow in knowing yourself through these means, you will be growing in gentleness. If you learn greater gentleness with yourself, you will be more gentle with others and they too will learn gentleness with themselves…
- Be a soul-friend to another if they invite it. Listen closely, draw near to those who have known what it means to be broken hearted, broken open. Other’s reflections, honest rivers flowing, carry seeds of life looking for good soil.
- That said, above all, guard your heart. “…everything you do, flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23. To guard your heart in the Biblical text is to listen closely and follow the advice of Wisdom. “She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” -Proverbs 4: 9
Do I really mean to say that there is something to enjoy about the waters swelling, overflowing, growing moody? I do. It’s an invitation to a pause, or as the Psalms say…Selah.
The river’s flow brings life. It nourishes the valleys so that flowers, the grasses and so much more are planted again and flourish in their season. This is a wild process in every nuanced meaning of the word, but it is FOR us to enjoy, understand more and more, and grow more deeply in awe. Please, be gentle with yourself.
P.S. Reaching for this continual rebirth is what my book, Pray, Like a Woman in Labor is about. It is a fourteen day prayer companion, written for mothers and anyone with a hungry heart to let Mercy lead us on. The paperback has space for personal journaling to respond to prompts to dig deeper.
P.P.S. Would you share this with anyone else you think could use a little more gentleness in their lives too?
Hi, I’m Raynna Myers. I’m an author, photographer, homeschooling mom to six children, and a wife of 19 years. I’m creating to be the life-giver I was created to be, in the image of my Creator. This is where I share as I learn, because we need each other.
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