You know that saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window”? Well here’s the thing about that. The saying is NOT “When God closes a door, He immediately opens a window”, but I think most of us like to think that it is. Nope. Sometimes God seals up the door and leaves you in a windowless room for a while to chew on things before He starts letting the light in.
I’ve known for a while now that this is what I was going to have to write about next. I have not been excited. Frankly, I didn’t even want to admit that I knew, because somehow acknowledging it was only going to turn up the heat. God would say “Ahh! Now that you see what I’m doing, we can REALLY get started.”
Waiting. My Achilles heel, my Siren, my Fatal Flaw. I am a woman of action, of initiative, decisive and efficient. My mind takes on a dozens of problems at once, and races through all of them to solutions lightning fast. In dire situations, such as a car accident or which ice cream flavor to choose, this ability comes in very handy. The rest of the time, however, it usually keeps me from checking the foundation of this house I call my waking soul.
For nearly three months, my only answer to prayer has been “Wait.” I don’t even know WHAT I’m being told to wait for. Patience is one thing, but patience for an undisclosed outcome is just torture, and especially after the wild journey of the last year. I have been living such a saturated story for the last several months. Literally. I took myself to places on this earth where the colors were so rich and loud that my brain sometimes failed to fully ingest what it saw. It mirrored the journey happening in my heart. Every epiphany was so intense, every blessing was so bountiful, every tear was so urgently wept. I was so fully alive every minute of every day. I was on the mountaintop and the air was heady.
Now I find myself home again, after a sabbatical that turned me inside out and upside down. I suppose it is only natural, after such a metamorphosis, to feel disappointment. I miss that feeling of catharsis. This return to “normal” life, the valley to my mountaintop, feels so flat, so measureless. Yet, I am changed. I have brought a new woman back with me to this life. I am not the same. All this is true. But she is unsatisfied, restless. And very, very afraid. Afraid of backsliding. Afraid of forgetting. Afraid of having less life in every moment than what I’ve had this last year.
Work is not enough, and it never will be again. I (well, God and I) have slayed that demon. I laid my heart on the altar of busyness, of status, of professional distraction and He was kind enough to stay the hand that held the knife before it was too late. It’s made me very aware of treading lightly into this new job and not letting my soul get too caught up in it, even though it is a blessing. And where He removed “things” and “stuff” to do, He replaced them with people to love. He showed me that with His help, I could be very good at loving people and very fulfilled by the journey of it. He even gave me one darling Cowboy to focus on loving. I loved loving him, and by that I mean loving him in my actions, not the romantic emotion. I loved looking for ways to encourage him and support him. I loved hearing that he could feel my affection for him and it brought him peace. This seemed like a very beautiful purpose for me. Not that Cowboy himself would be my purpose – we all know that is unhealthy and doomed to fail. But if we find God most in loving others, was this not the most beautiful gift, to find someone I was so overjoyed to practice loving well?
So remember that room? I feel like Cowboy and I had been invited to walk into it through a door together, but his exit window has come and gone and I’m still waiting for mine. Well, there’s a good possibility that his “window” was actually more of a blasting through the wall Kool-Aid move – “OHHH YEAHHH!” – but that’s for him to know and me to wonder about in this claustrophobic fucking box I’ve been living in without him.
I’ve learned a lot about waiting these last few weeks, and I owe a lot of my insight to my dear Katie. She has been like a cool rain on my scorched heart lately. When I shared many of these thoughts with her, she was wise to remind me that waiting, with God, is not killing time. As lovely Anne Lamott says, God isn’t busy doing the dishes. He sees, He hears, He knows. If you’re waiting, you’re waiting FOR something. Something is building, something is coming. Something that you weren’t ready for or wasn’t ready for you is in the making. In the meantime, you’re a lovely port wine reduction, just simmering, concentrating down to the richest, most robust version of you. Waiting forces you to whittle down to the center of yourself and shed the distractions and chaos that are so damn loud when you first start. Katie also reminded me just how much faith God has in YOU if He’s asking you to wait and be still with Him. It’s His way of saying “I know this is gonna make you squirm a bit, but I know you can endure this because I’m the one who brought you to this point.”
It’s taught me to ask better questions. At first it was a lot of Why’s. Why did this happen? Why can’t we stay together? Why can’t I get over him? But now, after some time, it’s more about the How’s. How can I be the best version of me, even in this painful season? How do I continue to send him light and love, when we aren’t communicating? How do restructure what has remained in my life in a way that keeps me ready for where God might be taking me?
The longer I wait for firm answers to my prayers, the more earnestly honest my conversations with God get, too. One of my favorite books from childhood is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the Narnia series. In it, a bad boy named Eustace gets turned into a dragon, and Aslan the lion has to shred his scales off with his claws to turn him back into a human. It stings and feels unbearable but yet is such a relief at the same time. I feel as though the same process is happening to my prayer life. It seems as though each day’s prayers are just a bit more raw than they were yesterday, and it’s the waiting that’s causing it to happen, as though God is letting me peel back, layer by layer, what I really want to ask, what I really want to address. It’s brutal but it’s so real.
So, tonight a toast to myself. I love you, self, and I’m going to sit here with you until that window or door or bulldozer comes along to take us into the next room. Cheers. Champagne, anyone?