Have you ever felt like one day you woke up and everything you believed was in question? I’m experiencing this right now but am quite sure I am not yet even fully awake. So, not only am I questioning all of the things that I have always “known” for sure, but I am also groggy from the process of getting here. It took a lot of upheaval to get me here.
About three years ago, after a series of very traumatic events, I found myself questioning everything I had ever believed. I questioned myself, my identity, my “calling,” my choices, my beliefs, my faith, and oftentimes, even God. All those things I had always felt so secure in suddenly weren’t. And, quite honestly, I didn’t know how to respond.
In my quest to stop the spinning (envision the little icon on your computer when it can’t settle), I felt like the only way I could get any peace was to be very still and quiet. Before long, quiet was the only thing I desired. I was completely raw inside and out. My brain felt foggy, my body lethargic, and my heart broken. I didn’t know how to get out of this experience.
Generally, when I have had a circumstance of upheaval in my life, whether emotional or spiritual, I would just read all of the books, articles, etc. on how to deal with it. This time I had no energy to read, and if I did attempt to read, I was unable to process information. I knew I needed help, so I reached out to a few friends that I trusted knew me enough to help me navigate this chasm of chaos.
I called on those friends to sit in the darkness with me. I didn’t want to be around anyone very often because I found that conversation was exhausting. However, I had been through depression before and just needed to make sure I was safe, still somewhat sane, and didn’t need professional help. “Taking my emotional pulse” kind of friends. I knew these folks wouldn’t discount me when I needed to rant, cuss, spit, and growl. They had no idea what they were in for. God bless them for persevering. I ranted, spat, cussed, and cried for a couple of years. They were enduring to say the least. Most importantly, they didn’t try to fix me. They just sat with me in my pain.
Sometimes we would sit at the barn with the horses, a stray cat, chickens, and a rooster that I’m sure needed deliverance. Or we would sit by the creek with a bottle of wine. Sometimes Susan would treat us to her homemade cookies and infamous chicken salad. They seemed to be completely content just sitting and listening. Wherever we were, no matter what we were doing or not doing, they seemed content to sit in my mess with me.
I called on another couple of friends to counsel me into or out of this experience that I began to think was a mid-life crisis. I didn’t really want to admit it, but that thought ran through my mind. I didn’t google what I was going through. I just knew it was pain. Deep emotional pain. And, quite honestly, I couldn’t remedy it with the things that had worked before: eating, drinking, art, good music, nature, etc. It just kept hanging on like a bad cold. It affected me like a bad cold too. No energy, stuffy headed, just wanted to rest and be quiet.
After a couple of prayer ministry sessions with friends of mine, I began to understand that what I was going through was called the Dark Night of the Soul. The dark night of the soul is just that – a place where your soul questions everything and the Teacher is quiet. The thing that stood out like a siren was the silence of the Lord. I had never gone for such a long time without hearing, being led by, or enjoying the Lord. Not only did I not hear Him or sense Him, but also I certainly didn’t feel His peace or presence. I thought He had abandoned me at my worst.
So, for three years, almost four now, I have been sitting, waiting, resting, arguing, growling, contemplating, wondering where the Lord is and what His intention is in allowing me to be in this place. I still don’t know. But what I do know is that I am not affected by dumb things as much as I used to be. I have way more sensitivities to the things that do matter. I am more at rest. More at peace. I have more tolerance for “stupid” (the one conclusion from the doctor out of my psych test when I went into ministry was that I had no tolerance for “stupid”). I was perplexed (and still am) as I had no idea I was supposed to tolerate “stupid.” Hey, I was just glad for documented evidence that I wasn’t crazy.
The dark night of the soul is the process of the Lord stripping you of the things that are really irrelevant regarding the issues of your heart. He wants to bring you out of any of the crutches you have depended on in your relationship with Him. He wants you to give up your faith and give up what works and what doesn’t work. He wants to tear down the falsehoods you believe about yourself, others, and mostly the falsehoods you believe about Him. Take you back to the beginning, so to speak, in your relationship with Him. No pretense, no knowledge, just the decision to walk alongside Him blindly without trying to figure things out. Pulling down all strongholds of belief about your religion, your denomination, your worship. He even took away my interest in reading and studying about Him. I just wanted to be still and quiet. And still do.
I understand that anybody who has asked that the Lord use them to any capacity will go through this, and I did ask that. I have always prayed that I wanted to serve Him more than anything. Now, in hindsight, I question what that means. And what did I commit to?
I used to love preaching more than ice cream. I haven’t been able to do that but a few times in the past couple of years. I have always loved leading a group of folks into their best spiritual selves, and He is restoring that opportunity. But I still long for the old days where I sensed Him, heard Him, and almost knew His will. Or did I?
Now I don’t know much of anything except that He desires that I live in this quiet, restful place even among others, amidst chaos, and even when I don’t feel like it. That’s His best. I am much more observant these days, and I watch folks buzzing around with miserable scowls on their faces. Then I think to myself – Is that what I look like? Is that how I affect my environment? If so, I don’t want to any longer. I want to bring peace and rest wherever I go. Most importantly, I want to love well.
I am in the process of recalibrating, trying to follow the Lord as best I can. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I have the best company (a couple of friends, good prayer ministers, a wonderful family, and a couple of dogs – we finally had to lay to rest the demonic rooster). And if I don’t hear Him, sense Him, or feel Him, I can trust that He works all things to good for those who are called according to His purpose. I’m called, and I have a purpose. For right now, I need to be okay with being still and in peace.