Have you ever felt like you needed to run away?
It’s her story of a spontaneous, 3,000 mile road trip she took with her two young boys to escape the brutally cold winter of 2014. She told everybody she just needed to get away, but really she was running away from the “whistling silence of God and from the Minnesota winter – both of which seemed connected” (that’s one of her sentences – she’s a fabulous writer).
And, also in her own words, she was running away from herself.
I’ve been there.
Well, I’ve never loaded up my three boys and hit the road alone with them (that would be sheer madness), but I have felt the darkness become so cold in my life that I was certain the sun was never going to come out again.
Several years ago, a dear friendship exploded, lodging shrapnel in both of us, and in quite a few others as well. Every morning, for less than a second – I woke up and things felt normal. But then the reality of the broken friendship came crashing in again, covering me with hopelessness and a guilty sense that it was all my fault.
Most of it was my fault.
It was summertime, so I packed a bag and drove northeast to a little cabin in Wisconsin. That bag included a lot of books, a few extra tee shirts, and a copious amount of Scotch. I sat outside by the bonfire pit for hours, journaling, smoking cigars, and drinking that Scotch. The warm, peaty fingers massaged my frigid interior, opening up a vault of sadness.
When darkness blankets me, it closes me in and closes others out. I have a hard time believing anyone understands what I’m going through. I’m not one to cry all over your couch. I won’t tell you too much. When the darkness gets too dark for me, it is hard for me to access my interior. It is a lost, confusing feeling. The fog rolls in unexpectedly. All of a sudden, I can’t see, and I’m already too far down the road to know how to turn back.
When I become aware that this is where I am, I stop, and I try like hell to just do the next right thing.
It was at that little cabin that I decided to sign up (after long conversations with Mary and a few others) for a two year retreat experience with Ruth Haley Barton and the Transforming Center. They exist to strengthen the souls of leaders, and my soul was shriveled, hidden underneath the pain of loss and also the weight of too much ministry and too little self-care. Every three months from 2011 through 2013, I would travel to Chicago for three days of silence, learning, gathering with other leaders, and learning how to care for my own soul. This proved to be a very good decision, though at the time, it felt desperate. It felt that way because it was desperate. I didn’t know what else to do.
Maybe you’re in a dark season right now. I hesitate to suggest things, because sometimes suggestions are ashes in your mouth during these kinds of seasons. But here is what helps me when I’m in the dark:
1. Find some places to be utterly, nakedly honest. Perhaps that’s only your journal, but perhaps there is a person in your life that won’t be scared away by your grief.
2. Read, if you’re a reader. Night Driving is a great place to start. Sometimes, writers help you to find your voice when you can’t find it any other way.
3. Listen to August and Everything After, by the Counting Crows, especially Raining in Baltimore. Ha. I’m only kind of kidding. OK, I’m not kidding at all. I’m listening to it right now.
4. When it comes to God, some people will try to declare things to you about God. God loves you, come on! When you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved? God is in control! Well, I’m afraid none of that helps me when I’m in the dark. God feels distant and lost when I feel distant and lost. And I am learning that there is something to be said for staying lost long enough to find something that you really need. God usually shows up for me when I’ve been lost long enough. I hate that, but, there it is.
What helps you when you find yourself in a season of night driving?
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