“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
…everything faded, thinned to nothing, beside
the light which bathed and warmed, the Presence
your being had opened to. Where it shone,
there life was, and abundantly; it touched
your dullest task, and the task was easy.
Denise Levertov, “Conversion of Brother Lawrence”
For the first time in months, I am breathing easy. It is not because the semester finished and my schedule has eased, it is not because I left town and spent good time with good people in beautiful places, it is not because the Christmas craze has come and gone. No, the turning point came in the quiet, secret place.
The morning I left town, I awoke from a dream with words echoing back from the shore of sleep: “Turn your grief to prayer, turn your grief to prayer.” Only, time was short that morning: I packed my bags and headed south, carrying with me the dread and heaviness I had learned to accept as normalcy.
I made it to the butterfly grove just before the sun dipped below the ocean waves. There, wandering that old familiar place—eucalyptus forest, plateau, cliff, ocean, all washed over with December color—something in me started to awaken, the heaviness began to lift…but I stayed too late and the light faded. I climbed back into my car and arrived at my sister’s apartment still heart-heavy and world-weary. I found myself counting steps from stove to sink, couch to bathroom, ticking the time to bedtime. Ten hours of sleep later and a perfect day with dear faithful friends only heightened the heaviness. I returned to a dark and empty apartment and sprawled out on the carpet in exhaustion.
And there I turned my grief to prayer. For the first time in months, I let myself inhabit my solitude fully. I let my defenses down, let all the hard things I have witnessed and compartmentalized this year flood in. I let myself feel all that I feel, let myself mourn for these people and this city I am coming to know and learning to love, and raised all this—everything that has been weighing down my heart—into God’s sight, dropped all this into His hands.
Hours later, my grief had turned to laughter, my heaviness to peace, my dread to ease, my darkness to light. I had been thirsty, sprinting through my days, searching for a spring to quench my thirst. It was only when I stopped and stepped out of the frenzy of daily life that I remembered: there is a well of refreshing hidden deep within myself—Christ in me, the hope of glory. And He speaks: “Come away, come away, come away with me. Come be alone with me.”
In the quiet, secret place, I am recreated. Words go silent, colors come in again. I enter back into a sweeter rhythm of living, take on a gentler speech. Here I find strength to stay afloat in this winding, raging river of Time. Here I am only a channel for a larger, fuller life. I am a wick, burning with a flame not my own.
Still, I carry questions in me, truths I do not yet understand, injustices I have witnessed that burrowed deep, a sense of vulnerability and urgency—but the sharpness, the blade has lifted from my heart. Here in the secret place, my vision widens: the One God, the Good God, the One hidden in the heavens is hidden in the secret place of my heart. He hears. He is on the move.