Readings: Isaiah 11:1-9; Numbers 16:20-35; Acts 28:23-31
But they fell on their faces... Numbers 16:22
Then a shoot will spring..and a branch…will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1
For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them. Acts 28:27
Growing up in a home ruled by the addictions of the resident adults, I learned early on it was critical to be hypervigilant. It was a survival skill. I kept that ability in my toolbox, and it helped me as a teacher; I could scan the room and intuit which of my students were feeling what. Other skills I developed during those dysfunctional years were to be responsible way beyond what was appropriate for my age; to constantly anticipate and serve the needs of others; and to mask the shame of our family situation by presenting myself as the perfectionistic overachiever I was. Again, these behaviors had positive effects in many situations. However, in 2020, after 53 years of intense striving in both work and personal life, I crashed. I fell on my face.
Thus began what I called my Year to Find Out (Thank you, Cat Stevens, for inspiring the name). I physically and consciously withdrew from the world – and not just because it was required by Covid – moving into a small casita in the New Mexico desert. I lived alone for six months.
The first part of my being to revive after years of abuse was my body. I studied nutrition and began applying it in my food choices. I exercised – another heretofore unknown activity (or at least an inconsistent practice) in my life.
Next came spiritual re-connection. My main ally in this endeavor was Nature. My days were bookended by admiring sunrises and sunsets; for the first time in my life, I paid close attention to the seasons and phases of the moon. Desert critters were often my only companions, and I would go for weeks without seeing or interacting with humans in person. The sky, stars, and most of all the mountains re-ignited my desire to pray and then listen.
Later in the year, I resumed living back in community with others. Then began psychological healing. With the help of a skilled therapist and EMDR trauma therapy, I delved into deep buckets of past memories, recognizing their impact, processing emotions I couldn’t feel at the time of their intense happening, and ultimately letting them go with love and understanding. Symbolically, I could feel shots springing and branches bearing fruit in my soul.
As an introvert who had always denied her need to refuel, I had plenty of social and emotional healing work to do during this significant year. As the pandemic would allow, I reconnected with family and friends. I traveled. Much to my surprise, I even joined a group of retired teachers and enjoyed sharing with them monthly. Before, it was all I could do to engage at work and with my family, then sleep to recover from all that “peopling.”
Big shifts were underway in every way during the Year to Find Out. I was seeing and hearing and understanding with my heart.
Having received the grace of healing, I enter this coming year with the hope that I will be able to maintain the practices that got me to where I now am, that I will humbly continue to surrender to each presenting moment without expectation or judgement; that the gifts of wisdom I was given during the Year to Find Out will stay infused in my being and will provide me with opportunities to minister to others in healthful, not compulsive, ways. To that end, I find this brief lesson inspiring:
What I now understand with my heart is that God heals us if we open ourselves to healing and commit to the journey. I am going to try daily to put the glass down, to prevent more burdens from entering long-term – put the glass down and let it sit there. It doesn’t need my company.
Offered by Jill Fredrickson, to light our path to Bethlehem.