Years ago I lay night after night in a dorm room. Not being able to sleep, I prayed endlessly for answers. I prayed for clarity. I prayed for peace.
Some of those prayers didn’t receive answers for several years.
Some of those prayers I still am praying today.
Tonight I am not crying. Not really. I’m not sobbing with the sorrows of an adolescent. I’m teary eyed but large eyed. I’m not desperately tired, hopelessly wishing to fall asleep. I’m empty. I’m staring into the darkness of my room, my companion the also sleepless, countless thoughts that meet me here. They flit and flutter through my mind. My eyes peer with nothing specific to look at.
Can I give a name to this experience? Night after night of empty moments. A mind that cannot stay still. A body that cannot relax. A thirst, physical and spiritual, that has yet to be quenched.
What continues to roll around in my mind tonight is the very thing I knew would preoccupy me. It’s the questions of where that friend is who I need. It’s the question of why I repeatedly expect from others, from anyone, something that no one can even give me. It’s the question of how anyone else sleeps in sweetness while I toss and turn in blankness.
I would love nothing more than to be totally and completely satisfied in Christ, but I cannot seem to find that. I would prefer nothing bigger than to simply feel at peace regardless of the human definition. I would take a moment of God-peace regardless of the chaos that might swarm around it. I would take a strong hand and close my eyes and rest in Him if I could.
If I could fathom it. If I could feel it. If I could find it.
I remember why those college nights were filled with visits to cemeteries and lonesome spots. I remember why I walked the leaf-trodden paths, soaked in the textures and smells of late autumn evenings. I remember why the season speaks to me year after year.
When my conscious mind refuses to ponder these things, my unconscious one reminds me.
The ebbs of my life list in cadence with the ones I spy in the season. My breath is in the air. Life is still at the edges of everything. The colors are vibrant and pressing, the smells are thick and hang with promise.
But the cold and the harsh, the dying and the must, the twigs and scraggly branches thrust themselves into my mind’s eye. They represent the twisting of my own mind as I try to wrap it around the chaos in my life and bring calm to it on my own accord.
I am wistful and linger. My desire is to spend all my time in fall. To bathe in it, to absorb the colors into my soul and to bury my mind in the specific solitude it offers. To surround my eyes with sparrows and cardinals. To thrive in the bounty of the harvest. To hold ripe fruit in each hand and to taste everything that it has to offer.
Yet I allow myself to be diverted by my expectations of others. I allow my heart to set the desires I own rather than my Creator. I struggle to set my mind on those things above.
I crave color and I crave light. I yearn for the fullness, the entire portrait, the physical splendor of the sunset, the sunrise, the horizon, the shooting stars, the mountain tops, the oceans lapping along the shores.
These are the ways I see and feel Him. These are the way I experience the eternal.
These and the eye gleams I experience from my children and from the old souls I meet. Their simple joy, their outrageous anger, their aghast mouths. All of these beautiful expressions show me reflections of myself, of our humanity, of our spiritual selves, of the bigger picture I so yearn to grasp.
We are all human. We all suffer. We all fall. We all stare into blankness some nights and wish for nothing else than the real large hand of God to come into our life and hold us.
I am learning the price of vulnerability. You break the silence and share your deepest, innermost thoughts and you receive incredulous silence. Scattered nods come from here and there. Some acknowledge you. Some thank you. Some offer you prayer and kind words. Yet no response fills the void.
This is not a confession about my personal doubts of God’s ability. Nor is it a complaint of cracks within friendships or the failures of people. This is the sifting of one woman’s sojourn through the terrible beauty of both autumn and everything that has come with it this time around.
This is my effort to pen it down and take hold of if not the actual Thing that is larger, perhaps simply the description of it.