On Friday, I went to Sustainable Faith Indy (SFI) for a 4 hour silent Advent retreat.
SFI holds snapshots of my healing process. The first time I took a silent retreat was two years ago during Advent. I had just quit my job at the Oaks Academy, and I wasn’t yet diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I had no job, was moving out of my apartment the next month, and I had no idea what to do to help myself. I was desperate, anxious, and yet too exhausted to feel those emotions that strongly. Numb was a better description.
On these retreats, Advent guides are prepared for each participant. As I looked through my guide from two years ago, I found in its pages a poem that reveals the depth of my sadness, of my desire for healing:
When Sickness Prevails
Fatigue helps me to befriend stillness
even when I scream into its void.
Silence reveals who I really am:
my fears, doubts, joys, and thoughts
and in that rest I know I am sick.
When sickness prevails, rest doesn’t satisfy.
Emotions run rampant, loneliness sucks me dry.
Fear overtakes my mind. I feel stuck.
Stuck in this moment, in this depressing hour
Never to get out.
When sickness prevails, friends are few.
I ask for what I need, but I am shut-in,
unable to do much activity outside my apartment
and then largely forgotten.
Forgotten because busyness reigns and words are cheap.
When sickness prevails and I am alone,
I try to distract myself and not feel.
Eventually I am still enough to cry
and those tears are held by those
acquainted with grief,
when sickness prevails.
As I read this poem now, I am sad as I think back to that time, and yet simply grateful that two years later reflects a much different story. As I sat down at the lunch table at SFI before my afternoon retreat started, I thought,
“I am among friends.”
Two years ago, I also wrote down a few longings I had, that are now a part of my every day life.
- I wanted adult friendships, not mentors. I wanted people who could handle walking with me in my story, yet saw me as valuable, and were willing to learn from me as well.
- I wanted to feel like I could be included in the life of the church, not just as someone to help, but one with a vibrant story to share, even if I broached uncomfortable territory.
- I wanted to journey with a few friends dealing or had dealt with sickness. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone.
And this Christmas, all of these longings have been given to me. I have several adult friendships, who walk with me in my story, and seek my healing right alongside me. I have been lovingly included at Dwelling Place, and I have several friends with sickness, who help keep me grounded when I’m becoming fearful again or coming unglued, or want to give up.
In the midst of profound struggle, I have been given many gifts.
What are you reflecting on this Christmas? What gifts have you been given?