The four walls echoed back and forth to each other, holding fast to the memory of the visit that changed a life. A four day silence that was more profound in impact than if it would have been holding your breath for that long. A life shifted from home to there. And once back there was honesty.
The honesty was that I was upset with God. With myself basically, but isn’t always easier to blame Him? Why wasn’t my relationship with Him flourishing and blooming and sprouting with life and oozing with joy. I stamped my feet in secret and decided that this would be the weekend that I would fix it all. The first day I was holding on to the fact that people say that when you diligently decide to have this time devoted solely to the Lord, you can make sure He’ll show up for the date.
So I waited. But nothing happened. I saw others around me, bending over on their sheets of paper, writing and pondering with weird glazing eyes. Empty. I felt the seconds go by like slugs. Oh, the multitude of slugs.
I had slept horribly and the next day I got upset about how ‘they’ made me do things. They decided my wake up time, they made me sing worship songs that I didn’t know the lyrics of, or the tune, they decided that I ate dinner at noon, they locked the doors at 10PM, they gave me Bible verses to meditate on. They. Not me.
When I read Scripture, nothing happened. I started noticing that I seemed to be the only one who did things differently than the others. They wore new clothes every day, they used a knife and ford when they ate their bread, they chose different seats every time they sat down..
A hissing voice crept into my head: you are different, you don’t belong. See how it happens again, also here? I wanted to go home, but it was as if an inner voice immediately replied, saying: ‘Then what?’ What would I do back home, but to drown out the silence by pretending that being on the internet means I am not home any more, hoping for the day to end faster than it would here? Besides I had already paid for the full ‘event’, so I decided to stick it out.
What I did change in my head was: ‘If God made me, He also made me this way, yes, maybe different, but at least it is unique, and God probably knew what He was doing when He made me.’ I tried the bolder approach, by changing the word ‘if’ into ‘since’.
Since God made me…
The hissing voice disappeared. I was left with this unknowing nothingness of silence around me, and if I would have to give words to it, it would be that in this silence God said: ‘It’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s you who doesn’t want me to, and I respect your decision.’ Somehow He used a visual that I have no words for, to show me my own will, and I just couldn’t get past it! My will was tangible, visible, it was huge, it was powerful, more real than the letters I type to make it so. I felt trapped by my will, I cannot separate myself from my will, God help me! What if I don’t want to will anything in life? Am I stuck with my will for always? Can’t I just be me? It felt as if I had put an electrical fence around me, with a yellow warning sign shouting to the reader to stay away, when behind it there was a whisper, why God didn’t just turn off the electricity and surpassed my will to let Him in? Because I really did want that intimacy with Him! I did want to trust Him!
The next set of Scripture that I received to mediate on were just black words on a white piece of paper. Even though I knew they were saying something else, I kept hearing something: ‘It’s the Spirit that quickeneth’. And I knew that right now all I was doing was just reading dead words. So I laid my Bible aside, thinking that if God wants to talk to me, He will . I decided that I would just try to enjoy being around Him, even if He would keep silent. But on a deeper level I thought: God must be angry with me because I want things to be done my way, and now He’ll probably not talk at all.
Restlessly I wandered through every space in the Monastery, I couldn’t really sit down anywhere, because it kept feeling as a place where someone else could enter. And rightly they could of course. And did. Nowhere I felt undisturbed, but then I came across a room, where some unexplainable calm came over me. I sat down on a couch that seemed to embrace me. It was as if time disappeared. I just was. Upon sinking back into the cushions I had a weird flash back to the time that I was in counseling, as if this was my cue to talk. This was my me time. The room gave me space to reflect on what was going on with me. What am I doing here, I thought.. I feel imprisoned.. Even though I am free to leave, this feels like a prison, I thought, my day is molded into a structure that someone else makes, where does that leave me,.. I thought about all the years that I wrote with Mike, when he was in prison, and I thought this would have been something I definitely would have written him about. I could even see myself sitting at the table in front of me, sitting down with my sheet of paper..
And then reality hit me: he is dead.
He will be dead for the rest of my life.
And I choked up. It was almost as if my days in the Monastery didn’t really matter if I could not share it with him… and when I exhaled again, out of me came this gulf of sadness, as if I finally gave birth to what I thought was dead, as if I had been holding my breath from that evening phone call until now. That phone call that confirmed the news. Yes. He is dead.
One year had passed.
And I let out a sigh. Just a breath. Just breath.
How come I seemed to have stopped breathing when you passed away, Mike. Why did I throw away everything between us, thinking that if it’s gone in the natural, it’s gone in the spiritual? Why did I copy paste a generational transferred coping style on dealing with hard things, by shutting up, thinking that when it’s silenced, it’s nonexistent? Death is the end of an existence, not of a relationship. No, it’s the other way around. Death is the end of a relationship.
The sadness was so vivid, but it was as if something was thinly covering me, enabling me to re-experience it without wanting to shut my heart to it, as if the edges of pain where being chipped away from the memories, and I could now feel joy over the memory of seeing him walking up to me, in Texas prison white, widening his arms, closing them behind me, embracing me, and hearing his voice cry in my neck, saying ‘my friend, you actually came’.
I never understood that when a child needs to be in the hospital for a painful procedure, a mother’s kiss can actually make it better. I always thought that the pain wouldn’t subside because of it, or would it..
And no, the pain I felt, by being there in memory, wasn’t taken away; something was added. A comfort that said: ‘It’s okay, my daughter’. As if God took me by the hand and led me back and let me have another look. As if He said: ‘I know, I was there with you, you weren’t alone.’ I experienced how love and pain can be married and become one. How sadness and joy can be the same thing, but experienced differently, at the same time, as if a second is split in two compartments, as if it were an atom.
Walking through all the friendship years with Mike, I thought if an experience like that impacts me so greatly already, what a beautiful spirit do I have then, so tender and vulnerable, and I realized suddenly that it was God who kept me alive all this time, because I treated my spirit horribly wrong by trying to make the sadness experience go away by ignoring his death, trying to drown the tears in drugs, or by trying to silence the inner shouting of hurt by replacing Mike with another people’s voices. God is so more gentle with me than I am with me.
I thought I had forgotten about Mike. I thought that it was God who made me forget about Mike. I even quoted that there is a season for everything.
But God didn’t forget. He knew that I needed to mourn. And He let me, because He knew exactly what I needed, and He showed up as a loving Father, widening his arms, closing his arms behind me, embracing me, heavenly saying: ‘My daughter, you finally came.’