Often things come to me in that nowhere space floating somewhere between being fully awake and blissfully asleep. This is where I’m fluent in Spanish and where that crossword puzzle clue that was hanging me up suddenly becomes obvious. This is where I hear the music I need to put on the page and where I gain clarity on an issue that had troubled me in my waking hours. There’s probably a technical term for that nowhere space.
I think it may be the space where we can be the free-est, bravest, most honest versions of ourselves. It’s the space where we aren’t judged by others or ourselves. It’s the space where our deepest inner workings are finally audible to us. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I arise with the confidence to tackle what was solved there in the nowhere space; but often, when I fully come to my senses in the light of day, I start picking apart the solution and it has completely lost steam before I’ve even brushed my teeth.
A few days ago, as I rested in the nowhere space, I had a moment of déjà vu. I knew what I was feeling I had felt intensely sometime before. As I stayed with it, I recognized it more clearly. It was that unsettled feeling I had at the beginning of my spiritual silent retreat some 17 years ago. And then I had a small epiphany, as I realized that so much of what I’ve been hearing from people and reading on their social media feeds about life in this self-quarantine / social distancing time sounded like my struggle to be contemplative on a silent retreat.
It’s the waiting.
We are a go, go, go, and go some more society. Even our scheduled rest times (vacations) are exhausting, cram-packed, get-our-money’s-worth events. When I went away on my silent retreat, I was actively engaged in my law practice, was a leader in my church, was singing in several groups, was a volunteer for a few institutions, was a single homeowner with constant home repair projects, and the mom to a very active dog. I wanted to get away so I could slow down and listen for what God was speaking to me. And as I sat in the silence, my head and my body didn’t know what to do with all the stillness and waiting. I made grocery lists. Refocus. I wrote poetry. Refocus. I fidgeted. Refocus. I sang songs. Refocus. I berated myself for my inability to sit in stillness. Refocus. I thought about people I’d not thought about in a while. Refocus. I’m so sleepy. Maybe I should nap. Refocus. What is WRONG with me? Refocus.
Slowly, s l o w l y, I made progress on the stillness. The interruptions came less frequently. I grew more comfortable in the waiting, in the listening, in the not knowing. I began to realize how God was speaking to me in that time. And the more I waited and rested in His presence, the softer my voice became and the louder God’s became.
So here we are, not leaving our homes unless it’s essential and we feel uneasy. We don’t know how to not go, go, go. It’s uncomfortable. We try to distract ourselves with Netflix, eating, jigsaw puzzles, whatever. Anything to take away that sense of unease. But that, THAT is where we need to sit. We have been given this amazing opportunity of life slowing down to allow us to sit with God, to listen so that God’s plan for us can be revealed. Refocus. Do it again. Keep doing it. Be still. Listen. Wait.
God is speaking. Whether the words are clear guidance on what comes next for home or family or school or job in this time of uncertainty, or whether the words are simply “I’m with you and I will not leave you,” we will find peace in them.
When I left my silent retreat, I felt like I had been in the longest period of nowhere space, and I was emerging, waking to confidently carry out what was so clearly laid forth to me in that space. The nowhere space is a gift, giving us the chance to be the closest to the God who resides within. And when we are most ill at ease, God is calling us to enter that nowhere space and sit with Him in stillness, in silence, and wait on Him. You will find peace there.
Grace and peace to you as your journey.
Yours in Christ,