Week of March 17- Abiding in Exile- Nan Smith
Hope in the LORD!
Let your heart take courage!
Hope in the LORD!
Psalm 27: 14 (CEB)
Of late, I have been feeling particularly overwhelmed by the tragic happenings in our world. I find that my emotions are many and difficult to process. I have appreciated the beautiful prayers and poems that have been written by so many that gives voice to the pain and suffering unfolding around us. I also give thanks for the expressions of righteous anger over the injustice people endure under systems that oppress. I am so grateful, because I find that I neither have words, nor the energy, to write right now. Any words that I might offer feel so inadequate. I am unable to capture the depth of emotions I am feeling.
So, I have been at a loss as to what I should write for this Abiding in Exile. The words I would want to share, escape me. Anymore, I feel as though I am wandering in a wilderness exile. It is a curious feeling for one who is looked to for having the right words to say in the face of tragedy. I have sat in this place for a bit and finally this is what has bubbled up -- a story from my childhood. So, this is what I offer -- a story that obliquely speaks to this moment of time we find ourselves living through.
I am a Minnesotan (at least for the first 25 years of my life, so I claim it) and growing up, every summer, my family would camp along the North Shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. It is an incredibly beautiful area – where the rivers, originating in the Northwoods, cascade down and empty into Lake Superior. The change of elevation makes for breath-taking waterfalls thundering through rock-chiseled gorges. What I particularly loved about these family trips was the lack of parental supervision. My parents would simply turn me loose, so I was free to explore along rivers; free to hike atop the steep cliffs that bordered the river’s edge. It was glorious!
For this particular story, I was 10 years old. Invincible. A great explorer of the North. Swelled with assurance. One with the land and destined to make my mark. It was just an ordinary afternoon and I was exploring the rock beach where the river flowed into Lake Superior. That’s when I decided to hike up the cliff from the river bottom to the top. The distance was considerable (at least a football field), but there was a trail that wound up. Surely, I was meant to hike it. Common sense was decidedly lacking. Up I went, scrambling, my tennis shoes slipping on the loose pebbles. And you know, I firmly believe that I probably would have been fine and would have easily reached the top, if I hadn’t needed to rest halfway up.
I stopped, turned, and sat on the trail to survey my progress … and froze. My fingers grabbing blindly at flimsy seedling trying to establish itself on cliff face; my eyes fixated on the crash of the waves of Lake Superior over the boulders way below. A sobering moment. If I fell, I was dead. I suppose this would count as one of my first come-to-Jesus moments.
They say that when you experience a traumatic event your body continues to carry the trauma. Even in the remembering of this story, my body remembers the fear; remembers the panic; remembers the paralysis.
Going back down was not an option. I had to go up. Time seemed to slow as I started to scoot on my backside up that cliff. I would scoot a couple inches and then breathe. I would scoot a couple more inches and then breathe.
Obviously, I did make it to the top.
Scoot a couple inches and then breathe. This is the image I am holding onto in these traumatic times. When lives are ripped to pieces because of a thirst for power – I scoot a couple of inches and then breathe. When the emotions overwhelm – I scoot a couple inches and then breathe. When I feel helpless in the face of injustice – I scoot a couple inches and then breathe. When the divisive rhetoric is more important than the relationship – I scoot a couple inches and then breathe. And when our beloved creation, in all its splendor, is plundered recklessly and destroyed – I scoot a couple inches and then breathe.
I am holding the pain, the suffering, the fear, and the injustice in small pieces that I can manage. Prayerfully, breathing through the paralysis I am feeling.
It is the best I can do.