My heart speaks in pictures

Lately I feel like I’m standing in a dark fog. I’m surrounded by clouds and I can’t see much of anything. Sometimes I see shadows, but even then I don’t know if they are real or tricks the fog is playing on my soul. I feel like I might be anywhere. I might be in Scotland, standing on the edge of a cliff looking down at crashing waves and a beautiful castle. I might be in my childhood backyard, wrapped up a sudden storm that will disappear like my breath does when I exhale. I might be on a mountain or in a valley. I might be by the sea or in a forest or in my own home.

When I stand in this place, all I know is that the ground under me is solid. I also know, I suppose, what the past was, whether good or bad or hideous or beautiful or right or wrong, but I can’t do anything with that. I can’t change it and I can’t go back, because I don’t know how to find it again. So all I have is the peace and fear of the present moment.

Sometimes, I just start walking. I figure, “What the heck?” and decide that walking off the edge of a cliff is just a chance I have to take because I can’t stay stuck forever. I decide that I must walk and that I will just choose a different direction if this one gets too hard or shows itself to be wrong. I tell God that I am going and that he can steer me somewhere else if he so chooses, but he’ll have to tell me loud and clear.

Other times, I just stand there. I don’t do anything. I strain my eyes to see but stay, as if my feet were glued to that patch of ground, because I can’t know for sure. I feel like I must know, absolutely, where I am going before I take that step. I don’t want to waste my time back-tracking and I certainly don’t want to walk into something dangerous, so I figure that I won’t move at all. I tell God that I’m staying and waiting for him, that I’ll stay forever if that’s how long it takes for him to tell me what comes next.

Both of these ways have worked for me. They seem to balance each other out so I’m not completely impulsive or completely stuck. I’ve developed good discernment as to which one is more appropriate for where I am at any given moment, and I think I’ve done a good job at taking advantage of opportunities offered me without rushing headlong into things before I know what they’re really about.

All the same, I’m beginning to find another way.

The other day, the fog seemed particularly close in. I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t remember why I believed in God or why I ever thought I should let someone else have control of my life. I couldn’t figure out why some hard things were so hard, especially when they were things that used to be easy. I felt particularly twisted up inside, like maybe I was standing on my head and didn’t know it.

In the middle of all of that, I reached out my hands in front of me like I was waiting for someone to grab me and lead me away from that place. I don’t know why I reached out—it was an impulse. Maybe I wanted to see if someone was there. Maybe I was testing the waters. Whatever the reason, I felt like my hands were taken up, like Jesus was there, just beyond what I could see, waiting for me to find his hands and let him find our way.

I think that was supposed to be comforting, but I found it frustrating. Why wouldn’t he just reveal himself? Wouldn’t it be easier if I could see with him, if we could both survey the view, whatever it is, and walk through it together? What was he about, just standing there lurking until I reached for him? How was I supposed to know that he wasn’t going to try to lead me places I didn’t want to go, places I’d tried before that were hard or places I hadn’t yet stumbled on? Whatever the answer to these, it didn’t feel like anything I wanted to mess with. Better to stand and rot or walk on and risk than let someone else—even him!—lead.

The story doesn’t have a happy ending or, at least, it doesn’t yet. Part of me wants to go, walk, and trust. Another part of me screams, “Hell NO!” and refuses to budge until she gets some token of where we’re going. And Jesus? He is very quiet. I feel his pressure on my hands, letting me know that he is still there, but that is all.

So where do I go from here? Do I force myself to go with him, against the part of me that seems right now to be my better judgment? Do I snatch my hands away and keep choosing based on my old patterns—the ones that have seemed to work fairly well? Do I wait until I’ve come to a point where I want to walk, where it doesn’t matter to me if I ever see his face because I know his heart and his love, where I truly see that wherever he chooses to lead is good, even if it’s hard?

In my perfect world, I’d choose the third. But does it exist? Is there a time and place on this earth where my heart is united, my passions are quieted, and my trust is solid? And if there is, is there a way to get there that does not involve me going with him right now?

Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.



Filed under My Days

9 responses to “My heart speaks in pictures

  1. My heart speaks in pictures too.

    I wish I had something profound to say that would get you out of the tangle of this metaphor. I hate to say it, but everything valuable that I’ve ever learned has come through these foggy fear-drenched places. I hope it comforts you just a little to know that my hunch is that it doesn’t really matter a whole lot what you decide to do. It’s not a test. He’ll be there if you stay frozen in place like a statue. He’ll be there if you take one faltering step. He’ll be there if you beat your fists in the air and yell at the top of your lungs. The world does not hang on these choices of yours. That’s always just a little bit of a comfort to me when I’m paralyzed and wondering why God never bothered to give me a secret decoder ring that would unlock the mysteries of the universe for me.

    So even though the fog is impenetrable right now, if you’ll listen you’ll hear all of us out there too, calling out our own coordinates, hoping there will be some warmth soon that will burn this all away. Sometimes the greatest thing God can do is to provide some company.

  2. His being there this time makes me think you are ready for a new place. Or maybe almost ready. He’s showing up on the scene, introducing himself in a new way, getting you ready for himself (and yourself) in that place. Your not being ready to walk with him I think says something important. It could be the time is not yet, but soon.

    I agree with Terri that it doesn’t matter, ultimately, what you choose. It’s not about the decision being right or wrong but about the process and who we become while going through it. The reason I know that is the case here is because choosing to do one thing or another ultimately just reveals something about your heart and where you are right there in that moment. If you stay or if you amble on ahead, in the old familiar ways, it says you’re feeling bewildered by him right now, and that is something to consider. If you decide, eventually, that you can let him lead you a step or two or five hundred, then it says something about your readiness to trust His guidance over your own best human judgment, which would usually just rely on itself to get places that seem rational (and are therefore limited).

    I don’t get the sense from your description that he’s in a hurry and asking you to just choose already. I get the sense that he’s just being present. With you. And waiting until you are ready, because he’s ready to take you into a new experience of that fog and that moorish land.

  3. Thanks, friends. I think I know that this isn’t a bad place to be, but it’s hard to stay there.

    Terri–I think that part of the reason I like you all so much is that you are calling out. You’re telling your stories and, in that, you’re telling part of mine.

    Christianne–Yeah, I don’t think he’s in a hurry either. But me? I am 😉

  4. Oh, Sarah. The darkness is something I have become acquainted with well recently. The darkness, the fog, the feeling that if you move, it might be to walk off a precipice, not knowing if you’ll be caught, if there will be a soft place to fall, or if there are jagged rocks waiting for you down below.

    Oh, the tenuous and scary path of learning to trust. We can understand it and grasp it in a very cerebral way, but when we are in the dark, stretching out our hands, we need to know that He’s there, He’s real, He’s leading.

    It sounds to me like you and I share a frustration: the not knowing. Not knowing what His plan entails, where our path leads, just wanting Him to jump out and declare Himself. But He waits. He waits patiently for us, waiting for us to reach out to Him. He’ll never catch us by surprise, never force our hands. Trust is what reaches out in that darkness and fog when we literally cannot see what might be right in front of our faces. I’m having a hard time figuring this out too. Having such a hard time with trusting; I understand that He doesn’t need to divulge His plan in detail to me; He doesn’t need to spread the span of my life out before me like a map so I can know which choices to make, where to take a turn, where to place my yeses and nos, were to kick up my feet and rest awhile. He asks us only to look to Him, to reach to Him every step of the way.

    I hope this isn’t coming off as preachy or as giving unsolicited advice (I don’t like hearing either, so if it does, I do apologize. It’s not my intent); it’s just that I’ve walked through just such a season quite recently and based on word pictures you painted, I could so closely relate and identify what you were talking about. Those images spoke so loudly & clearly to my own heart because I know way down deep in my heart and my gut what you are talking about.

    I bet you we can expect to cycle through times such as these more and more as we learn to trust Jesus, to rely upon the fact that He’s there with us even when we can’t see Him. These times are frustrating; there are tears and nights of perplexity, cries to heaven that feel as though they fall off the ceiling and back in your lap. But when He draws you from beneath that murky surface, when you come back into the light and air … the air is clearer and the light brighter than it ever was before. It is so beautiful to emerge, to stand on the mountaintop for a short space in time and take in the whole sweeping panorama. I wanted to stay there forever and pitch a tent there; but life is in the valleys (like I have to tell you this, I’m mostly reiterating it for my own good!!). Jesus is there too.

    Your words struck such a strong chord with me; the picture you painted had me saying yes, yes, I know what she is talking about. I know what she means. The specifics may be different, but now I know that yours is the journey of a heart in earnest pursuit of her God. He is leading you & it is so beautiful!

  5. Kirsten, wow. You DO know where I am. And what a strange place it is.

    You know, sometimes I wish he would just push me (or tug me along, as the case may be). I hate the doing nothing, the waiting. And, yes, you’re absolutely right, I hate the unknowing (and I hate that I hate the unknowing…). I want to move. I think I believe that I’m ok, I’m going somewhere, I’m growing as long as I’m moving. It’s this still feeling that I have trouble with.

    On the other hand, I’m learning a lot about myself here, so maybe there’s more here than I’d thought.

    And I’m so, So, SO glad that people can hear me and know what I’m saying. It brings me reassurance that I’m not making this up or crazy or just doing something wrong.

  6. Nathan

    Haven’t seen you around in a while. Hope everything is well with you.

  7. Wow what can I say but been there felt that. For the longest time I felt like “If you are there, show yourself.” After years of searching I finally realized he is showing himself. I just wasn’t looking. And his hand was reaching out, I just wouldn’t take it. If it is just out of your reach, then reach a little further.

  8. Nate–I’m ok. I just got internet at home yesterday, so I’m playing a bit of catch-up.

    Greg–I know what you mean about not looking and not taking what’s there. A month or so ago, I felt like I suddenly turned around and found him waiting for me in an area of my life where I’d been searching for a while. It’s a crazy feeling, isn’t it, that he’s been there all along?

  9. Oh good. I’m glad I was somehow able to convey that “I get it” through all my blathering. ;o)

    I HATE the unknowing too, please give me clarity any day of the week. It’s as if we’re blindfolded, being led to an unknown destination over unfamiliar terrain. And He’s just saying, “Trust me. I know where we’re going. And that’s all you need to know.” Not. Fun.

    I’m learning this over & over in several areas right now. Know that I’m on this path with you, figuring it out (probably getting it wrong more than I get it right) & that yeah … I don’t know where He’ll take us, but He promises it’ll be good, it’ll be better than any path of our own carving.

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