One year ago I faced a monster from my past. And then I quietly fell apart.
No one really tells you how difficult it is to live in community, probably because until you live in it you can’t fully understand the delicate balance of beauty and pain, crazy and lovely, heaviness and brightness. I wouldn’t trade where I am right now for anything in the world but I think you could ask all 400 of us and we would all say that life in community isn’t easy. And its not the bunk beds or the vehicle sign outs or two minute showers that are difficult, you adapt to those. Its the fact that living in community grows and transforms you. And well, that’s not always an easy process.
I remember when I was little reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis, most of that book is lost somewhere among all the other books I’ve read but one part will always find its way to the forefront of my mind. The part after Eustace had been changed into a dragon and wants to be turned back into a boy… how painful it was and that he could not do it on his own.
“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, but I can tell you, I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it…. That very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’d ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”
So a year ago I was laying on the floor of an empty cabin literally crying in the dark, fighting the inevitable pain and wanting to go “home” because there I didn’t have to face anything I didn’t want to. My life in Seattle was neatly ordered and easy to avoid the darkness in my heart… easy to distance from pain or memories or whatever. My new home makes this next to impossible. As I laid there fighting with God I heard him say, “It takes a village to raise a child. It will take this community to heal your heart.” That statement stilled me and dried my tears and wearily got me to open up to a sweet friend and begin to trust others with my heart.
We all know healing takes time. Those of us on the ship here see all the time that each person heals differently. Some receive a surgery and are healed and good to go a few days later, others are with us for months. But one thing is constant, there is pain and there is follow up care needed… maybe physical therapy is required, maybe dressings or medication. The patient must act in order to continue healing.
Likewise, I had to act. After a few months I realized I was heavy, my spark dulling and my joy lost… emotional monsters aren’t like the ones in children’s books and they are not easy to fight. That quiet voice came to me again and said, “Be thankful… it will restore.” So I started my 1,000 Gifts list as and act of obedience and a tangible way to see the beauty and blessings in each and every day, to find the simple things to be thankful in. And somewhere over the months it turned from an exercise of obedience to a part of my daily rhythm. I started looking for the things of beauty and grace that made my heart smile. I started noticing all the ways that the people in my life, my community… my village, pour into me and bless me. I started living with greater purpose and deeper joy.
And in those times where I fall apart a little I can look back at the trail of thankfulness that has restored me and the community that has brought healing and find strength to get back up to see the endless gifts that lie ahead of me.