If You’re in the Shadow: Thoughts as You Watch the Big One Coming.

If You’re in the Shadow: Thoughts as You Watch the Big One Coming.

I’ve had this dream, over and over I’ve had it, about a giant wave coming from far away—towering over everything and casting a shadow on thousands of people as we watch it. It always starts out as a pleasant day on the beach. It always ends with me wondering why I decided to go to the beach, on this day of all days. 

Every time, I go through the same set of thoughts.

  1. If I run as fast as I can it will still be too little too late. I can’t outrun it.
  2. There is nothing that could shelter me from the coming blast.
  3. While it’s taking a minute to get here, it will come, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
  4. Everyone here with me is going to get hit by it too.
  5. The only thing I can do is find something to hold on to.

And so I always end up running anyway, but not to try to get away. I run, looking at everything around me. Cars. Buildings. Mailboxes. Until I find an object that goes deep into the ground and that I think I can get a good grip on. It might be a tree, or a lamp post. But whatever it is I grab it with my arms and legs and hold on tight as I watch the giant wave coming in. And I hope, with everything that is in me, that I have chosen the right thing to hold on to. Because now it is too late to choose anything else.

Every time I see the news and every time I actually allow myself to think fully about what is happening in the world or how really scared I should be, I see the wave. It’s a vision almost now, more than a dream. I remember it as if it had really happened. 

What am I holding on to? Is anything I’m holding on to something that will simply be crushed and washed away by the wave that is coming? Do I have time to adjust my grip? But it’s too late now, really to do much about what I’m holding on to. I can cling tighter to what I’ve already brought near, but I have no time to go looking for anything else. No time to develop a new heart attitude or place of trust. Things are frozen as I watch the wave. 

We’re in the shadows now. It’s coming.

I know that it would be kinder to write something uplifting or hopeful. And I’d like to give you that. But what I really want to say is, make sure you are holding on the right things. Adjust your grip if you can. Don’t worry about anything that will be washed away.

The wave is coming. I’d better be holding on to God himself at this point, and hope that I have never made any substitutions. Never erected something in His place and given it His name. My faith is not enough. My religion is not enough. My church is not enough. My creeds are not enough. Only the Unmoved Mover of the Universe stand firm through tidal waves this big.

If it helps, the dream never ends with the wave crashing. I always look through the swirling chaos, and see light overhead. I find myself somehow letting go and navigating the water, knowing I still may yet surface. And it is almost fun. The wave is not the end at all—though the world behind me has surely been washed away and I will surface to find out what is left.

We have a moment now as the water recedes to leave dry land in front of us to feed the wall of water, and we hear the roaring of the approaching wave. Take a deep breath and hold on. 

 

If You’ve Been Missing Something: A Morning Car Ride With an Old Friend

If You’ve Been Missing Something: A Morning Car Ride With an Old Friend
Every once in awhile you land in a period of time where for whatever reason, God lands a little extra in your lap in the form of someone else’s need. The kind of need that overwhelms you and all at once makes you hope this means that maybe God thinks you’re competent enough to help out in an important way. (And then you remember, no he doesn’t, no one is, that’s not the point, we’re all hopelessly broken, put down your pride you silly human and just do the thing.)
So I found myself getting up earlier than I usually do, driving across town and sunrise, and giving a much needed car ride.

I kept telling myself, that my grandfather used to get up before the sun to milk cows every morning. A heated car ride at 7 was not in any way something to complain about. A couple of chatty grade schoolers asking me everything from my birthday to my favorite animals were also much better company than cows.

“Mama’s sick, she’ll be better, what’s your favorite month?”

The voice in my head was calling me wimpy for not liking to get up at 6:20 this morning, already oversleeping my alarm by 20 minutes. The voice in my head wondered when the world went to hell in a hand basket and why I insist on being apart of the hell basket. The voice in my head worried that I’d said the lamest things imaginable to my little companions.

The voice in my head.

“Oh hello there,” I thought, finding my way home alone after a cheerful drop off.

“Where on earth have you been? And would you mind whining less?”

I have not had a critical voice as a companion for a very very long time. I think maybe I dropped her off a cliff in a nightmare sometime ago, running ahead of the hoards of scary things chasing me, knowing I did not have space for such dead weight.

I remember it, the dream where I killed her. Or maybe just abandoned her. I looked into her eyes. My eyes. I split a little piece of myself off and threw her into a pit, or maybe a stadium. I can never remember which.

“I have to go now,” she said.

I couldn’t speak as I tearfully threw her in and turned to run as quickly as I could, already longing for her, picturing her body somewhere below the road.

I don’t know why I’ve always thought that. That I intentionally buried or dropped or maybe murdered some piece of myself way back in the early days of my adolescence. That dream. The one after which I never felt quite whole. Never a kid again but not really ever grown up.

There’s one picture of me in particular that reminds me of that murder, or abandonment. It’s a drawing, actually. The assignment was to draw a self portrait. I did it late at night after procrastinating. I didn’t want to do it. Finally I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, balancing my sketch book on the sink edge. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t want to. What came out felt so vulnerable that I glued cartoons around it to soften the way it made me feel. It’s the way my face looks when I drop all pretense. When I’m concentrating instead of trying to make it look like something else. It made me feel like it was obvious something was missing in my natural state. Years later after rescuing it from water damage and lugging it halfway around the world, that look still gets me. I love it and I’m afraid of it.

Every time I see those eyes in my mind I shiver a little. The me I killed. Or maybe just lost. Who is she?

But today I heard the familiar voice. The one that was mad when I had to share my things no matter how new or how nice and I had to bite my tongue if someone broke them. The voice that felt murderous when someone brushed barbie’s hair and then popped her head straight off. The one from the day they killed my favorite trees, and the day they killed the one I decided to love after them.

She’s always known how she felt, and never shied away from critical tid-bits, either at myself or others.

I know people who spend their entire lives running from their critical voice. But I think I’ve been looking for mine, like a child on a milk carton. “Have you seen this girl? If found, she will probably tell you to tuck in your shirt and get a haircut and maybe not to chew so loudly.”

Someone to care about dishes that haven’t been done, or exactly the right way to fold socks. Someone who buys the clothes I actually want in the right size and knows when someone else has been rude. Knows when I’ve been rude. The voice that forced me to give the Sunday school money back that I stole from Ashley Conklin. (I think that was her name.) But also the one who knew that when that kid in fifth grade punched me, he should have been the one to get in trouble, that I didn’t have a big mouth–it was in fact exactly the right size.

And this morning I realized she had found a seat in the car next to me and was staring me down. Chastising me for being wimpier than a dairy farmer. But comfortingly patting my arm as I drove home smiling from my journey. I’d done what I said. I showed up, the ride was given. Such a small thing. Such a good thing.

Do you know what’s worse than having a critical voice? Having one with no power. Having one that doesn’t matter. Having one that got thrown over a cliff sometime ago out of a need to survive. I’ve been making due with resentment and stubbornness masquerading as critique for some time. But those voices could never do her job. It was always about some personal vendetta, or digging in my heels so someone doesn’t make me give what I don’t want to, or what I can’t, or what I don’t have enough of yet again. It turns out absolutely nothing else could do her job.

I’ve missed her so.

So I found myself driving home, noticing what I think is shabby, or out of shape, or missing, or just a little skewed.

What a relief what a relief what a relief.

For when you can notice what is wrong, maybe you finally have a chance to fix it, or even prevent it.

And if she’s back, maybe nothing is chasing me anymore. Maybe anxiety can give way to anger. The good kind. The primary anger that rights what’s wrong with a level head and confidence I often lack.

I drove home from my morning run to sit with my family around a kitchen table eating cereal and drinking coffee. The good kind pressed in a French press. Dare I say, the right kind?

I do this, sometimes. I invent a reason why something that’s been wrong could be right all of a sudden. I epiphanize myself right out of reality. Maybe I’m just telling myself I can grow a critical voice, a voice that cares and understands what is right and wrong, needed, expected, and handles it well. Maybe the fact that I envisioned my critical voice as a child I tossed over a cliff into the shadows a long time ago is crazy. Maybe it’s way too telling. But maybe–maybe if I lost her in a dream, maybe I can find her in one too.

“That’s too much sugar,” she says. “Do you really need that much sugar?”

I smile to myself. Maybe I don’t.