She had moved here for this. Once the night finally arrived and she was nestled into her space – her door-less space in the middle of the upstairs part of the house, which served as the thruway to the stairs and closet – she knew what she had to do. On her very first night at Olive Street, she stole away into the “prayer closet” and knelt down at the couch thing-y. (The couch thing-y was a large piece of foam, covered with cloth, shaped like a couch, and had no ability to support a back.)
Earlier that day when she arrived, her housemates had introduced her to the closet, which was a walk-in space, lined with hanging clothes on two opposite sides, and door-less. On the opposite side of the… non-door, there was a window, and situated underneath the window was the couch thing-y. On the wall of each side of the closet non-doored entrance was a hand print of oil from where one of them had anointed the closet when they had prayed over the house before moving in. The hand prints had an empty space in the middle of them, and it had reminded them of the nails driven into the hands of the crucified Christ.
When she knelt at the couch thing-y, she imagined that Christ was sitting there (although, it was very uncomfortable for him. “Sorry, Lord,” she thought to herself, “this is kind of awkward for you. I’m sure your back is getting tired.”) But she carried on anyway, as if he were there as her father and she were a little girl laying her head on his lap.
As she laid her head in his invisible lap, tears streamed down her face, because she had needed an affectionate, comforting father for so long. She did not know what drove her to have such thoughts about God, but she allowed these thoughts to come and carried on there with him. In her soul, she knew all she needed was him, his invisible presence and comfort, his reality. But her mind would not be still. Her mind would not allow her to rest. She needed something to combat the condemning thoughts that struck her from within and created stress throughout her entire body.
She unfolded herself from kneeling and stretched out on the couch. In her mind, and in whispers to herself, she began repeating the name of Jesus Christ and forced herself to think of his sacrifice on the cross.
It seemed to her, somehow, like a logical way to subdue the negative thoughts which she knew were not okay. And it was, as peace beyond her understanding began to settle her.
After a moment, the religious cliches and condemnations crept back into her thoughts. She wrestled momentarily before she caught herself and fought back with repeating the name of Jesus Christ over and over again. Then again peace came, then more condemning thoughts jarring her soul, then the fighting with the name of Jesus Christ, then peace. The cycle repeated itself until eventually her mind quieted with the name of Jesus Christ and thoughts of his love on the cross, and she faded into sleep.
Thunder woke her. She opened her eyes with a jolt. A lightning bolt flashed above her out the window and rain drizzled down the glass. She didn’t like being next to the window while it stormed, but she wasn’t exactly scared. She dashed out of the closet to her bed. She glanced at the clock: it was around 2 AM. Had she really slept for that long? She closed her eyes and immediately slept again.
She never forgot that night, and she had many more moments like it in the days, months, and years in her future.
It turned out that it wasn’t really a strange or unique experience after all. Jesus Christ had often gone to solitary places to pray. Moreover, many verses in the Bible describe and encourage her meditative type behavior.
- Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
- Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)
- Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith… (Hebrews 12:2)
- … bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- …whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
- Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
She had begun to believe that she was strange for her experience and that probably she had gone off on a heretical bunny trail some where. So many people around her – even her closest friends and family – had never had this experience and did not practice this.
In fact, the whole world around her seemed to always whirl and swirl with something that looked like thinking about God – about Jesus Christ. Everyone seemed to want to do things well, and to do things right, and to be helpful and useful, and all that was good. But, it seemed to her that many were doing it in their own effort, or for many there was a motive that was getting them no where in particular.
Even she got swept up into the hustle and bustle, but not without a fight from within her soul. It was just all wrong somehow. The system around her was driven by a mad capitalism – a love of money – and it was turning her and everyone into thoughtless, soulless, working machines, who, not only ran around in ceaseless tension and stress, but also provoked others, fairly and unfairly, into the same slavish, soulless drudgery. She couldn’t help but suspect that this was the aftertaste of the “Puritan work ethic” that set her country’s founding fathers on fire inside with inhumane behavior that enslaved and mistreated others.
She was honestly happy that, almost 20 years after her experience with Jesus Christ in the Olive Street prayer closet, COVID-19 stopped the whole world. But when the whole world had slowed in its spinning and whirling and swirling out of control, she didn’t know how to slow her own spinning and whirling. In fact, she couldn’t exactly, because she had a husband, four children, and a career that kept on going and wouldn’t sit still. And she had her own mind that wouldn’t sit still.
Practically speaking, of course, she couldn’t just abandon her life. But, she had to slow down, at least, and learn to be still in different ways. She didn’t know what it meant for her to be still in this time of her life. She didn’t know what she needed to be still from.
Or did she? If she let herself really think about it, she needed to be still from her careless buying and her wasting, and her careless use of time. Be still from her careless use of technology and always having her mind occupied with a screen – a new and interesting app, her social media accounts, her constant search for just the right combination of instrumental composition and lyrics, and her desire to be overly and self-glorifyingly significant in her creativity.
She needed to be still from cutting off her husband and children in mid-sentence because she just didn’t have the patience to care and listen, but had many, she thought, other important things she needed to work on and do and think about. At the same time, she needed to be still from not saying “no” at the proper time, and “yes” – at the proper time – which had to do with her aforementioned careless use of time.
She needed to be still in many other ways, and the world needed to be still in many ways, and would they all learn to do it before this thing came to an end? At least to some degree? Would she be able to reset?
She needed a reset.