Every summer, I plan around the Week of Guided Prayer retreat. And every year, even before this blog was a thing, I’ve written up a reflection on what came out of it. In some ways, this year is no different. The Week is coming up soon and I’ve made sure to keep my calendar clear, even working ahead in class so as to have no homework due. But in other ways, it’s very different. I’ve always been a little apprehensive going in – one year I didn’t even sign up until three days before it started. But this year, it’s more than apprehension. It’s open dread. And I don’t know why. Okay, that’s bullshit. I do know why. I’ve been sitting here the last couple days reading back over the last few years’ worth of post-Week reflections and seeing the memories that pop up on Facebook and the level of raw emotion that comes up every single year is frightening. Every year, I go in not knowing what to expect and something that needs healing comes bubbling up to the surface and in the end, I’m better for having dealt with it. That sounds all wonderful, but I assure you it’s not in the moment.
For a long time after my divorce, people asked me what I was going to do next. When would I start dating. What about going back to school. And for a long time, it looked from the outside like I didn’t do much at all. But on the inside, the changes were incremental and monumental and terrifying. Because healing isn’t all warm fuzzies. It means walking through the dark stuff and coming out the other side. The best image I have to describe it is more than a little disturbing. In the opening moments of the anti-war film Grave of the Fireflies, the protagonist, Seita, stands in a field full of fireflies looking back at his own dead body lying on the floor of Kobe train station. His face conveys confusion, then wonder, and finally, peace before he moves on. That’s what healing feels like. It feels like dying until you find out you’re not dead but are standing on the other side quite whole, albeit, perhaps, a bit shocked and confused.
Now here I stand, looking back at the many things I have faced that felt like dying, and I find that I am stronger, bolder, and freer now than I ever thought possible. So, yes, in spite of my feelings of dread, I registered for the Week. And I know going in that I may wish for the walls to fall on me or the floor to swallow me when I have to face what God is trying to show me or when it feels like I’m a small rose bush that’s been run over by a lawnmower – twice. But I know that in a week or a month or maybe three, I’ll look back at some part of me that has died and be freer and more whole because of it.
In baptism, God claimed me as God’s own; an act of God that can never be undone. As a believer in Christ, I have come to believe in the resurrection, not just as some eschatological event but as a common occurrence. There are ten thousand tiny deaths that I will face in this life. And after each one, I will be raised up to look back in confusion and wonder before walking forward with new peace to the face next one.
So I stand in this space, not quite sure what’s coming next, knowing it’s probably going to hurt like hell, knowing I’ll be better for it in the end, and knowing that, technically, I could walk away. But, in the words of Martin Luther, “Here I stand. I can do other.”
Pray for me during the first week of August. I’m gonna need it.