like a dove

September 11, 2016

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“Oh that I had wings like a dove. Then I would fly away and be at rest” (Ps. 55:6)
Lord have mercy. Oh my Lord, have mercy upon me …
Many years ago, as an insecure and immature college student, I stumbled upon this verse during my private devotion. I was, at the time, desperate to find relief from my own troubled soul. I was also functioning behind a facade of put-togetherness, being a stellar student and a Bible study leader with my campus fellowship, and seriously looking towards the future with my boyfriend at the time.
Facade.
Funny thing: a local friend asked me today what the word meant. Here on our annual church retreat, I find myself with just long enough–one weekend–removed from my daily life to be able to put some words to my feelings. I can’t recall the precise wording of my answer, but I find it ironic that the word has made its way into random daily vocabulary, in a similar fashion to the way that it has become a far-too-present reality for my life.
I am battling myself, you see. Battling the onset of a darkening of my inner reality …a “dark night of the soul,” as Mother Teresa so aptly, and boldly, described it, as her own state.
Once again, as I felt when a college student, I feel as if I must go through the motions of my life while desperately hanging on to a semblance of “togetherness.”
I have children coming into my classroom every day, waiting for me to instruct and engage them. I go through the motions.
I have a congregation watching me each Sunday as we gather for worship. I sing the songs.
I have boarding students in my home for after-school activities. I entertain them.
To be fair, there is a joy in each of these activities: as Robert Frost penned in his poem “Birches,” “one could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” Or, in my case, one could do worse than be teaching these classes, singing on a praise team, and leading yoga sessions. I love these things …but only when I love my own life.
I’m afraid that at the moment I feel rather like the paralytic by the healing waters. I see the hope in the distance, but I cannot seem to get my body there. I cannot move fast enough to find my way.
My body has turned against me, and my foot refuses to heal. For a short few weeks, it had been improving and I was getting back to a semblance of mobility-testing the waters again, and thrilled when I was able to run without pain. But then the pain returned with a vengeance, as if it was back to when I first injured it, over 3 months ago. I am back to a painful, and infuriatingly slow, limp. Back to being the gimp.
What scares me now is that I no longer trust the healing process. I fear that I am not just waiting to get back to my usual self, but instead adjusting to a new, broken, existence.
I know this sounds overly dramatic, but I say it, knowing that is the case, because I need to voice the intensity of my fear. It is real.
I must also admit to the shame that I feel as I come to terms with the depth of my reliance upon my coping mechanism of a daily workout routine. Without my runs, I Eeyore my way through each day, with my physical plodding feeling like a mirror of my inner moping.
Yes Lord, have mercy. Give me a hope for the future. Give me a heart that loves. And please, if You see fit, let my feet dance again …

*this retreat happens to be taking place at one of the most beautiful spots I have yet visited in this country. My friend started taking pictures as we stood on a balcony overlooking the city. I felt the irony at the time, of the beauty surrounding me while I struggled to see anything through the cloudy lens of my inner vision.

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