Back to Me: Accepting the invitation to be still

I am running hard down the sidewalk. Street after street after street. Desperately searching for my car so much so that my heart is pounding when I wake up. In my dream, I am running away. From what I do not know. I have a plan, but it gets foiled somehow. I understand, in only the way you do in a dream, that this is my last chance to run away successfully, but I cannot remember where I parked the car. “My-y-y car!” I  scream, fists clenched, punching the air.  

Some say that my dream is all about anxiety. Others, a reality check on my fading memory. But when I shared the dream with my spiritual director this past spring, she saw an opening for the sacred that none of us had considered. “If you could end the dream differently,” she asked, “how would you end it?” Interesting. Something in me shifted, relaxed even. “I would sit down,” I said. “Where?” she asked. “I would sit right there on the sidewalk and stop running.”

With that, I could see myself sitting cross-legged on the cement, feeling at peace, as if the whereabouts of my car no longer mattered, and my irritation over such ill-fated forgetfulness all but dissolved. The real-life tension that I carry between my shoulders started to ease. I opened my eyes, smiled. I already knew the next question my spiritual director was about to ask. I ask it myself: What is God’s invitation for you?

To stop. Be still. To trust that I will find myself again.  

The invitation I understood. The urgency in the dream was irrefutable. With the school year slowly winding down, the circles under my eyes told their own story of self-neglect. I dreaded the fast-approaching summer and the speed by which my life would be compressed into my two leading roles: work and mom. Mom and work. Who I am beyond those realities can get as lost as the car I never did find in my dream. 

It was the how of the invitation that stumped me. Didn’t God already see the craziness of my day-to-day juggle? Yes, my spiritual director assured me, knowing well that I have committed and re-committed (and re-re-re-committed) to finding stillness. Perhaps we could find a way that did not add anything to my to-do list but rather took something away. Sitting down in the midst of the craziness was the invitation, she reminded me. Not sitting down after the craziness is magically under control.

So later that night, and the nights that led into summer, I tried it. I forced myself to stop working at 9:30 p.m. (even though my son was fast asleep, and our home was intoxicatingly quiet). I turned off my computer, put away my reading glasses, and curled up on my living room couch. My sole intention was to stop thinking, literally. To sit right down on that sidewalk and be still. I promised myself that I would not fight or fix or argue with the divine about all the transitions barreling down upon me.

I turned off the overhead light and stared at the white Christmas lights woven across my mantel, noticing how they illuminated the faces of people I love. I took in my array of books from authors I admire around the globe. I touched the memories of the conch shell I discovered on a Haitian beach, the brightly painted wooden car a second grader made for me, the worn beads of my grandmother’s rosary. Night after night, I unplugged my thoughts and slowly drifted off into the sweetest of slumbers.

Some say that slumber is not a form of prayer. Others, that resting in God is the very essence of prayer. But I cannot say when my prayer started or when it ended: before I slept or after I woke. Week after week, an unexpected and inexplicable sense of peace found me. As did awe. Those evening vespers—most of which were unspoken—were the very escape my soul ached for. I stopped chasing after an inexhaustible to-do list and began reconnecting with what brings me joy.

Theologian Barbara Brown Taylor writes: “Prayer is happening, and it is not necessarily something I am doing. God is happening, and I am lucky enough to know that I am in the Midst.” Indeed, the sacred is all around. My hidden fears and insecurities about not finding a new sense of passion and drive, along with a new job and a new home, succumbed to the stillness of my living room. I started to trust that inner peace, knowing its source is far greater and bigger than my own.

By July, that peace had energized me. It stirred up my existing passions about writing—and reminded me of how patient and faithful the divine is. Inspired, I used the summer to redesign the website, making it more inviting and reflective of who I am. Six years ago when I launched it, I had no conception of what the website might become or how it would sustain me. I began with a readership of one: me. I quickly added a few good friends and my parents, followed by my cousin and my aunts. 

Now, in an elegant twist of transcendence, I can see how my dream about running away turned into a dream about running toward myself, about going inward and resting in the sacred long enough to be reminded of who I am and who I am called to be. Writing a reflection each month gives me that same privilege: sitting down on that sidewalk (regardless of what is going on) and seeing the sacred in our midst. Each month, it brings me back to me. My hope is that it does the same for you.

For those of you have been with me since the beginning of, I thank you. For those of you who recently joined, welcome. Having you on my journey makes all the difference.