My reading this week took me to Luke 13:10-17, the story of the woman who was crippled – “completely bent over and unable to stand up straight” – for almost two decades.
The focus of this story is often on the woman’s physical healing, but as I read it this time, I was reminded that our lives are not one-dimensional.
We exist, as my friend Jen (thank you, @cobbleworks) puts it, “on multiple levels at once.” What happens to us affects us across every plane of our existence – physically, spiritually, emotionally – and more. And any or all of those other things have the potential to be just as crippling as physical injury or ailment.
My experience walking the “valley of the shadow” has provided ongoing, intimate acquaintance with this truth. The extent to which I’m able to recognize and face my grief in all of its many manifestations – to get it out of me where it can be named and dealt with – determines how crippling it is or is not. The less able I am to articulate and experience what’s happening and what I think and feel about it, the more bent, twisted, and weighed down I am, the more stuck I stay.
Artist David Best (of Burning Man fame) understands this as well, using his art in a participatory manner as a means of healing. His work Temple, on display in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum through January 5, 2020, is a sanctuary comprised of intricately carved raw wood panels that lead to an altar. Wooden placards are provided for those who wish to leave personal messages. (Thank you, @khcart for your Instagram post bringing this to my attention!)
Of it, he says, “Many places exist for celebration, but few places are created to honor the universal human experience of grieving and loss… If you have lost someone dear to you, if you are suffering, if you need forgiveness, or shelter, or comfort, this Temple is for you…”
“Craftsmanship,” Best insists, “is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that the person that has something to get out of their soul and their body gets to get it out.”
I wish I were there right now to pour all the things vexing me onto one of those placards, make the pilgrimage to that altar, and place my words and my heart in the hands of God.
Because right now, I’m living – both literally and figuratively – in the “cone of uncertainty” – a technical meteorological term which means, basically, “We don’t have any idea where hurricane dorian is going to go, so good luck with that!”
It’s terrifying, and I hate it. This level of uncertainty pushes all of my buttons; slashes at every one of my Achilles heels.
I’m a planner. It’s sheer agony to have no idea what to even plan for. Being asked to trust where I cannot see, I’m wondering if my faith – meager-looking to me in the face of a category 4 hurricane – is enough.
And it takes me back to the only other times in life I’ve felt this clueless and afraid: hurricane irma, and Bill’s stunning diagnosis and unexpected death.
I’m trying to breathe, to remember what I said last week – that where there’s life there’s hope - and in lieu of one of the placards from Best’s Temple exhibit, I’m using this blog as a place to acknowledge where I am and how I feel in hopes that naming and owning the fear – putting it out there – will keep it from crippling me completely. And I’m praying – with what words I have: help, please.
I believe, Lord. Help thou my unbelief.