Sometime in the middle of last year I got sick. It was nothing very serious—an infection which then led to a prolonged period of exhaustion. But it was the kind of deep-in-your-bones exhaustion which means extended time off work and whittling down entries in the beloved Moleskine schedule to … nothing.
Cancelling responsibilities and social events in favour of lying in bed and watching every series of Heartland (homage to the Albertan hubby) while feeling generally despondent, was embarrassingly painful. I knew that, like so many of us, I had issues with busyness. But I felt I’d made a fair bit of progress on that front over the past few years by intentionally slowing down, paring back, making space. Sigh.
I gradually began to adjust to this new territory. In the vast wilderness of a blank schedule, I found myself able to tell the truth to myself out loud: I’m frustrated, I’m scared, I’m lonely. And slowly, despite my energy levels being no higher, I began to feel I was in a more permeable, more honest space.
Things were still hard, but at the same time, in that quiet space I felt awake in a way I can hardly describe.
I loved walking slowly beneath the trees and watching as the seasons turned from Autumn to Winter. I felt I was turning, shedding and becoming along with the trees and I was grateful for what they taught me about God, about the truth of living and dying and rising.
Somewhere beneath the trees I caught a glimpse of the kind of life I want to live: slower, more connected, more AWAKE. I began posting a photo on Instagram with some words that had resonated with me that day. I did this as often as I could, to help me stay awake. I felt like a detective seeking out the sacred in each day—and I loved it!
It was inevitable: My one word for 2017 is AWAKE.
Thanks to Olympic levels of rest, I am feeling much better, for which I am thankful. But with the energy levels have returned old habits, and disconcertingly so. All the good things I thought I’d learned last year are feeling slightly less immediate. The schedule is filling up again—all good, good things—and yet, I somehow feel half-asleep.
I walk beneath the trees and struggle to feel the rush of companionship and wonder. I stopped finding things to post on Instagram, instead (until a self-imposed fast this week) pressing my nose up against other people’s creativity and awake-ness and feeling a failure.
I thought I’d left this behind.
I sometimes find myself breathing: “awake … awake” in the shower just to remind myself what I long for, as my mental space begins to fill up once again with lists and tasks and worries. I even bought myself this mug—partly to support a great start-up but also as a reminder to myself of my deepest prayer for this year.
And then, in the first week of January, Fiona wrote a post about Beholding and the journey of the Magi to Jesus. It was wonderful and full of characteristic wisdom but one line may as well have been in bright red lettering and size 40 font: “The Magi returned home by a different route. And isn’t that always the way?”
Isn’t that always the way? After a journey through the wilderness, after an encounter with the living Jesus who brings us—in all our ragged weakness—to wide-awake life, isn’t it inevitable that God will offer us a different route Home?
Yes! There is another way. Just because I am feeling physically better, doesn’t mean I need return to more of the same, to productivity and pushing, to patterns and practices that no longer work for me. But I look around and can’t see any alternative, at least not now, in this season of living and working in one of the busiest cities in the world. Keep up or go home … right?
But then, I thought of the theme for this month here at SheLoves, and the words of a Celtic Blessing, dear to our family and spoken and written as prayers of blessing before trips, new beginnings, scary moves across the world. And it begins like this:
May the road RISE to meet you …
How many times have I spoken or received these words, and yet it’s as if I am noticing their beauty for the first time. As T. S. Eliot says, we so often arrive at the end of our exploring to find ourselves back where we started—and seeing it as if for the first time.
May the road rise to meet us. The road isn’t necessarily ours to pave, to sweat over. The road isn’t something we need to hammer desperately against a rock in order to carve. The prayer of blessing over a pilgrim on a journey is that the road RISES to meet her. That as we take one faithful step at a time, the road might find our feet, unfolding in beautiful mystery.
So, 2017 and thankfully, feeling physically better, here I am. I am holding fast to my prophetic mug, and trying to turn, even if only by a fraction, towards a Different Route Home. Towards a route that might keep me awake to all God is doing—in me, in my people, in my neighbourhood and in the world.
Right now, it’s not clear what the route looks like, but I claim the blessing spoken over pilgrims over the centuries and commit to taking it anyway: may the road RISE to meet me.
May the road rise to meet you too, SheLovelys, wherever you may be heading.
I’m Naomi. My name gives a clue as to the English and Japanese in me but my favourite thing about it is the Hebrew meaning: “pleasant”, a reminder that somehow I am pleasing to my Creator. I’m continually turned upside down by this. My heart is a little bit in the bustle of London where I live, a little bit in the cherry-tree’d loveliness of Japan with my family, and a little in the wild open spaces of my husband’s native Western Canada . You’ll find me scribbling (sometimes) on my blog naomipw.com or (more likely) on Instagram @naopwilliams