Most of us know how to respond to the messages our bodies send us. If we get sick, we treat the sickness. If we are in pain, we see a doctor. If something stops working, we ask questions and seek help.
Tonight I reflected on how much less proficient we are at responding to the messages our souls send us. We do not quickly take our hurts to the Healer. We manage. And our busy lives leave little room for that soul care to even be a priority.
That’s the thing about going on a Retreat, like the one I went on this weekend. Every time I go on one, I am reminded of what is so easy to forget: time and space away make room for our hearts to be brought out up onto the examination table in a unique way. It’s not unlike getting an x-ray. You simply get a better picture of what’s going on in there.
When my son was two years old, he broke his leg. I had no idea it was broken, just that he was screaming and wouldn’t stand on it. But he was two, so he screamed regularly. I thought maybe he twisted or sprained his ankle, or even that he was just mad because he and his sister had been wrestling. There was no dramatic fall or obvious impact. I soon recognized he needed a medical assessment and so I took him to the ER.
His cries told me something was wrong, but we didn’t know exactly what until the x-ray. He had two spiral fractures on his tibia bone, near the bottom. It was very clear, very specific. Because of the picture revealing the little fractures in front of our eyes, there was no arguing the problem, so there was no arguing how it was to be treated.
Now, I think of myself as relatively self-aware. You know I live there, in the analytical realm regularly making it a practice to sort through my issues. I don’t feel like I’m often content to “manage” despite my hurts or my questions. I try to bring it all out before the Lord.
But the magical mixture of time and space away from my responsibilities provided that x-ray of my heart, and revealed the little fractures. Hairline heartbreaks, areas of discouragement and weariness, and a core, desperate longing for my Healer showed up on that film. I suppose I felt their discomfort all along. But we, especially as women, forge ahead in the day-to-day, knowing others require our best energies and prayers. We too often don’t respond to the quiet aches of our souls.
I left out one thing, one very necessary component to being able to receive this heart x-ray in the first place and that is showing up for the appointment. I went to that retreat. I paid money, arranged childcare, said ‘no’ to a few things, packed a bunch of stuff, and then got there. And when I walked in that opening session Friday night temped to feel distracted by thoughts of home, I prayed for God to help me trust Him with the rest of my family so that I could enjoy the time with Him. I prayed for Him to help me let go of them and all my concerns so that in those open hands, I could receive something from Him.
And the first thing He did was hand me that x-ray, showed me what we have to work with. Because once I saw the problems, there was no arguing the treatment. My Healer is ready to repair every fracture with his love.
I know that literally going away for a weekend is not a possibility for everyone. But if it is, if your church offers this kind of thing, go. Really. Of course, a retreat is not the only way to give the Lord time and space in your life. I’m not talking about a thirty minute quiet time, although that kind of time with Him is so important for our daily soul vitality. It needs to be a longer chunk of uninterrupted time for Him to assess the underlying conditions you wouldn’t otherwise see.
You cannot show up as a spectator in any doctor’s appointment, and it is the same with the Lord. I observed some women who, through their comments, seemed to come to the retreat for entertainment, or social time. I'm not going to say that is the worst thing ever. But for me, I don't need another social time. I need some serious doses of love, peace, and hope. In order to get that assessment from the Lord, we must be genuinely interested in our soul’s health, and also genuinely trusting in the ultimate Healer.
Time, space, and open hands that lay aside all distractions and ask Him for that heart x-ray is a formula for deep healing to begin. And guess what, I didn’t even know what I truly needed. I had grown comfortable with my tiny fractures below the surface. But God knew, and He made a way for me to be there, even when the trip seemed challenging to pull off.
Isaiah 30:15 is a devastating message God speaks to his people:
“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy one of Israel,
In returning and rest you shall be saved,
in quietness and trust shall be your strength.
But you were unwilling.”
When we are ill, we do not just go to a doctor. We return to him or her, the one who has the record of our health. God is calling us to return to Him, not just once, but regularly, for these kinds of thorough check-ups. Here is my prayer for us both:
Lord, please uproot any unwillingness in my heart to return to you. Help me to be willing to allow you, the greatest Healer to deeply examine my heart. Remove the hindrances, the distractions, and excuses, and make a way for me to find time and space for you to speak to me. You alone know what I need. You are the Lover of my soul.
Have a good week, friends.