I don’t regroup quickly.
Take this move, for instance. Even when it was clear to both my husband and myself that he had finished his time as a youth minister, I could not wrap my head around leaving the church we were serving. Slowly, God walked me into acceptance and then I was able to fully embrace the new path.
The key word there is “slowly.”
And, I admit, slow is relative. More than speed, my regrouping requires solitude. I don’t think clearly when someone is standing there waiting for me to think. I hate being asked, “Where should we have lunch?” I don’t know. If you had asked me yesterday and given me a day to think it over and research restaurants, maybe I would have a suggestion. But now you are waiting on me to decide and my brain has shut down.
If I struggle that much deciding on a place to eat, you can just imagine me working through big things like naming my children, picking which literary agent to sign with, choosing whether or not to homeschool, and figuring out my stance on controversial issues currently in the news.
There are very few people I will talk to about those issues while I am still working through them. I prefer to talk about things I already know. I like to write about the opinions I hold that I am sure of. How am I supposed to write about a situation that bothers me if I don’t even understand WHY it bothers me?
The thing is, sometimes writing about something is HOW I figure it out.
It’s a sort of joke in my marriage that our fights take weeks, because Corey talks and I write letters. It’s been a long time since we’ve had that kind of issue to work through, but when we do, Corey will explain what he’s feeling and then I will think about it. I will think and think and think, and then I’ll write him a letter telling him what I’m feeling about what he said. He will read it and talk to me, and give me time to think, and then I’ll write him another letter.
I’ve admitted that I’d prefer to do my therapy by email… or even with a pen and notebook at a desk across from the therapist. I just express myself more truly when I can self-edit and rearrange my thoughts on paper or a screen.
I’m in a place right now where a lot of things chafe against my spirit, but I cannot clearly vocalize the reasons. I’ve been in this place a while, and it isn’t a comfortable spot.
I don’t suppose Jesus ever promised me comfort.
Last Sunday, I went into a worship service with my nerves raw from a weekend alone with my sons. They started the morning fighting, and I had not slept the night before. When my husband is out of town, I lie in bed, drifting in and out of that in-between place, begging my brain to just shut off already. Then, just before service began, I got an urgent text from my husband, telling me to call a friend who needed me. I did, and when I sneaked back into my pew later, my heart was wrecked for my friend.
My youngest was sitting with his buddies, and my oldest was sitting with his youth minister, leaving me alone near the back of the church. I pulled out my journal. I often take notes or write poetry sparked by the sermon. But this Sunday I was scribbling before we even reached the offertory. My body was trembling with a kind of fear I had not experienced since I was pregnant with my youngest son, sitting on the floor of our rented mill house in Alabama, facing the truth that the church does not always act like Jesus.
So I wrote, black ink flying onto the heavy cream pages of a pink leather journal I bought at Target. I bought it because it felt so soft, and I was there with my best friend, so the notebook holds good memories. I filled page after page with lines of prayer and anger and confusion.
And, finally, by the time we stood and sang our benediction, my hands were still. I was no closer to understanding what was happening to my friend or even to myself, but the very act of connecting my brain to a blank page had brought me back to the present. I was able to walk out of the church building and, simultaneously, out of that grey-carpeted mill house in my mind.
The trick is learning to let myself regroup, to not apologize for needing to regroup. It is okay to say, “I want to be on board with this vision, but I am not there yet. Let me sit with it for a while.”
Even if that means admitting that I missed most of a service calming my panicked heart with pen strokes. Perhaps someone in the pew behind me was appalled, as I bowed my head to the page, barely pausing for prayer and singing. That’s going to have to be okay.
Taking my time, however much time I need, is going to have to be okay. It is, after all, MY time to take.