Monday, September 23, 2013

Comfort and Joy

I mentioned last week on Facebook that "there's a certain stillness in my spirit and it manifests as pure joy." Which is true. And cool. And...agonizingly contradictory.

I'm not sure that anyone who has known me up to this point would classify me as high energy. Hard-working, maybe. Diligent, sure. Constantly busy, of course. But not really high energy. I have always had this sort of quiet, withdrawn, reclusive presence about me. On the outside. The inside of me has been screaming. I feel like I've always been running, always been fighting, always been struggling. While maybe I always looked disciplined and calm, I have always felt anything but.

Until the past couple of weeks as I have started on this new journey. Touching God, I have felt the stillness I have longed for in my soul slowly creeping its way in. I find myself relaxed and natural, for the first time in conscious, relevant memory (of course, we are all relaxed and natural as youngsters, until for whatever reason, we know better. That was my last time, but this is not that). It's a very cool experience. Particularly in the early days of realizing this, I could not stop smiling, knowing this was becoming a tangible reality in me. Feeling myself slowing down, settling in, stilling. What an awesome moment!

Except that as my inner world has grown more still, more at peace, my outer world is bustling. I am, officially, high energy. I am confident and exude confidence. I am comfortable and exude comfort. I am talking with people, being relational, throwing myself into everything, and thoroughly enjoying it. It's like as my spirit settles, my flesh is eager to explore, no longer fighting its inner battles but unleashed upon the world.

It's not what I wanted.

What I wanted was an inner peace to match my outer peace. What I wanted was the full depth of stillness in my spirit and my flesh. It's the kind of thing a girl dreams about. For decades.

Then I was sitting last week with my supervisor, having a private meeting, feeling the fullness of stillness in me and attempting to explain to her exactly what it meant to finally be in this place...and while I was feeling humbled and quiet and finally at rest, I suddenly realized that I was almost bouncing in my seat, waving my hands about as I spoke, swaying to a rhythm only my quiet soul can hear, and smiling so big with eyes wide open that I thought my face might burst. Which has kind of become my natural outward state.

This has me thinking about my friends, my family, my mentors. It has me wondering about some of the other people in my life. And thinking contradictory as it feels...maybe this is how it was meant to be. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and I've never lived in another man's heart so I cannot really speak for anyone but me, but here's what I see as I look into other lives:

I see people with a quiet presence, the kind of thing I have long admired and aspired to, who can walk in a room without making a noise, who are content to sit and listen, who speak in a softness of voice that is neither reserved nor resigned but is hauntingly real. You can sense their peace when you sit with them; they bring their quiet to bear. But if you talk with them long enough or hit on just the right thing, you watch them erupt in laughter or burst with joy and you know, you just know, there is an incredible inner energy in there that is their fire, their passion. I'm thinking of one of my staff chaplains in my new program, who has this quiet thing down pat but then you unknowingly tap into some joke she shares with herself, some tiny bit of joy she harbors in her spirit, and she busts out the biggest grin and you know it's in there. I'm thinking of a man like David, who has this certain composure about him and you get the sense that he's a quiet kind of guy, but then you read the psalms and understand the dynamic reality of his inner spirit.

I see people with an extraordinary confidence and an energy that lights up a room. They are right in the thick of things without being the center of it all. They are living and loving and serving and you know they are there, but their presence says something bigger than the whole thing and what you sense is something greater. I'm thinking of my fifth grade teacher, who always had this incredible energy and just the right touch to keep you engaged, but you could sense about her that she was incredibly grounded. I'm thinking about Pope Francis, who by necessity has a social persona but when you hear him speak, you hear him speak from his inner peace. I'm thinking about a man named Solomon who had such dynamic personal interactions with God and was so energized by the word of the Lord, yet was known for his wisdom and I guess when I think of such wisdom, I think of it humbly and quietly. 

I see it in Jesus. When you see Him in a quiet moment, you sense His inner joy. When you see Him in a big moment, you sense His inner calm. So maybe there's something to this contradictory feeling, this seeming imbalance. Maybe it's how we're wired.

It's a little early, but maybe these are the tides of comfort and joy. (Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.) Maybe when one ebbs inward, the other flows out and vice versa. Maybe that's just how it is.

Maybe that's just how I am. I kind of like it. It's not the uber-calm awesome stillness I had always dreamt of, but if such is the interplay of comfort and joy, of quiet and confidence, I much prefer a quiet spirit and an extraordinary presence, which should never be about me but fully about the God who has created such joy.

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