Chances are good you’ve been in a room similar to the one I’m about to describe. I hope you have because it’s a good kind of room!
Picture it: I’m sitting around a table with my friends in a sunshine-filled room on a Sunday afternoon. Our goal is to support each other in our work as Christian mental health professionals. Not a bad start, right?
One friend introduces how she’ll lead our group in a check-in…and we are off! (Don’t you dare poke fun… we’re a bunch of therapists so our meeting wouldn’t be complete without a freakin’ check-in. It’s The Way of Therapists.)
“I’ll lead us in a visualization/guided meditation exercise and then you’ll have a chance to share what you want,” she explains.
Okay. So far so good.
“Imagine a scene from this past week at work. Maybe a moment with a client, for example,” she says. I think of a somewhat stressful, intense encounter with a colleague.
“Now focus on what you were thinking and feeling during that encounter,” she continues. I feel a little distant from whatever I was feeling back then, but okay.
Then, “Now imagine where you thought God was in that room, and your posture towards God in that moment.”
Alright…things be heatin’ up a little. But I imagine it, and I’m not surprised that I had automatically stuffed God away, over in a corner of the room. He’s far, far away, really. And my posture towards Him? I’ve got my hand out in a “stop signal.” A posture that says, “Stay back! I’ve got this. You don’t have anything to offer anyway. You aren’t involved in this conversation.”
Yikes. For those of you who share my faith, you know this isn’t exactly a model Christian sort of attitude. Actually, I think all of you get this, Christian or not.
But I’m okay with being a work in progress. Besides, this exercise isn’t meant to shame, right? It’s meant to help us become more aware of God’s presence in our workplace. And to become aware of our own patterned way of thinking (or not thinking) about God’s involvement in our day-to-day work.
So alright! I’m still here.
And then, the fatal words: “Now invite God into that room with you.”
Oh, boy. Let’s get this party started!
This isn’t my first time around this block. None-the-less, this part of faith-integrated meditation always takes me somewhat by surprise. This is the part where things always get real, get ugly, get painful for me.
You want me to do what?! Invite God into my personal space? Okay, fine. I’m gonna do this!
First the image, then the terrified, screaming voice.
The image is of me. Me throwing up. Projectile vomit. Spewing.
The voice? It’s my voice and it’s inspired by all the hard things inside. The unresolved questions, the traumatic memories, the emotions I can’t yet find words for…but fear is certainly somewhere in the mix.
The words: “What should I do, what should I do…?”
If something is wrong, we are supposed to do something about it, right? So my impatient, all-too-eager, fix-myself-now part of my soul starts screaming the above question at my traumatized, vulnerable, and scared soul-part.
That can’t be going anywhere good, you must be thinking. Yep, you called that one!
I’m holding it together, though. And when I glance around, none of my friends seem to be bothered by the loud and demanding voice. They can’t hear it. Whew…what a relief.
But I can. So. What do I do?
Thankfully, the answer came quickly. “Just step out of that room and take a seat against the wall.”
That’s it? “Yep, and don’t you dare try to figure anything out right now…no trying to pray a theologically-sound prayer, no beating yourself up, no thinking obsessively about what just happened or what will come next. Just stop! And sit and rest.”
And that was it! That’s the only answer I got. So, in my mind, I did just that. I stepped outside of that room where my colleague sat and where I tried, unsuccessfully, to keep God out of my space. It had all become a little too hairy for me. Outside the room, I imagined slumping against the wall, sliding to the floor, and taking in a breath. Nothing more, nothing less.
And I just rested.
Soon the meditation ended. We shared our respective experiences of the meditation — and, of course, each of the others had had their own, different experiences. I wasn’t the only one in the room! (Crazy, I know.) Slowly, my struggles settled in among other struggles, other joys, other people’s stories. We moved on to a discussion. We laughed. We offered suggestions. We listened to one another.
And heck! By the end of it all, I even managed to lead us in a closing prayer. A prayer as we entered into another Monday of another week of our precious, challenging work.
And I discovered — once again — that the screaming voice and the trembling child within didn’t end me. The screaming voice was calmed by stepping out of the room. The trembling child was comforted by finding a safe spot to just rest a little.
Just rest a little.