Within less than a week’s span, we have seen the opposite ends of the natural spectrum. The solar eclipse last Monday was awe-inspiring with its progressive beauty that culminated in the stunning corona and the totality that darkened a swath across the land. It was an encouraging and somehow comforting sight. For many of us, the total eclipse was a spiritual experience that echoed Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (New International Version). I thought also of poet Robert Browning’s line, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world!”
As a polar opposite, the weekend brought nature’s fierce wrath in the form of hurricane Harvey. The winds made landfall as a category four storm and shattered most things in their path. The water, though, is proving most destructive. Entire cities are flooded in what is being termed an unprecedented and catastrophic event. People are still stranded on roads and in homes and on the roofs of buildings and houses.
Some days it feels like the juxtaposition of blessings and challenges is gut-wrenching.
Early Sunday morning I wanted a respite from the news about the hurricane’s devastation, as well as a balm for the pain from unusual challenges of the week. My heart stung with sorrow felt by others and ached with my own. I sought solace at one of my favorite places, a 1,332-acre natural area and lake that is surprisingly close to downtown Nashville.
The first half of the lake trail was more crowded with other morning walkers than I had hoped, but the second half, past a frequent turn-around overlook, was more deserted. At another wooden resting place further into the woods, I found myself alone in the quiet. I stopped and looked at the hills that rimmed the lake and up at the sky above them. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?” I thought, then the quick reminder, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
I remembered an exercise a friend and fellow therapist had shown me years ago. It’s a physical, kinesthetic way of releasing negative energy from the body and spirit. I stood in the gentle sunshine with my feet shoulder-width apart and my hands at my side, then stepped forward with one foot and pushed both hands straight in front of me with quick force. At the same time, I blew out my breath strongly and said out loud, “I resist fear!”
Again and again, I stepped into the space in front of me and punched the air to resist the negative thoughts and emotions that were assaulting me and wrapping tightly around my chest and heart. “I resist!” I proclaimed and named a variety of things like fear, self-doubt, shame, and discouragement.
Improvising, next I stood tall, kept my feet still, and gently extended open palms to the sky. “I release!” I offered, and named some of the same things and added others, like my preoccupation with what people think about me or with how the future will unfold.
Finally, I held my arms in front of me and cupped my hands and brought them back to my chest in a scooping motion. “I receive!” I affirmed, and named things like peace, trust, the grace to surrender, and the energy of hope. Without self-consciousness, in fact, nearly oblivious to the trail behind me and the people that might be walking it, I literally went through the motions of letting go and letting God.
Resist, release, receive. It’s a powerful triad.
Marnie C. Ferree