Last week we talked about what verbal processing looks like to me. Today, I unpack one of my processing road trips. Who’s ready to hop in the car? Let’s go!
Between Dallas and Houston are about 260 miles of flat, wide open spaces and big, blue skies. I make this drive fairly often and find it’s a good time to think.
And, sure, I let Jesus take the wheel occasionally so I can sing at the top of my lungs and gesture, although what I do really isn’t dancing. It might qualify as an Oscar-worthy impression of someone caught in a bee swarm, but it is definitely not dancing.
An especially meaningful drive happened early one Friday morning as I headed out of town for the weekend. Asphalt, dotted white lines and solid yellow ones flew by in my peripheral as I began to wrestle with some questions.
I was coming out of what seemed like a prolonged season of slumber in which I had been reluctant to engage in life and with people. A couple of months had passed since I began rubbing the sleep out of my soul, and I was gradually waking up again to the purpose I had in life and in God.
Against the background of engine noise and tires on the road, I was talking myself through uncovering the ‘why’ for my recent hibernation. The metaphor of slumber was really helping me make sense of things as I looked inward. What deceptive lullaby had I listened to or sung to myself? What smothering quilt had I wrapped myself up in and burrowed into that allowed such apathy and distance?
I rounded an overpass to take the next highway and began to pray out loud, eventually recounting some disappointments and things that hurt. There wasn’t any bitterness in my words, but there was sadness and a sense of depletion. At this point in my prayers, I usually don’t linger. I move fairly quickly into quoting scripture and asking God for help.
This time was different
This time, I didn’t have the strength to ask for help. And in that moment of exhaustion, traveling at 70 mph with the car on cruise control and my hands at 10 and 2, something happened. For the first time in recent memory, I found myself lingering, sitting in my sadness and asking God for comfort, instead of help. Help was still very much needed, but comfort was higher on the soul’s Maslow hierarchy of needs.
As I asked for comfort throughout the drive, it dawned on me that I wasn’t exactly sure what my request meant, but I knew I needed it. With each passing mile, it felt like that weighty quilt I mentioned earlier was being slowly lifted off me by giant, gentle hands. Turns out, it was much, much heavier and more suffocating than I realized.
After arriving in Houston, I took the key out of the ignition and sat quietly for a little while. As I unfolded myself out of the car (I’m 5’9”, it was a little car) and began to walk across the pavement to the hotel where I was staying, I had the strongest sense of being known and loved. It wouldn’t be long before I could say the sleep had finally fled my soul.
I was awakening to the discovery that I had been familiar with receiving conviction, guidance and help from God, but asking for and receiving comfort was altogether unfamiliar.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word
One of the lullabies that had helped me drift off to sleep whispered that I could manage my own comfort. The melody amounted to little more than distractions in the form of work, play, entertainment, and even in going through the motions of prayer and attending church. At first the dissonant chords of insufficient comfort were cringe-worthy, but eventually they no longer grated as I decided God could not be trusted with my comfort, which was no comfort at all.
The difference in comfort and help might be semantics for some. But for me it was more than that. My pleas for help focused on external relief and an almost surgical removal of sadness. While pleas for comfort invited God to sit with me and love me in the midst of sadness, and eventually to tunnel through it carrying me to the other side.
It’s a vulnerable embrace better than any temporary distraction or activity. It’s about being, and letting God do the doing.
It’s the truest expression of companionship as the author of life gathers us up mind, body and soul. It builds our confidence in God and releases us from futile efforts to comfort ourselves.
If you find yourself in need of comfort, and we all do at one time or another, it’s my hope that you’ll reach toward God and loosen your grip on insufficient comforts. Even if all you can do is lift one finger or cast a single thought His way, please lift, and cast. He is safe. He is sure. He is the God who comforts.
On my drive home to Dallas that weekend, there was much gesturing of gratitude. I think it was some contorted combination of the Charleston, the Macarena and an original sequence of creative movement called ‘the-bees-are-coming.’
How has God comforted you?
It’s always helpful to hear how God shows up for others. Feel free to chime in by posting a comment to share how the Lord has comforted you. If you need comfort, below are a few scriptures to consider and pray through. You might also want to give this song a listen. It’s been a great encouragement to me. I’m praying this week for all who need comfort.
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me.”
Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
2 Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”
Up next week: Coming up in the next post, we have a bit of fun with words. It’s the first post in the category ‘the lighter side.’ It includes lobsters and make believe, and I’m having so much fun getting it ready for you!