August 2014. It was time to re-enter the land of the living. I attended my last session of intensive outpatient therapy, and my work leave ended. The annual off site retreat was first time I would see my colleagues from the church & school.
I felt like a piece of driftwood bobbing on the waves. I barely knew what had just happened to me, and I had no vision for the what the future held. Doubts and questions whispered in my head.
What have they heard?
Do they know where I have been?
What will they think when they see me?
I knew I couldn’t handle the overnight stay, so I planned to drive to the retreat center early Saturday to join the rest of the crew. It was my first time traveling to this location, so I dutifully entered the address in my phone and let Siri be my guide.
I knew the retreat center was in the middle of nowhere, so I wasn’t worried when the roads began winding and wrapping with few houses in between. However, as the clock ticked toward starting time for the morning session, I knew something was not right. I should have been there by now. My anxious thoughts about my co-workers were replaced with another realized fear. I was lost.
Great, I thought to myself. Now I’ll have to make an entrance in front of the entire group. That will only make my recent absence all the more obvious to everyone in the room.
My insecurities were about to push me over the edge when I saw it suddenly appear on my right hand side. I slowed down, stopped, and stared. There, in the middle of fields of corn, sat a beautiful, abandoned church. The remnants of stone walls stood, but the roof was all pale blue sky.
I had a moment then. I get these feelings from time to time, like the Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder. I did not have time to process what I saw as I drove by, but I knew it was significant.
Just then, Siri rerouted my map, and I saw I was only 10 minutes from the retreat. My sense of responsibility kicked in, and I followed the remaining instructions to my destination. I did have to walk into a meeting already in session, but I made it through the day with no awkward moments. Until the very end…
We stood in a circle. About 30 of us holding hands, and we took turns praying out loud. When the prayer made it’s way to me, I was shaking badly. I knew It was time to be honest. My mask fit me no more. So, I prayed thanks for the people who had stood by my side. I prayed gratitude that Jesus never once stopped holding my hand. And my voice cracked with tears when I shared how difficult it was to simply take the next right step. The tears really came then, and I didn’t try to stop them. I had done what I came to do. I showed up. I was in the arena, once more.
As I quietly returned to my van to head home, I felt the nudge again. The church. I knew I had to find it, if only to prove to myself it was real.
I retraced my route on those winding roads until I saw it on my left side, now. I parked my van, grabbed my camera, and stood in awe. It took my breath away. This broken shell of a church was me. Crumbling, but standing. Fragile, but strong. Rooted in a God who gives miracles to the lost.
I stepped through the empty doorway and walked reverently to where the altar must have stood many moons ago. The open circle still marked the space where the sun once shone through colored glass. I knelt down on that hallowed, rocky ground and sobbed. I cried till there were no more tears, and I felt a burst of something in my heart. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time…hope.
If God could use a lost travel route to give me this incredible gift, what else could He do? My past was raw and my future was uncertain. But that day, the gift of an abandoned church etched a truth on my soul. The destinations that I plan, may not be God’s plan. But no matter where the winding road leads, I will NEVER be too lost to be found.
This series is not a tidy story of a fairy tale life. It is messy and truthful. For 31 days, I will share pieces of my journey, practical coping techniques for dealing with anxiety, spiritual insights, emotional struggles, and a whole lot of other. I will likely jump from here to there as the Spirit leads. I invite you along as I share my experience, my strength, and my hope. Thank you for being part of this journey with me. Together, we shall seek the still.