Already There

jesusThat day, when I arrived at the pool at about 1 pm, Karen texted asking how my day had been.  By then I had been a part of three meetings, and a casual conversation, in addition to phone interactions.

I responded:  “I’m battling with dark clouds although the day is beautiful outside. I’m feeling incredibly discouraged. I want to cry, but haven’t had emotions.  I’m going swimming now, have a chiropractor appointment at 3.”

I thought for certain I would be able to just swim the emotion out in the water.  It was a magical day at the pool, too. My favorite kind, usually.  I was alone in the 25 meter pool.  I love swimming in smooth water that I get to break into splashes and ripples.  By the end of my swim, the weight of disappointment had not lifted, but physically I felt better.

That night, at home at our dinner table, Karen asked me if I’d like to share what had happened.  As I recounted the first thing, the tears started.  As they came, they surprised me.  I did not know why that initial interaction had hurt so much, until I began to share it.  I was not even clear the depth at which that sense of disappointment ran.  As I shared, I began to cry more. Then I began to sob.  Then the sobs came out in gut-wrenching howls through great gulps of air as I buckled over with the pain of a day that had left me undone.  There had been no great tragedy, just pain.

Incredible to write this, for this type of emotion is totally new to me.

Karen sat there and received my story. She just opened up this space in the room for this pain to come out.  She listened.  She was present.  She was there.  She gently said, after I began to really sob, “Do you want to go sit on the couch?”

We had been at the dinner table. I couldn’t eat, anyway, nor would she while I was sharing.  We moved. The stories I told connected to pain that had climbed on top of pain, so that the weight had become unbearable.  It had been one of those “I just want to quit” days, even though I had only been home from Sabbatical about one month by that point.

I don’t remember previously feeling tears quite like those. They were not the tears of a person trying to live in an adult world from a child’s perspective. I’m familiar with those.  They were not the tears of manipulation, trying to get someone to care for me. Yep, been there too, sorry to admit.  They were adult tears.  The tears of the battle to be and stay me, to remain upright in a world that desires to fit me into its mold. The tears of seeking to remain true to the changes and renewal that had come through sabbatical, while seeking to live out life in this work.

Once I had found the end of this abyss of pain, Karen was there, present and holding me.   Nothing had changed in my situations, but as something had shifted within me, everything had changed.  I still couldn’t eat, yet, but I had cleared out the pain. I felt like an empty shell for a moment as I just breathed deeply.  She asked after all that sharing, if I wanted a response, or had I just wanted to share.

I said, “I’d love a response.”

Her simple observations switched on a light for me. They helped.  But beyond those, she sat there seeing me with new eyes.  Whatever the Camino had done to me was a good thing, those eyes said.  I had become a different person.

That I had felt and communicated pain on the same day the events happened; that I had not allowed pain to ricochet into anger nor fear nor selfish pride nor blame; that I had felt and expressed just raw pain — all that was new.

It was interesting for the way in which I am wired is to push away pain, to push away emotions.  Certainly, it is not to feel what I am feeling in the moment, but instead, to deflect it, deny it, ignore it.  So, to actually feel pain the day of the events, that was new.

Later that evening, Jesus pressed this word into my heart:

“My Son.  I am so proud of you. It takes courage to feel like you have. You have bravely told. You have opened the wound and gotten the puss out.  You have a new heart now, Child. You’re a Child of grace and my dear Son.  Hold to Me Son.  This is a large journey you’re on.  So very large.  Hold to Me and let’s build what I have planned!”

That moment with Jesus, took me back to a drive I had taken while in Ireland. ireland-viewI was in a small village about 100 km south of where I was staying, and had stopped to pray at a parish church.  There was this incredible crucifix of Jesus there.  I had not noticed it, at first, for it was at the side of the sanctuary, and I was intent on praying. But as I knelt to pray, at one point, while looking up, I opened my eyes and found myself looking directly into the eyes of Christ on the cross.  (This is the opening picture in this post).

However, I was not just looking at a statue, at that moment, but, rather, I was looking directly into the Living Lord’s eyes. Jesus was present. He looked at me and spoke into my spirit, loved me, through the crucifix. Tears flowed down the cheeks of the Savior who loved me.  Tears sprang to my eyes as well, tears of joy, thankfulness, welcome.  What a gift to have such a God able to speak into my heart and world.  He had done the same this night I described with Karen.

That night as I shared with Karen and she opened up space for me to do so, without judgment, or impatience, or agenda; it was an honoring of me.  She was caring for my heart and spirit, so that God’s work in me could be accomplished.  In the past I would have been a puddle of need, asking for her to step up and fix my life. But not anymore. There was nothing of that manipulative posturing.  There was simply a space created for the sharing of deep pain, and the grace given in her presence for healing.

It reminded me of one of our decisions coming back from our journey in Ireland. After seeing Cairns everywhere in our travels there, Karen had observed how each of those fragile, simple stone stacks, reminded her of each of us.  In Ireland these stone piles are points of worship stacked by people as symbols of their own journeys and faith.

cairns

So, if we are each like a stack of stones, then, we need to remember in caring for one another, to take care to honor that fragility.

We had decided that in our relationships past, we had forgotten this.  Sometimes we had spoken or acted in such a manner that the fragile stability of our partner was unsettled, knocked down for a time, or wounded.  We had returned with a new sensitivity to remember we are but cairns, temporary, fragile, requiring special care.

That night Karen had shown me such care.  As I had been knocked down by the day, her listening and presence had allowed me to be uprighted again.

This had not been a complicated action of hers.  It had simply been by being available.  She had not had to “fix” anything, but only had to listen.  Her responses were helpful as well, but were given only after I told her I would like them.  Her choice to listen and hear and be present had allowed me to be restored more whole than I had begun the day in the first place.

This morning as I was spending time opening up this life to Jesus, I stumbled upon this Ancient Aramaic Hymn that speaks to the action of God to make us whole:

You have united, O God, Your Divinity with our humanity.

And our humanity with Your Divinity. 

Your life with our mortality,

and our mortality with Your life.

Your have assumed what is ours

and You have given us what is Yours.

All for the Life and salvation of our souls.  

To You, O Lord, be glory forever. 

While knowing of and preaching about this great exchange for years, I think that now I am beginning to take it in, and live it.  It is not a matter of the head, but the heart.  It is the willingness of One who walks with, ministers through, speaks into this life and assists me to be present to be in the lives of others.

As I assisted one friend in being present to the God she said had failed her and not been there for her, I encouraged her to simply be still, picture Jesus and ask what he would speak to her. She sat there for a moment and then looked up and asked,

“Do you know the country song, ‘I’m Already There’?”

“Can’t say that I do,” I said.  “Is that what you heard? What did you hear Jesus say to you?”

She quoted from the chorus:
“I’m already there
Take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground…”

“So you have heard Jesus speak to you, and how creative to use this song you knew!” I exclaimed.

Later in our conversation she said, “You know, sometimes I am looking for God to show up in a certain way, but perhaps now I know, He’s everywhere. I can even notice him in the shadow on the ground.  He’s already there.”  I thought this was the perfect season for that insight.

As Jesus met me, as Karen uprighted me by listening, as we are all fragile, and precious, so God met this friend, telling her as He had said to me, He’s there already.

About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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2 Responses to Already There

  1. ewhjrh@frontier.com says:

    Thank you so much, Pastor Brian.  Your willingness to open your heart sofreely is a great inspiration to me.  Jesus  wants to set us free to be all we’recreated to be, no matter where in life we’re at.Most sincerely and with much love,  Jan H 

    Like

    • Camino Way 2016 Shimer says:

      How rich you are to me! Yes. That’s so true and thank you for your willingness to allow me to just share so openly! A friend commented to me how amazed he was that my congregation would be ok with me being so raw. Well that’s me, I told him and I pastor an incredible congregation. Love you!

      Brian

      Like

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