One of my all time favorite songs is Passenger’s “Hearts on Fire.” There are a few lines that always resonate, “Well I don’t know how and I don’t know why” and “Well I don’t have many and I don’t have much.” Those lines give me peace of letting go of expectations. When I hear them, for a few brief moments I feel I don’t have to know and I don’t have to have. I don’t have to know anything and I don’t have to have anything figured out. That is the one thing I seem to know, that I don’t know much.
There is one area that I really don’t know much, the Bible. I didn’t grow up with religion and had a few experiences that turned me off to church in general. Mostly, I’ve stayed away because I’ve been embarrassed. I don’t know the stories and have felt stupid surrounded by those speaking a language I don’t seem to understand. I’ve set an expectation that I should know more about Jesus and feel disappointment when my knowledge and understanding fall short. For me, it feels like I didn’t learn to read when everyone else was learning how. Now it feels to late and I am embarrassed to admit just how little I know. Truly, I don’t know much.
Recently, there has been new motivation to revisit this area in my life. I’ve spent more time in church over the last three months then most of my life put together. Often, I’ve felt the pings of feeling ignorant and the shame that somehow I should know more. I listen to understand and am quickly lost. When I ask questions it’s rare for someone to really slow down with me and share in a way that I can understand. Usually I just feel even dumber.
However, I had a new experience on Sunday. For one of the first times in my life, I sat in church and felt understood. I didn’t fully get the story, but this time I felt understanding and connection rather than confusion and aloneness. I listened to the story of Elijah and what I heard was a story of healing. Again, I’m stumbling in this area and probably will make some mistakes, but what I remember of the story is that Elijah had a knowing in his heart. He knew his truth and this was different from the king, King Ahab. Elijah did not bend to the King’s will and stayed true to his own knowing. However, the King’s wife, Jezebel threatened him and this sent him retreating in fear. Elijah doubted himself and fell into the darkness of fear and failure.
This is a place I know well, darkness. I spent a lot of my life in this cave. This was the most excruciating time of my life. The pain was so intense I just wanted to die. I didn’t know how to get out of the nightmare my life had become. I didn’t know how to ease my pain. I felt so alone and so desperate. I think Elijah was in a similar place. His view of the world had collapsed, and man can I relate. All I could see in the world was darkness, pain, and fear. To me, the world was an unsafe scary place to be. I think Elijah’s view of the world collapsed into something similar. He lost himself and I, too, had felt lost.
In my most desperate time, someone reached out to me. Someone came and sat with me and just listened. He said I could trust him and I could always say what was so for me, at least with him. He didn’t give me advice or try to fix anything. He just listened. He listened with a presence of loving and compassion I hadn’t experienced before. I spoke out my words of fear and shame and he listened with loving and acceptance. My life was forever changed. I had something new, hope. If he could love me through all the brokenness and damage I felt, maybe others could too. I had hope that maybe there was more to this world than I could see.
Elijah had an angel come to him as well. The angel told him to eat and gradually he regained his physical and emotional strength. Elijah came back to himself and remembered his purpose. He found his voice and came out of the cave of depression. In his time of greatest suffering and fear he didn’t heal alone. He had help. He had an angel reminding him of the view of the world he had forgotten.
Elijah’s story touched deep because it felt so similar to my own. Elijah had stumbled and lost his way. He was brought back not with a quick fix, advice, or pills. It started with connection first. I tried so many things in my time of darkness that didn’t help. What did make all the difference was connection. Someone slowed down enough with me to connect, to listen, and be a presence of unconditional loving. This is what saved my life.
What I heard in church on Sunday was confirmation of what I know in my heart. Connection and relationship is the way to healing. Again, I don’t know much, but I know this worked for me. And, if it worked for me, it can work for others. I think so often we want to jump right in to healing, fixing, or addressing the alignment. The angel didn’t do this for Elijah. First, there was just being with him in his torment. Just being there; connecting. Then Elijah was healed from his affliction.
What would it look like to just be with people right where they are? What if we could be with the most vulnerable without any doing, just being? Being there loving them, affliction and all. To me, this is a true hero, someone who can be present without any expectation, just loving. Wow, what a different place to come from in mental health. What if we came first with loving, connection, compassion, and understanding? What if we came with relationship first, and the expectation to heal and recover second? To me, this made all the difference.
There are a lot of these quiet heroes in the world. I’ve been touched by so many of them. This is the way they show up whether they are in front of an audience or at the grocery store, whether they are talking to a CEO or a cab driver, whether they feel like it or not. These heroes do this day in and day out without awards, accolades, or huge acknowledgement. They do it because it is the quiet knowing in their heart. They know how to hear this small voice and to stay true to it. It is their expression of God. I am here today because of one such hero. The gratitude I have for these individuals is beyond words. Thank you. Here’s to all the quiet heroes and all the ones to come. God Bless!