It is an entirely unremarkable moment, one I repeat every day at noon, all throughout the fall and winter. I am cutting squash, chopping, scooping, dicing. But today, as I scoop out the tangly pulp, seeds scattering and falling on the countertop, I scoop deep into me and feel the wrapped tendrils of who I am.
I am startled. Scraping out that pulp, I face my own insides. I am taken aback at what twists and knots within me. I test again. Yes. Raw, messy fear. Can it be that is, right now, what snarls and writhes around my soul, strangling me? Yes, that is what I feel in this moment of time. I can feel it, as real as those squash strings between my fingers.
Funny. I never have named this feeling before. Not this name. Perhaps “uptight.” Or “stressed.” But today, fleshy pulp in the palm of my hand, I can simply say it: I am afraid.
Am I enough? Loving enough, gentle enough, giving enough? Can I do, BE, enough today? Will I be able to stay ahead of the mushrooming laundry, the army of hungry stomachs, the endless waterfall of questions, the tsunami of needs today that will overwhelm? Do I have enough inner resources today to ride the pounding surf? I don’t want to fail.
I know this feeling. It’s the same squeezing panic that wrung me when I’d swim too far from shore and my feet couldn’t find a slippery, algae covered rock to cling to. In the murky depths, currents relentlessly tugging and dragging, I’d flail and feel about, looking for a toehold.
Like every mother, I am in way over my head. The depths plunge deep and dark, and I am a helpless cork bobbing about the smashing waves, breathlessly trying not to panic. It is like my soul cannot touch bottom.
I lay down my knife and quarter of squash. I am stunned by the naming of this tangle of feelings inside of me. I think that I multi-task. I juggle. I orchestrate, co-ordinate, manage, one eye on the clock, one eye thinking of what comes next: change over the laundry, check on Hope and grammar lesson, switch Shalom from puzzles to legos, call the butcher shop to place an order, set the table with bowls for the steaming lentil soup, mark Levi’s math exercises. But I have named the beast that lurks just below the waters, with gleaming eyes waiting to spring: fear.
Five-year-old Malakai, still learning to decipher the puzzle of phonics, wanders through the kitchen, his church kid’s club booklet in hand, pretending to read his Bible verse for the week. He lilts the words from memory, eyes fixed to the page as he walks: “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39.)
And directly, something within me stills. I cease to flail. I almost want to laugh at the surprising aptness of it all. (But, really, is it surprising?)
He rebukes my winds. His word, alive, relevant, sovereign, from the lips of an illiterate child, calms my waters. “Peace, be still.”
And underneath, my foot feels an anchor, a verse from my Bible reading in the dark still of coming day, a verse that I nearly skimmed over, but now revisits me, knowing it is a lifeline meant for this very moment:
“No, there is no other Rock. I know not one” (Isaiah 44:8).
I pick up a spoon to finish scooping squash pulp. The tangled part of me unknots. Floats. My insides have loosened. For I have found it. When fears, even nameless, cloaked ones, sinisterly drag, there is a Rock who cries through the waters, “Here… I am your home in these seas. Place your foot here, your heart here. Stand on me. And live.” These fears diminish, cut down to size.
How to hold to the Rock in the midst of everyday storms? “Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God,” writes Henri Nouwen. When I pray, I intimately know the crevices of the Rock, the texture of its surface, the immensity of its steadfast character.
I lay the squash halves in to the enamel dishes, and slip them into the oven. Turning to the sink to wash the last remnants of squash strings from my hands, I hear the sea as the water runs over my fingers.
My fears are washed away with a prayer of three simple words, a lullaby on the waves: Peace, be still.
©2008, Ann Voskamp
Related resources: Peace is a Person