Deevana Plaza, hotel room
“What I fear about going on this trip is having a good break for a short few days and then returning home only to feel the same muck all over again, too quickly. What I fear the most is not hearing from you at all, God,” I pray silently as my travel buddy and I sit on the beach, drinking up the glorious rays of sun, the waves lapping a few feet away from us. Each ebb, each tide, therapeutic. The sand is inclined gently so that you could prop your elbows up behind you and not strain your neck to see the water glistening in the light. The view is just gorgeous. I’m a sun sand sea kind of girl. Nature is one of my strongest love languages. It’s healing my soul just to be away from the city already.
My travel buddy and I are quiet and as my spirits soar in the beauty of the view in front of me, something in my heart yet sinks to think of all the other times I’ve escaped on vacations like this, coming back to hustle and bustle and resuming all manners of my old grumpy, off-balanced self. It’s not my self that needs fixing, but my soul, and I know the remedy has to go deeper than a quick-fix vacation.
I shrug off the weight and remind myself that a break is better than no break at all. I open up to the page last read on Soul Keeping, a book by John Ortberg that I brought along for the trip. John Ortberg writes that sin disintegrates the soul. It resonated with me. My soul needs healing and cleansing that only God can give. I’ve tried so hard for so long to keep moving forward while neglecting the state of my soul. I don’t care for it or guard it as fiercely as I know I should, and I’ve been ignoring the warning signs.
Back in the hotel room, I finish off Looking for Lovely by Annie F Downs, and found so much comfort in this chapter about Gethsemane, the garden that Jesus often withdrew to:
“He was a city guy who loved a little piece of nature… He went looking for lovely in Jerusalem and ended up, repeatedly the Scriptures tell us, at the garden of Gethsemane…I saw a side of Jesus I had never seen – the part of Him that sought out beauty, just as I do. The part of Him that found rest in nature… the part of Him that loved the city but just needed some alone time, time away, outside of the city to pray and remember why He loved the city in the first place.”
And the weight I had to keep shrugging off earlier suddenly lifts, by no effort of my own.
Turns out the weight went by the name “guilt”. I felt guilty for needing this break, for not being strong enough to last the next season in ministry without feeling like something inside my soul is shrivelling up and curling into a ball wanting to die, wanting to be left alone. I felt guilty for not having it all together for the many people who need me. Who I think need me, but as time has shown, I’m not indispensable. And I’m so thankful for that. I felt guilty that this might just be a break just like all the others, and I would have wasted money, ministry time, time from people filling in for me while I’m away, wasted it all for a little bit of fun. I felt guilty for having fun.
But I’m reminded through this chapter about Jesus how he retreats to his favourite hiding place, and this gives me freedom to enjoy my trip. I’m also a city girl who loves a little piece of a nature. And I find rest in it. I love the city but I really do need some alone time, time away, outside of the city to pray and remember why I love the city in the first place.
So guess what my travel buddy and I did on the final full day of our trip? We turned our 25 minute walk to the beach into a prayer walk. We asked God to open our eyes so that we do not miss the things He wanted us to see. We saw store owners who sat in their storefronts looking bored. We saw that the area is saturated with tourism yet business is quiet in restaurants, salons, massage parlours and retail shops. We prayed that if anyone working here found life a meaningless daily repetition, that they would find meaning in their days. We prayed for the people embroiled in the underworld of the tourism industry here. Though we don’t see it, it’s anyone’s good guess that it is there. We prayed that there would be a stronger presence of local christians who would rise up and bless the community here. That prayer walk didn’t require much effort, but it did wonders for my soul today.
I’ve started on a third book since getting here. It’s Brené Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me, But It Isn’t where she writes about shame and society. There is so much food for thought in this book, just on her exposition on shame alone. I read this line earlier today (while waiting for my spa treatment, heh) and didn’t quite get it, but after reflecting on our prayer walk, it makes much more sense now:
It has been said that real freedom is about setting others free.
We didn’t literally set people free, but I believe in praying for Krabi today, that God heard us and is doing the work of setting people free.
I learnt one more thing today too. I was posting a picture on Instagram of my travel buddy and I smiling eagerly because we can’t wait to eat this delicious chocolate banana pancake in our hands and this old African proverb came to mind:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Go together. God’s reminding me that’s how I’m going to draw strength. From people. Not bashing through thickets alone. Not fending off the enemy of my soul on my own. Accountability, community, vulnerability is how I’m going to experience love, belonging, acceptance. And where am I going to experience it? Wherever He leads. Just trust the path. “Trust the path,” was what God stamped into my heart yesterday while I was uploading a picture of us on the road, coming into a bend and the setting sun peeking out from behind a limestone cave. Everything was dipped in gold in the picture.
Despite my fears that I wouldn’t hear him at all, God really spoke to me through vignettes like these on the trip. I’m thankful. So even if coming back into the work week is going to send me into a whirlwind, never mind that I know exactly what tasks are piling up, never mind that I’ve three papers to turn in at the end of the week, never mind that I’m still going through recovery from the most recent funk I’ve been in. Trust. the. path. And go together.
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Books I read on this trip:
…. and pictures from the trip soon to follow!