All is Well?

April has me in knots. Sri Lanka. I do not know the issues you have faced, I have not visited within your borders, but I have a guess where the underlying darkness of your recent atrocity originates. And you are not alone. The whole world is suffering with a lack of kindness for each other, which is not new – globally, historically, or personally. What do I mean? Take a look at this months historical anniversary’s that mark some very troubling human behaviour:

1 year since the Toronto Van Attack,

20 years since the Columbine High School shooting,

25 years since the start of the Rhwanda Genocide,

50 years since Helter Skelter,

100 years since the Amritsar Massacre.

Even if any of this could be explained, who could really understand it? Have you ever been confused, hurt, and full of rage from the horrors occurring within humanity? This is my April.

I recently listened to a TED talk that one of the Columbine shooters mother recorded. Mental illness (or ‘brain health’, as this mom called it), debilitating guilt, and moving on from trauma were all part of her fundamental message that hope and healing still exist.

Normally, I am all about having wild hope. I am over the top on deep healing. After all, the subtitle of my first book is ‘Healing. Encouragement. Restoration.’ (More news on how to order Finding HER Stuff, is only days away!) So, this ought to suggest I have placed all bets on the best parts of humanity showing up, BUT…

I am not feeling it lately. I am more worried, afraid, troubled, angry, and seemingly powerless, than I care to admit. The courage I have called upon to push me through previous murky waters, seems irrelevant. Perhaps it is being replaced by a type of apathy that begins from emotional weariness. It isn’t that I don’t care to be my best and do my best, it just doesn’t seem to be enough.

It isn’t making a dent. The world is still in the business of making crazy. My community is still divided by political distrust. My family is still reeling in miscommunication and rejection. My mind still attacks my own emotions and thoughts. I am not making a difference. Will it ever be different?

Part of me knows this question can only be asked by someone who is actually capable of making a difference. Asking ‘if I make a difference’ is connected with an ability for awareness and self reflection. So, part of me is quite certain the dial can be moved in a positive direction. Meanwhile, the other part of me is mongering doubts, stirring up controversy, and stewing in sweet revenge toward those who have personally or globally harmed my heart, my pride, and my sense of security.

Which part of me should I believe? Or maybe the better question is, which part should I feed?

If I have learned one thing in this blogging adventure, it should be, the answer to that question is simple. Of course I should not feed the negative, right? No brainer, AJ. Yet, while the answer is easy, the action after, is certainly not.

I am overwhelmed by the ‘bigness’ of some problems. I do not see a way they can ever be turned for good. I do not feel confident in my own words that have sprung from months of reflection, and seem to have lost my inspiration for full-out living.

Last post, I had some advice for myself to: Express. Evaluate. Forgive. Accept.

This advice was helpful until April, when I realized, it is not complete. There must be something more that is necessary for easing troubles, both abroad and in my own backyard.

Cue Easter morning. I walk into church alone, with Sri Lanka on my heart and a hot cross bun in my stomach. Since my kids have grown up, moved away or have lives and ideas of their own, I am accustomed to attending most services alone, but not special holiday services. This Easter is the first.

I skip the photo booth set up for families to pose beside streaming flowers and bright lighting suggestive of a spring field flooded by sunshine. I avoid eye contact while I make my way towards a pew, unsure of my readiness to socialize with my normally joyful mannerisms.

The music starts and I rise to my feet, beginning what is easily my favourite portion of this weekly spiritual tradition. The songs include standard, hope-filled lyrics, fitting for Easter-type anthems and glorious promise of abundant life. But I was not moved.

Is my spirit so troubled, that here… today… in the shadow of Love’s most transforming work, I cannot break free from the burden of failures, the frailties that consume me, and the despair of this ‘freak show’ called life.

As one of the last songs begins, its introduction meets my ears with gentle familiarity. I know this song. It has been woven into the pattern of my audio memories, but not in a good way. I silently groan, and brace for the lyric I have never been able to fully understand or realize for myself… “whatever my lot, you have taught me to say, it is well… it is well with my soul”.

No! No, it isn’t. I am not well. I do not accept my ‘lot’ or the Sri Lankan lot, or the whole nasty lot of things adding up this month. Who could sing this? Who could believe it as true?!

Apparently everyone else within ear range of this beloved tune thought the message was on point, because the chorus of voices rose in conviction, declaring the sky (not the grave) is their goal. My eyes swooped up toward the heavens, trying to imagine what sense the sky could make of my worries, when something caught my eye.

Maybe it was the way the contemporary stained glass windows reflected on the wall that the PowerPoint was projected onto, but one phrase of the lyric jumped out from the rest… “with my soul”.

Before now, I have tripped over the first part of that line “it is well”, unable or unwilling to pick myself up from that point. Mounds and mounds of global and personal accumulative troubles suggest all is not well, and if the past is any predictor of the future, things may never be ‘well’. So, maybe my original angst over this song is warranted.

But that phrase ‘with my soul’ kept turning over in my heart, until it reached the bottom of my fears. This song is not about a perfect life or measured moments of content and peace. It is about a place inside me that cannot be harmed by the pain of this world. It is where Love lives.

This soul-place wraps around all the rage, uncertainty, bitterness, and apathy revealed in human acts of selfishness, intolerance, cruelty and violence. Breathing from this soul location prevents these negative feelings from overshadowing the hope, joy and peace of ordinary moments. This ‘wellness’ is not an external or actionable condition. It is an internal and deeply, deeply rich position.

Slowly, and for the first time, I began to understand why voices raise this phrase in enthusiastic chorus. So I sang… loudly.

Not because everything is fine and I felt okay. I sang because it is possible to breathe around the things that take my air away. I felt my soul connecting me to all that is, all that has been, and all that is coming. In this timeless position, access to strength, power and wisdom beyond what eyes see and ears hear, was possible.

It may not ever be completely ‘well’ with my head, with my heart or with my body, but it can be well… with my soul.

Love made it so.