I have killed no less than 20 crickets today, at least 10 flies. They are the only noise piercing the silence of this writing retreat, the peace of this lodge which perches on a rock bed in the canyon. I am glad to be here, insects and all. Plan A was ransacked by bears the night before my arrival, busting open the solid front door. I was considering bear spray and air canyons, so desperate to get away, when my hosts called it in. So here I am. Plan B.
The timing is impeccable. On Sunday our pastor issued a challenge: in light of the divisive and hateful election year which only seems to be worsening, fast from news for a week, seek God for our role in the incendiary climate, and gather next week to break bread and gift one another with gratitude. His mentor and muse? Abe Lincoln, who on the eve of Civil War, issued a similar challenge.
Yes, our nation has been divided before. It has been worse.
I find myself in desperate need of this fast. The fact that my week away from civilization coincided with his charge seems divine.
I have been a glutton for media. I have filled my mind with every blog post, Facebook tirade, and Huffpost article (not to mention Seth Myer’s A Closer Look) surrounding this election. My heart has been affected. It needed a break.
Similarly, this Fall I have filled my thoughts with human trafficking prevention. I’ve pressed into schools, interviewed on the news, written new curricula, and encountered political barriers. It’s been invigorating at times, especially when I see youth respond: some disclose stories of concern, others want to get involved, sign on the dotted line.
But on Sunday, just before our pastor issued his challenge, I sat in a class about porn, listened to some teens talk about their world, and had a hard time holding back. I couldn’t just listen without accessing all the information, the stuff I learned the week before from an officer, the apps I knew police used to recover victims of sex trafficking in October. My mind would not turn off. It was flooded. It needed a break.
There is something to fasting. I’ve never been good at it. As soon as I name the item or subject I’m fasting from it’s all I can think about. Forget filling my mind with spiritual truths in their absence. Turns out I have to physically remove myself from my life to experience the benefits of fasting: peace, clarity, spiritual connection. Bugs and all.
The battle against sex trafficking kind of feels like the negative, wounded atmosphere of our nation right now. They are both heavy, dark, oppressive. I wonder at the human capacity to hold such pain. And I’m discovering I have far less capacity than I imagined.
What about you? Fellow warrior and darkness disrupter, hope pusher and justice seeker. Where is your mind filled? How is your heart flooded? Would a fast do you good?
Sometimes facing our capacity and powering down is what we need most.
Did not the Psalmist cry out, “My God – the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout. A hostile world! I call to God, I cry to God to help me. From his palace he hears my call; my cry brings me right into his presence- a private audience” (Ps. 18: 2, 6, The Message). Sometimes, I think we get to be like children. Running from a hostile world, I think God waits to engulf us.
This week, that is where you’ll find me.
Meanwhile I’ll pray,
From whom my words come;
From whom my questions arise;
Of whom all my loves are hints;
In whom alone I find my rest;
In whose depths I find healing
Enfold me now in your presence;
Restore to me your peace;
Renew me through your power;
And ground me in your grace.”
Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace
Beth Bruno is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Her writing has appeared at Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman, InterVarsity’s The Well, and she is a proud member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. She can be found in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and 3 kids or at www.bethbruno.org.