My eyes feel heavy. I have loads of to-dos in the waiting room of my brain, unread emails, toys all over, lots of people to call, and there is a sticky residue I noticed in the fridge earlier. I haven’t seen Theo eat a vegetable in a while; my small group is starting up this week; and we probably need to think about the holidays. Theo is mad that I forgot to bring suckers to preschool for his birthday. Am I getting sick? Should we try for a baby again when my body is back to normal? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Does God want more for my life? Does God want less for my life? Should I be working this much? Am I a good mom? I haven’t seen [friend’s name] in a while—I should reach out to her. I’m still not sleeping; maybe I should call my doctor? Maybe I should try to exercise tonight. Crap, I have to write that thing.
And on. And on. And on.
Welcome, dear readers, to my brain. One thought leads to another, then the questions roll in, and eventually the chronic chaos of my mental space runs rampant. And this is me on anxiety medication.
On my morning commute to work amidst all of my swirling thoughts, with my toddler in the backseat, I notice how the trees are gently clothing themselves in fall colors. It’s like they tenderly whisper “change is coming,” preparing us for what is to come. It’s subtle right now, as they still proudly wear green, holding onto summer as long as they can.
Unlike the trees, for what feels like the first time in my life, I couldn’t be more excited to bid summer adieu. It feels almost heretical to say it out loud. I am very aware of how last winter went for us Midwesterners. And yet, for me, this summer felt even more difficult than winter.
With two miscarriages to bookend my summer, one in May and the other in August, several weeks of insane insomnia, family health crises, a challenging parenting season, and an unending workload with lots of extra hours put in, summer was one that I was ready to say goodbye to before it even began.
I was and am so ready for a season that doesn’t feel so, well, hard. Everything about the last four months has felt relentless. It. Just. Won’t. Let. Up.
And yet. I have been doing lots of reading on Celtic wisdom. Julianne Stanz writes about the transforming presence of thin places in our lives. She says in Braving the Thin Places, “In each person’s life are thin places where that person experiences God’s presence in a way that stirs the soul. In these thin spaces we are broken open, and we encounter ourselves, our relationship with others and with God, in a deeper and more authentic way.”
We are often on the threshold of a thin place when we experience pain or wonder or joy or suffering. Stanz also says, “We do not have to learn how to speak to God in these thin places, for God is already present to us. This encourages us to see the sacramental nature of life—that all of life has been made sacred because it was created by a God at the heart of life rather than distant and away from life.”
This has been a season of life that I’ve felt broken open, torn apart, and at the edge of myself many times.
Disappointment, grief, exhaustion, and despair all tend to take me to that place. It’s a place that I imagine feels very much like Mary Magdalene’s experience of the empty tomb. Scripture says that she visited the tomb while it was still dark. While it was still dark, Jesus called out to her, “Mary.” The Giver of Life met her at a thin place, a threshold where she experienced God’s presence in a deeper and more authentic way. God was already present to her while it was still dark; she didn’t have to use new language or fancy words because God was already there.
Stanz believes, “Pain is a threshold of growth. If we miss the pain, then we also miss the growth in the slow work of transformation that is happening, often unnoticed.”
In those moments when my thoughts race, questions arise, and I see the tiptops of trees on the threshold of fall, I feel invited to stay with myself, to stay with my pain, to stay with God who is there amidst all the pain. He calls to me in it all.
Haley Wiggers is passionate about discovering how the messy, painful, and unexpected gifts that come with being human connect, relate to, and offer understanding of how God relates to and cares for us. She’s been married to her husband and loving partner Tyson for seven years, and together they have a nearly three-year-old, Theo. Haley is learning to notice, lean in, and respond to all the invitations God offers through parenting, pastoring, mentoring, marriage, friendship, and the fullness of life. Haley is a certified Spiritual Director and has found it to truly be a gift to companion with people as they attend to God.