I had gotten up from the stump where I had spent some time journaling and was walking alongside the margin between forest and farmland when I saw a bush. Its white leaves hung dead on the branches alongside new green buds, peeking out in the late March weather.

You are clinging to dead things.

It was the quiet time portion of our house retreat where we had two hours to wander around the open space surrounding the retreat house. I had already decided I was moving out of said house after spending four of my most formative years there, and my future seemed akin to typical Michigan weather: bright but cloudy.

I had been feeling adrift spiritually for some time. One of the suggestions that my housemate had written up on the half sheet of paper clutched in my hand was that I find God in nature, praise God for works in creation. Sounded good to me. But I found myself stricken at the sight of this bush.

You are clinging to dead things.

I never figured out what it meant. The phrase rattled around in my head for a few months, and then it got lost in the shuffle of moving, taking on new roles at church, settling into a new rhythm of life. The half sheet of paper was still tucked in my journal that I slept next to every night, but I never bothered to open it again. Despite all that, it still felt significant.

And as I opened up my running note for my therapy appointments this week, I saw it again, a bolt from a year and a half ago. I finally cracked open my journal again to that paper and found a note: “What is dead? What needs to be cleared away for new growth? Am I ready to listen? To ask?”

Directly after it—starred—I had written: “No.” And then, in parentheses: “practice presence more?”

Somehow, I have circled back to that same place. In my therapy session, after word-vomiting my confusion over a relationship and recapping a recent death in my family, my therapist sat back and said, “I think you need some silence.” I had already been planning to write this blog post on silence, so her words felt like divine confirmation.

Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to cut away. I stepped away from that relationship, I scheduled fewer commitments, and I’ve sat with my thoughts. I’ve made some progress on what I wanted to figure out; I’ve been tempted to fill up the time I set aside. Am I ready to listen? Maybe marginally more than in March 2022. But not much more.

You are clinging to dead things.

Somehow, at twenty-six, I am still figuring out who I am, what I want. All signs are pointing me towards silence, stillness, rejecting—at least in part—the schedules and the busyness that I prefer to rule my days.

But I’m still afraid to listen, to hear God or others or myself name the dead things I dearly love, to change. 

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related posts

by Laura Sheppard Song, October 17, 2020
Crying on Public Transit
by Jenna Griffin, December 10, 2017
by Finnely King-Scoular, July 14, 2021
Morning Pages
by Douglas Chu, March 31, 2018
On Music in Silence
by Julia LaPlaca, June 23, 2019

post calvin direct

Get new posts from Alex Johnson delivered straight to your inbox.

the post calvin