Recently I got a massage. - a birthday gift I've been waiting to use for two months. For me, getting a massage is a an indulgence, and one I am not entirely comfortable with. No judgement here; it's just that I am not at all used to pampering myself in this way. As I tried to relax and breathe through the paper-lined donut that cradled my face, my thoughts bounced around like marbles in a pinball machine. It went something like this...
What a wonderful birthday gift. Today is the perfect day for me to enjoy this...it's been such a busy week.
Oh my gosh! I forgot that Bernie is at a class and Claire has to take the car to work which means that I can't pick Brenna up from school for our special date like we planned. (Insert Mom guilt over having to cancel special date here.) I'll need to call the school as soon as I leave here so they can get a message to Brenna to take the bus home.
Relax, Becky. You are supposed to be relaxing. It's all OK. Brenna will understand.
When am I going to go to the grocery store? I am working the next two days.
Wow...this feels so good. When she was working on my back and shoulders a couple of minutes ago I thought that was the best, but who knew that having your arms and hands massaged could feel so good? And she is not in a hurry. She is taking her time.
The deadline to order Claire's senior pictures is in eight days. (I'm a mom. This is how my brain works.)
As she gently worked the tension out of my body, I thought about how, over the last week, my arms had carried bags and boxes, lifted my suitcase in and out of the trunk, pushed a shopping cart, swept my hardwood floors, and wrapped themselves around those I love. I thought about how my hands had mixed and measured ingredients, prepared food for customers and family, shook strangers' hands during introductions, held a microphone, and cleaned up dog puke from our family room floor. I pictured my fingers moving over my keyboard, typing words and clicking my mousepad, holding a pen while writing up invoices and writing down appointments, never-ending to-do lists, and prayers in my journal. I pictured them scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, texting messages to people in my tribe, moving over and under as I braid my daughter's hair.
This woman's job is to pamper and nurture people, to give them a retreat from their work and rest from the busyness of their days. I wonder what she does for a retreat? I wonder who pampers her?
Suddenly a memory comes to mind of being with my mom in the hospital, the day before she died. Or was it the morning of? I had massaged lotion onto her legs and feet and arms and hands. I will never forget how it felt to pour out my grief and love in those moments. I didn't want to let her go. But I knew I had to.
Now I am softly crying. The woman is massaging my legs and feet, and when she touches my right foot I jerk it away. "You're ticklish! So sorry." For some reason I picture my daughter Kate's face, and I cry some more. She is a sophomore in college and I miss her. A lot.
What on earth is wrong with me? Only I would turn a massage into some sort of deep, reflective, emotionally charged activity. This is why I shouldn't do stuff like this...
Slowing down is hard for some of us. Maybe one of the reasons some of us don't slow down is because we are afraid of what I just described. We are afraid of what is there, just beneath the surface, or maybe buried deep below. We don't want to remember the sad. We don't want to feel the hurt. We don't want to feel angry or scared or have to deal with our own sense of failure or rejection. We have questions without answers. So we stay busy. We go fast. We avoid what is uncomfortable.
But hard-wired into our very DNA is a need to slow down: a God-instilled rhythm of work and rest, work and rest. We were created to go and stop, not just go go go. We were designed to remember and reflect, to connect. We were made to laugh and cry and breathe and feel all the feels.
I left my appointment feeling relaxed and calm. And at a deeper level, grateful and comforted and sensitive to all of life around me. Nothing came up during my 50-minute massage that God did not tenderly hold with me. I'm grateful for meaningful work and opportunities to grow. I love my family, my tribe, and even my dog who makes messes for me to clean up. It's been almost six years, and I still miss Mom every day. I miss Kate, away at college, every single day. Claire will be graduating in May and heading to college in the fall. Brenna will be starting high school and honestly, it's all breaking my heart a little bit. I need to slow down enough to feel it. Why? Because whether or not I'm aware of it , I need comfort.
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." We cannot experience comfort without mourning. And we can't mourn what we refuse to feel.
My guess is you've got some stuff that's honestly breaking your heart just a bit, and I'm wondering if maybe you need to slow down enough to feel it, too? It doesn't have to be a massage. Go for a walk. Sit with your coffee in the morning, just you and God. Turn off the radio when you're driving alone in your car. Turn off the TV and Pandora. Tell Alexa to take a nap. Just. slow. down. Let yourself be still. Don't be afraid of what may surface. Whatever it is, you won't face it alone. God will hold it with you.