"Have you ever wandered
lonely through the woods?
And everything there
feels just as it should.
You're part of the life there.
You're part of something good.
If you've ever wandered lonely
through the woods..."
Yesterday, Heather shared Brandi Carlile's "Have You Ever," with us on Facebook, and it was one of those deliciously lovely moments of divine serendipity that make me smile in collaboration with the universe. Thank you Heather, it's the perfectly perfect compliment to this story. It's just one slice of a much larger healing experience, one that has been told in little bits and pieces over the last six years on this blog. But here it is.
It was late summer/early fall...years and years go...and my life was utterly falling apart. It seemed like all of my relationships were in shambles. I was depressed and I couldn't seem to pull out of an emotional nosedive. I felt like I was watching a trail of dominoes falling one-by-one, moving towards a crashing finale. But I was so filled with terror that all I could do was watch it happen right before my eyes.
Every conversation was painful. Socializing was agony.
In the midst of it all, I was lined up to host a large gathering of friends, family, and colleagues. I wanted to be selfless, attentive, thoughtful, courteous, organized, enthusiastic, and loving. But all I could do was take care of the next task on the list before a paralyzing sense of panic took over and hijacked my ability to function.
Each time I felt on the verge of breaking down, I would excuse myself and go to my room to pray. But every prayer, every thought, felt so urgent. It seemed critical that I get on top of my terror, or my whole world would come crashing down around me, while the people I loved were watching. I just needed to get through the weekend and then I could really focus on finding healing.
But one afternoon, right when I thought I was doing pretty well, someone came up and thanked me for something I'd taken care of for her, and it was just too much gentleness, too much kindness. In her warmth, I felt myself coming apart at the seams.
I excused myself and briskly walked into the woods. I had to get as far away from things as I could. I mindlessly bushwhacked my way through brush, over rocky trails, and followed a tree-line towards the ridge. I thought it would be private enough there for...what I hoped...would only be a mini-breakdown. I would save the tearing-my-hair-out and sobbing-uncontrollably-for-days version of hysteria for the drive home.
I was well out of earshot, and about to let loose with a ragged sob, when I heard an undeniable sound. It was unmistakable, irrepressible, burbling-up-from-the-center-of-the-universe booming laughter. And it sounded just like my good friend, and spiritual mentor. But this was impossible. I was absolutely sure that he was thousands of miles away. I knew, because I was calling him regularly for spiritual support and counsel. Hearing his laughter stopped me in my tracks. Was this a miracle? Some form of divine intervention? The Holy Spirit overreaching time and space?
I sat on a fallen log and closed my eyes. At first I asked myself, "Could he really be here?" No, that wasn't possible. I'd just spoken with him an hour earlier in his office 2,000 miles away. Was I going mad? No, I couldn't be going mad, because I was able to think about God, about how loving it was that God would send laughter to remind me of my friend's presence in my life. To think about God at all, meant that I was thinking about something good, which proved that I had the presence of Mind, God.
So, I reasoned, if I could "hear" this reminder of my friend's presence in my life...a larger than life bellowing laugh...what was the message behind it? So I thought some more. And then I remembered, my friend always laughed like that when I told him that I was facing something scary or horrible. It was one of the things I appreciated most about him. He was so sure that God was All-in-all, it left no room for anything but love and joy in the universe. Any evidence of the absence of God was a ridiculous lie. Laughable. So he laughed. And his laughter, in the past, had always pierced the membrane of fear, deflating whatever seemed so big and frightening, only moments before.
As I listened to the happy sound of wild, capricious guffawing, something started to thaw the icy tightness in my soul. I let the warmth of that laughter wash over me. I stopped questioning its source. It was there, that was enough of a miracle for me.
And it was the beginning of my freedom from the panic, terror, obsessive self-doubt, and depression that had held me in its grip for weeks. I was going to be fine...no matter what happened. God loved me...that was enough. Over the next weeks and months, I would continue to work with these ideas...and laugh at the "lie" of mental darkness...as moment by moment, more light dawned.
But that afternoon, I returned from the woods with a lighter step, a quieter heart... and so full of hope.
On my way back to the lodge, I ended up running into a sweet surprise...my mentor's daughter. I hadn't realized she was going to be there that weekend. As I approached them, she was laughing heartily with a mutual friend. Her booming laughter was just like her dad's. I guess that explained the "phenomenon." But, did that matter to me? No. Did it undermine my sense of the "miraculous?" No. In fact, it confirmed it. God had sent her...I was sure of that.
Hearing laughter in the woods...well, it changed everything. I knew my friend had a great sense of humor...but I learned God did too. Laughter broke the mesmerism of terror. I think laughter is one of God's most wonderful gifts. Laughter is more contagious than the spread of fear, doubt, or supposition. Try it. Laugh and see who laughs with you. It may just be exactly what they need at that very moment.
In her poem, "Love," Mary Baker Eddy writes:
'Twas Love whose finger trace aloud,
a bow of promise on the cloud."
For me, that bow of promise is the color of laughter, the sound of yellow, blue, pink, purple, aqua...and it when it is heard "aloud," it can lighten the heart.
I hope your walk in the woods this weekend is filled with laughter -- and a divine surprise...
Kate Robertson, CS