Frustrated, stuck, trapped. That’s how I felt. That’s what I recorded in my account of a spiritual direction session.
I had directed the session and was discussing it with five other spiritual directors who gather monthly for peer supervision. In supervision, we don’t focus on the client, called a directee, and what is going on with them. We focus on the director and what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. We pay special attention to the emotions we experienced as we listened to God and the directee in that sacred space.
My wise and compassionate friends poured over the dialogue* and the feelings I experienced during the exchange. They invited me to say more about them.
“I felt trapped because I didn’t know what to do,” I said. “When I calmly look back on the situation, I know now what I could have said or asked. But in my panic, I couldn’t see those options.”
I had experienced the same panicky feeling recently when I drove back and forth trying to find a house in the dark, when I overreacted to a comment, and when I tried to call Fred and his cell phone was off.
Tears came. “This happens a lot.”
“Do you think you’re triggered by something in your childhood?” someone asked.
I thought for a moment, but nothing specific came to mind.
Two days later, in the middle of the night, I remembered a time when I was a young child and my siblings played a prank on me. We were in the curing room of my father’s cheese factory. They went out and shut the door, leaving me inside in the dark. They thought I knew how to get out, but I couldn’t figure out how to open the heavy industrial door. It seemed like forever until they came to let me out.
Now, with the help of my friends, I understood how the incident still affected me. I saw a pattern: something happens that I can’t control; I feel powerless; my upper body tightens. I have to get out.
A few years ago I talked about my childhood memory with a spiritual director. He invited me to picture Jesus in the curing room with me. I closed my eyes and saw myself as a little girl. Jesus pulled me onto his lap and enfolded me in his arms. He lit a light in the darkness and smiled.**
Jesus is with me when I am afraid. This truth may not keep me from feeling trapped by life’s events. But now, when I sense my upper body tighten, I can think of his arms around me again and be comforted. Eventually my eyes will adjust to the dark and will see the options before me.
And I will see the open door.
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day
– Psalm 139:12 (NRSV)
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