When I was a little girl, I learned to travel in my mind. In the midst of the yelling I would fade away. I’d play music in my room and let the songs transport me. Sometimes I’d sit in class and scribble in my notebook, the teacher’s voice white noise.
January was bleak in Alaska. Dark and cold. On the bus ride home from grade school, I’d rest my head on the window and close my eyes as the grayness rushed by. I’d see color: yellow, green, purple. Easter and Christmas colors, all the shades of my Crayola crayons. I’d imagine I was running across fields filled with luminous rainbow shades of indescribable beauty, like that first iconic scene in color from The Wizard of Oz.
The flowers set me free. Eyes closed, my head bumping against the window of the school bus, my mind lifts me up and sweeps me away to a better place. I’m nestled under blankets. encircled by cushions where it’s warm and soft and safe. The deep, dark hole of nothing recedes. The pain of wanting to be something else–somewhere else—retreats.
I was a wobbly little girl of 9 or 10, as flimsy as one of my paper dolls. Ragged and undefined, I searched for a way to ground myself. I thought if I could affix myself to something solid, the emptiness inside me would be filled. I’d be able to rest, to breathe. I would finally belong. If I could do something worthwhile, something important, then I would matter. I would be relevant. Or if I could earn the approval of the right people, then I would be Somebody. I wouldn’t be mocked or berated any longer. I’d be loved.
Decades later, when I’m in pain I go back to that place. This is what I see: I’m sitting on a park bench with Jesus. Surrounding us are miles of the greenest grass I’ve seen, unmarred by even a speck of brown. Wildflowers are growing throughout the fields, vibrant hues of lavender, pink, yellow, teal. Every color intensely vivid.
Jesus and I are wearing white and the sun is shining, warm but not hot. We’re so close our our legs are touching. His arm brushes against mine. He takes my hand and we sit in silence, drinking in the glory around us.
Nothing is spoken because words are not needed. Our thoughts are entwined, a graceful scroll of knowing that moves from Jesus to me, from me to Jesus. Every now and then, he will squeeze my hand. He will softly brush the back of his hand over my cheek. I sense his smile, absorb the warmth of his love, feel an embrace without beginning or end. Cocooned in his arms, tucked into his body, nestled up against his heart. Protected, treasured, adored.
I know he is telling me this, My beautiful child. You are loved.
It is a vision I return to when sadness overwhelms me–as it did the other day when I visited my father. He was having a bad day. I saw a man I hardly recognized, one slipping further away. He struggled to form words, confusion clouding his face until he gave up and we sat in awkward silence. Pain sliced through me, a deep cut that continued to bleed after I left, while I made dinner and later when I tried (and failed) to sleep.
In those moments, I pray. But sometimes words won’t come, so I take a respite in my mind. I revisit the place where there is no darkness, no night. It’s the best part of the day all day. Time stills and I am suspended in a perfect moment. There is nowhere to go, no tasks to complete, no anxiety or worry. No father isn’t in pain, nor am I. Instead I am at rest. Accepted, restored, grounded.
My peace comes from knowing the Lord has saved this place for me, a splendid place next to him. A bench for two with my name carved next to his. Now is it a vision, but one day it will happen. One day it will be real.