Even in Bali, I still shake.
I lie in a guest bed a thousand miles from Japan and feel the bed rock. I wonder if it’s an earthquake and have to remind myself that the ground isn’t off; my equilibrium is. It’s nearly 9am as I wake up from a long, though restless sleep. Another night dreaming of waves, flooding and debris.
Even as I write I feel silly. I should not experience ongoing stress from last year’s disaster. There are people who actually went through the horror, and volunteers who hear the stories everyday. If they have flashbacks or nightmares it’s understandable. I only empathize. It shouldn’t be so hard to turn off my brain, to remove my heart and emotions. But it is.
In the dream I was in a concrete building that had been completely stripped by a tsunami. It had been a home but now it was just a frame, solid gray walls with six inches of debris covering the ground. A team of 12 or so shoveled the muck and cleaned as best possible. They picked up personal items and talked about them quietly. A child’s shoe. A spoon. A shattered frame. In the middle of our work, a girl from the team called me aside and asked if I would pray with her. I immediately transitioned from physical labor to heart care and back again, wanting to be all things to all people. I woke up feeling like I’d just put in a full days work.
Now I sit by the ocean. To the north I can see Java. Nearly a mile in front of me stretches the knee-deep sea, so still it looks like glass.. At dusk the men appear to walk on water as they wander a kilometer or two into the ocean, fishing with nets and flashlights. It’s so different from home. Where I live no one goes in the water. It’s not safe. The fish aren’t edible and the sea is contaminated.
I’d like to say that it took me several hours to decompress from the stress of Japan before I could enter into rest. In reality, it took me several hours to find the permission I needed to be stressed. I had to let the Father coax me into a place where it was OK to say, “that was hard”, or “that felt like too much.” He, more than anyone, knows that we were not designed to deal with death. He doesn’t expect that my life to continue as normal after I sit with a man who lost his wife of 56 years, or after I hear for the dozenth time about a mother who lost her child. It’s not right. I don’t have the capacity for it. None of us do.
Somehow I found room in my budget for a $6 massage this evening. While the sun went down and I praised the Lord for the awesome exchange rate, I felt Him begin to speak. As the little island woman worked on my arms and tore apart my calves with her strong hands, I could hear the Lord blessing each limb.
“Thank you for the work of your hands. Thank you for letting your feet walk where I lead them. Thank you for the work of your arms, that have carried supplies and carried broken hearts. Thank you for your shoulders and for letting yourself experience the weight of burden my people carry.” And over the course of an hour he spoke hundreds of times, “I remove trauma. I remove trauma from your bones. I remove trauma from your hands. I remove trauma from your knees. I remove trauma from your neck.”
Tonight as I get ready for bed I thank the Lord for a day away. I don’t know what I will dream about tonight. It may be another scene of the ocean losing its boundaries. It may not. I am thankful, though, for a brain designed to process these things, for a body that requires rest and the recuperation, for a neurological system prepared to walk me through the steps of grief and loss. I lean into the Lord, tonight, thanking him for my psyche, and accept the process I’m in. I don’t want to rush it, “get over it”, or get better at doing it. As long as I need to dream I will dream. As many time as He needs to remove fear he will remove it. As often as I need to cry, I will cry, because I was not designed to deal with death.
I still shake.