Willow Wonderings

Learning to Fly with Broken Wings: A Reflection on 2012

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‎”Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
– Zora Neale Hurston

“How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing –
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

I began the year of 2012 as a lost wanderer.

I had left my home seventeen months earlier at the age of seventeen, running from conflict, seeking a forested community to become free of past suffering.

The faster I ran, the more my sore body collapsed. I was a bird with broken wings, weak blood, bones that lacked the strength to fly. Yet I continued on my Pearson journey as a lone wanderer and boarded an airplane, books piled upon my lap and stress of the upcoming semester weighing upon me.

My small birdself hid in the shadow of an overworking mind. Though it seems clear to me now, I felt so confused at the time why I felt so tired, weak, malnourished. My struggle had manifested as an eating disorder, one of the most common yet dangerous mental illnesses in our society. Its disordered perfectionism broke my already fragile wings, haven taken flight from home before I had been ready.

I could not have finished those two years if it were not for the community of friends, family, mentors, and natural beings that surrounded me in love from near and far. I will never forget those who reached out when I most needed support. However, I truly needed time to heal that could not fit within two intense years of Pearson.

Before I left Vancouver Island to return home in May, an experience of sudden grace intervened to open me to God. I spent twenty four hours in wilderness and over time, I felt distance from my old insecurities. I witnessed the resolve of nature, a force beyond my own mind’s control, working with Divine intelligence. I witnessed the rootedness of the Sitka spruce. The movement of clouds overhead at rapid paces, the face of the mountains peaking from faraway places. In those hours, I remember talking to myself and hearing the true thoughts in my head – the confused and the calming words together – and letting them be carried by the wind.

After several hours of being alone, I heard the voice of a deeper being surface in whispers. It spoke of my union with all things, all parts of myself and the Loving One who spoke. I remember doing yoga with the sunlight wholly enveloping my skin. I felt beautifully embraced.

Seven months after that experience, I realize that my struggle at Pearson has taught me the necessity of living in community. My time spent in solitude in nature made me long for intimacy with others, and this year, my prayers have been answered. This year, I have been sent sisters and brothers who have held me in my broken state and helped me to take Elizabeth, meaning “God is my oath,” as my full name.

To each of you readers, to the wise and faithful souls who have shared this journey with me, I give you my deepest gratitude. Your time, letters, skype calls, prayers, words of encouragement, and presence have given me the courage to be healed. I now feel more grounded, healthy, and loved than any other time in my life, and I look forward to deepening my relationships with you for many years to come. To close my posts of 2012, I share this prayer from my thankful heart.

O Loving and Gracious God,
Your hands are the ones who have knit together the fabric
of the smallest bird wings
and the most intricate heart strings.

Yours are the hands that weave us into unity.

You have lovingly called to me from the depths of my loneliness,
when I searched for ears to hear my prayers.
You have sent to me the souls who fulfill my heart’s true longings,
the ones who have shown me loving care.

I thank you for the brothers and sisters, mentors, and guides,
the ones who sat with me at Quaker meeting when I needed to cry,
I thank you for the friends who sang at campfires late in the night,
for the mother and sister who loved me through every fight.

I thank you for my sister from Brazil who taught me to laugh in delight,
for my roommates who have made and shared tea with me over many nights,
for my brother from South Sudan who taught me to pray,
for my family from Metchosin who showed me Christ’s Love as the way.

But most of all, O God, I thank You for weaving together the body of Christ,
the body of followers that seek union with the all-embracing Light.
You have united brothers and sisters in the heart of the cross,
the site of strength and vulnerability, humanity and divinity, suffering and stability,
where all becomes One.

I pray that this community may be called out from its comfortable place,
to sacrifice our individuality for solidarity with all.
I pray for the Body to come alive and seek your face,
so we may listen deeply to your compassionate Grace.

Compassion in community:
bearing one another’s suffering
through your weaving us together.

Thank you for giving each and every soul its brokenness,
the cracks that the inner Light shines through.
May we support one another with our fragile wings,
and sing our grateful praise to You.

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