“What does it all mean? What is God trying to tell us? How are we called to live in the midst of all this?” Henri Nouwen

 

SHAKING OFF NUMBNESS

 

Summer here on the Canadian prairies is fading fast. We have been enjoying the produce of our small garden. Cooking and canning are still fun, but much more difficult than they used to be. I have to take things in small steps. Chop some veggies. Rest. Start things cooking. Rest. Fill and seal jars and place them in the boiling canning pot. Rest. Wait for the timer to buzz. Remove the jars to cool.

Return to my recliner — tired, sweaty, aching, and exhausted — to rest until the process begins again to prepare dinner. My skin and muscles and bones are tired, but I fight to accomplish at least a few tasks each day. I miss my former flexibility and energy. Where did my healthy body go?

It isn’t my physical self I grieve the most, but my ability to think and feel clearly. Fatigue muddies everything. Like straining through fog, I can’t be certain of what I see. Emotions run so wild for so long that they grow numb. As Emily Dickinson wrote in her poem:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

 

SHAKING OFF NUMBNESS WHEN JOY SEEMS LOST

 

For the sake of honesty, I must confess I have had much trouble these days finding joy. It’s difficult to seek and reach for it through the blanket of pain and frustration that so easily covers me.

The great Henri Nouwen wrote:

“We have to keep asking ourselves: ‘What does it all mean? What is God trying to tell us? How are we called to live in the midst of all this?’ Without such questions our lives become numb and flat.”

I have to believe, like Nouwen, that God has reasons beyond my understanding. God  gives me times to rest from emotional overload, but He doesn’t want me to stay in that frozen state for long. He created us to “feel.”

 

SHAKING OFF NUMBNESS: CLING TO THE ROPE

 

David Jon Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd wrote and sang these words:

“When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb”

I don’t want to become comfortable with this frozen feeling. Like Sophie Scholl (a German student and anti-Nazi political activist), I want to be able to say:

“I will cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even when my numb hands can no longer feel it.”

 

SHAKING OFF NUMBNESS TO FIND JOY

 

I don’t think I am alone in this fight to shake off numbness and reach for joy. So, I have chosen “numb” as this month’s poetry prompt. Here are a few ideas to oil your creative engine:

  • Describe the coldest you have ever felt.
  • Have you ever felt like you could not move?
  • What is it like to thaw chilly fingers near a fire?
  • Has there been a time in your life when it was easier to not feel at all?
  • Contrast hot and cold.

The words that came to me follow, in a poem called Freeze/Thaw

 

Freeze/Thaw

a poem by Karin Fendick

 

I alternate through moments
frozen, then fluid
the heat of passion melting my defenses

the sound of the inner critic screaming
harmonizing with the enemy of my soul
all at once firmly silenced
by the voice of the One Who knows me best
Who created me for His own.

words tumble forth unhindered
I rejoice in their freedom
until a thought, an inner glance
creates a log jam
things pile up and up and up
until nothing moves at all.

this is where I am now
the freeze before the thaw.
every bit of me trembling.

there is fruit to bear, ripe enough
let juices trickle down
I pray to find my voice
ice covered chords
to call out to the One Who Is my hope
notes crystallized
pure in their confession of need

In Him, I am all things
without Him, nothing.

freeze
thaw
freeze

He has a reason for it all.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

You can view our Submission Guidelines here. When submitting a poem, please complete the release form on our Permissions page. Email your submission including a headshot, brief bio, and links to your website, social media, and any book titles you’ve authored as applicable to share@chronic-joy.org.

We look forward to reading your poems!

Karin Fendick

Karin Fendick

Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer

Karin is a handmaiden of the Lord, saved by grace, a worshiper, a poet, a broken heart, a lover of words, His work in progress on the Potter's wheel. She is hungry for truth and amazed by love. After five years in Africa, Karin and Rick (her beloved husband of twenty years), are back in rural Canada where chronic pain drives her to the feet of Jesus. She is powered by prayer, love, and many cups of strong coffee. She is the author of From Ashes to Glory (A Psalm a Day).

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