Coffee Jitters of the Soul

I’m feeling jittery already — coffee is kicking in, I’m getting on a plane all by myself to fly across the country. When a voice comes over the loud speaker: “Flight 1869 is now delayed for at least an hour. There’s some weather in Chicago. If you’re able to go on another flight on another day, we’ll offer you a travel voucher. Please form a line.”

I’ll miss my connection. If I don’t make it across the country, there will be no women’s retreat the following day — the speaker stranded somewhere in middle America, waiting out the weather. I feel the panic creep in, the icy cold fingers clutching my chest and quickly plummeting to my toes. 

I call my husband. Can he take me to another airport? He’s crossing the street with our three children in the hubbub of the morning routine, getting them dressed, fed, and kissed for their wide world school adventure.

I don’t want to do this alone. 

He won’t make it in time.

I get a new flight at a new airport an hour or two away and run to catch an uber at the edge of the airport — downloading the airline’s app on the way so I can check in en route. Every second counts. 

Alberto picks me up and I tell him my sad tale, clutching my coffee cup between my legs and trying not to spill as I balance luggage and a jittery mind. He stops for gas. I take deep breaths. 

We go in and out of traffic, following an app to give us up-to-the-second coverage. We go around a section that is blood red on the map, stopping and starting on a side street. We fly, our little black car along the streets, as if we can beat the circumstances together with enough data and adrenaline to keep us afloat. He lets me plug in my phone and I hear his radio station quietly in the background. I think I might make it. I can breathe just a bit. 

I start apologizing to Alberto — the stress, the way that I’m making him choose alternate routes (because what happens if I don’t make my flight?), and he speaks quietly, kindly: “I was worried about you.” 

If I can slow my breathing down enough, I realize the kindness of those words. They hit hard and tears well up. “I was worried about you.” They speak of care. They are gentle and slow. They are not concerned about how much money he’s making or losing or the traffic. He sees me. 

I am not doing this alone. 

***

It’s easy to feel unseen, alone — like you’re standing inside a snow globe with your hands against the glass, and you can’t quite figure either how to get out or go inside the cute little village in the center. 

Both ways to turn feel overwhelming. 

We all have walls. We build walls. We live in fear of the walls growing larger and we live in fear of the walls coming down. Because, who will we be on the other side of the wall? 

Pete Scazzero writes about the wall — that when we come up against a wall in our faith journeys, our old ways of relating to God don’t work, that in fact most of us choose to numb, run, or stuff it when we come to the wall, rather than painfully, slowly move through the wall with God, even when we don’t feel or know his presence. 

It’s easier to deal with our walls with chocolate chip cookies or wine. It’s easier to binge-watch Netflix or keep shopping. It’s easier to check things off of our to-do list, or keep on scrolling, than it is to remove ourselves from the centers of distraction. The wall is just so big, so disorienting. And what happens when we’re finally silent in the face of what looks like the absence of God?

We don’t want to do it alone. 

But many times, it’s just the absence and the jitters that we feel. 

***

The next day on a stage across the country, I tell a room full of women the good news. I leave them with one small step to take this unfathomable grace into their bodies — so they can swallow it, chew it, eat it and get it into the tips of their toes: “As you go to sleep tonight, say ‘I am God’s beloved.’” 

And for the moment, I feel it: smiling, remembering, knowing, repeating that this is the story around which my life shall bend. No matter the feelings. No matter the silence. No matter the fear and the dread. No matter the way is hazy and what may have once worked now, no longer works. There is a wall, but the call is always through. 

The long slow movement of through. 

So I hang my hat on words like “even if,” and “still.” We choose to rest in the belovedness of God, even when it doesn’t make sense. 

The final word is and shall be: we are not alone. 

Ashley Hales

Writer and Editor at aahales.com
Ashley Hales holds a PhD in English, is the wife to a church planter, and mom to 4. Her first book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much will be released in October. Connect at AAHales.com and loves to make friends on Twitter.
Ashley Hales

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