It felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart felt like it was crashing against my ribcage… pounding hard enough to break something.
My thoughts were scattered. Everything in my body was buzzing, vibrating, trembling with a ferocity I couldn’t figure out how to stop. Trauma was replaying itself in my body. Things that had happened to me years earlier felt like they were happening again. I was terrified. Hadn’t I healed from this?
I sat on a curb outside the church I attend on Monday nights, trying to recall grounding methods a counselor had once taught me. I planted my feet on the ground, laid back on the soft grass, and went through my senses. What could I feel, smell, hear, see?
“You’re safe,” I told myself over and over. I recited Psalm 23. I practiced box breathing. I prayed. A friend called me and prayed. I did everything I possibly could to end the trauma replay. It felt like nothing was working. I was convinced if I could just muster my way through this, I could go back inside and pretend none of it had happened. Feelings of powerlessness collided into me like a tidal wave. I was drowning beneath them.
Help me, I whimpered to God. I need help.
The side door of the church building opened. I wrapped my arms around my knees, bracing myself. I didn’t know if I wanted anyone to see me like this.
A familiar face appeared and sat beside me… and suddenly I wasn’t alone.
It wasn’t immediate, but after sitting on that church curb in the summer air in the presence of someone gentle and kind, I could feel myself start to breathe again.
I had asked God for help, and what I wanted was for my body to find immediate relief, to cease shaking, to restabilize so I could go back inside and pretend everything was fine.
Instead, He sent me a person. Instead, He brought me presence. Instead, He provided a reminder that even in my woundedness – perhaps especially – I was not alone.
My friend K.J. Ramsey writes in her recent book, “Two things bring us back home from the bottom of stress: breath, and the attuned, compassionate presence of someone else.”
When I experience stress, I want to be alone. I want to work through things quickly and independently, proving I don’t need anything or anyone.
But what if God designed us to sit in our woundedness in the company of another? To not try to fix it, stop it, or ignore it, but to embrace our limited, finite humanity in the gentle, safe presence of an all-powerful God and another finite human?
It goes against everything in me to show someone my wounds. But sitting in the compassionate and gentle presence of another person showed me I was safe, exactly as I was.
When you are wounded and shaky, sitting on a curb on a summer night, you don’t want power or force. You want softness. You want gentleness. You want presence.
What strikes me about gentleness is that, contrary to what we often think, it’s not weak or passive. Gentleness is actually controlled strength. God’s gentle presence is with you wherever you go. He is strong and tender, all at once. He is like a father who is large and strong and powerful, but controls His strength as He softly and tenderly wipes the tears off the cheek of a child.
God is so present that He came from heaven to earth to walk with us; so present He gave us His Spirit and is closer to us than the skin on our arms and the air that we breathe; so present that one of His very names – Emmanuel – means He is always with us.
In His strength and gentleness, God bends low to meet you wherever you are.
Suddenly you realize you’ve never been alone.
Ruth Mills says
Simply beautiful! Instructive as well that sometimes all we need do is sit on the curb with each other not trying to explain or fix. Sometimes love is spelled s-i-t i-n s-i-l-e-n-c-e.
Such lovely words. I keep thinking I past the trauma of an event and every so often I find I can barely breathe as I relive it. And I, too, try to do it alone. So, I appreciate these words more than you can know.
d from Canada says
That was a beautiful share Aliza Thank you for making that point & reminding us.
Thank you, Aliza. Wise words.
Janet Williams says
“In His strength and gentleness, God bends low to meet you wherever you are….”
Thank you Aliza.
Blessings to all
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Aliza wrote so beautifully from your heart. When past experience happen again. You can say why why me. I been there with different things in my life. I was looking something up on the internet and came across this true saying I came across it. I knew in that moment it was God speaking to me as it jumped out at me. It said “Don’t worry about today or tomorrow God is already there” How true that saying is no matter what we go through God is there today or tomorrow to help us through it. Help us cope and know he close to us. Giving us the power of his gentle presence to cope. That day I found that saying on line looking for something else. It did stop me in my tracks as I knew then God was speaking to me. To tell me not worry about it today or tomorrow he is all ready there. Keep you all incourge in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx ❤️
Becky L says
Aliza, thanks for sharing your thoughts into words we can read and believe in. In Psalm 91:4-5 it reads “He shall cover with His feathers and under His wings you shall have refuge. His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor the arrows that flies by day.”
I remember that day in 2020 when my daughter was living with a friend in another state and the sad things that were happening made me start praying for them to be safe, etc.in my kitchen by counter top. I started to cry and a few minutes later I felt a hug that was from God. There was no one in the house with me. Who else would it be? Or an angel?
(in)courage has some good stories to read and thankful it still around to read and share.
God bless you all.
Danita Jenae says
There’s an old Iriquois proverb I’ve leaned on for decades, “The greatest strength is gentleness.” After walking through loss and trauma myself, all I can say to this post is yes yes yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes!!! Thank you for putting this truth into words.
This devotional was a blessing. This past weekend, I heard a song, “So Close,” sung by Brandon Lake, that reminds me of God’s tender presence in my life. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Aliza, I understand the stress that a memory from the past can inflict. “Gentleness is Controlled Strength” . Thank you for sharing your heart, your lessoned learned and the reminder that He who never leaves us, is a Gentle healer.
Suzy Maddalena says
This touched me, as the others, the trauma of my childhood that I made into the drama of my adult life.
Beth Williams says
We humans try to fix things in our own strength. That isn’t always feasible. God, alone, knows what we need. Just like Job had three friends come sit with him in silence, sometimes that is all we need. Just a hand to hold/squeeze, or a simple hug. No words need be spoken. Just be willing to be there for your friends. Jesus will always bend low & meet you at your deepest need.