I experience tinnitus.
If you're not familiar, tinnitus is the perception of ringing in the ears. Usually a person only notices when everything else becomes quiet. Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a condition in and of itself. It means that some combination of time and trauma have taken a toll on your ears.
I don't hear it throughout the day. My pickup truck is too loud. If I'm in a coffee shop the white noise drowns it out. Even a simple conversation is enough to overshadow it.
But I hear it when everything gets quiet.
In short, when the noise stops the ringing of the past kicks in.
A couple weeks ago I noticed a waitress cleaning the spaces in between the planks of an outdoor table. She was careful and methodical.
"You must have plenty of time to think when you do that," I said.
"Oh no!" she replied. "I try to stay as busy as possible. I can't be alone with my thoughts."
I was shocked.
What on earth has caused you so much trouble that you're afraid of a bit of silence and self-reflection?
Who broke up with you?
What did your dad do?
What crime did you commit?
In the moment I had no idea what to say. I wanted tell her it would be alright and her pain wouldn't swallow her if she made space for it.
But I suppose I could say it now. To me. To you. To anyone else who needs to hear.
Pain doesn't have to swallow you whole. You can stop and let it exist. You can experience it, embrace it, let it take its course.
Actually, let me tell you this: you can't avoid pain. You can shove it aside, but it will only fester.
I once heard a story of a little boy who pooped in a vent and covered it with stuffed animals. It was concealed but it didn't go away and it sure stinked.
I'm not sure how to get rid of tinnitus. But when you get quiet and pain starts to surface I can give you the first step: notice it.
That's your job, human. Welcome that coarse feeling. Tell it "Hi, I see you hiding behind a bush, but we need to hug at some point. It may take while and that's okay, but you can't stay behind a bush forever."
Here's the beautiful thing: God is light. As we surrender places of darkness, he fills them.
Maybe you need to take a break from your iPhone and stare at the ceiling for a while and notice what surfaces.
Maybe you need to loosen up your schedule so you have a chance to notice.
Maybe the noise underneath is so loud you don't even need figure out what it is. You just need to stop running from it.
Maybe it's time to let someone know what's going on.
I am not promising a life free of pain, but I am saying there is light for your darkness.
God, if I get quiet the fear comes up, the pain comes up. I don't want to avoid it. I want light there instead. Please help me. Amen.