One day late last fall, as the bright leaves of autumn were twittering down in their joyous dives, I noticed my tears. I had been noticing their arrival quite often. I was reminded of decades earlier when a dear coworker softly gave encouragement and affirmation that I was the tears in the body of Christ. It was a validation during a time when I sought to dismiss my tears…my heart.
At that time, I was often frustrated with their unwelcome arrival during worship and when speaking. I must have been quite perplexed with my tears because I can recall another conversation with a visiting missionary. She had told me to be thankful for my tears, as she was no longer able to cry. I couldn’t imagine a life without tears.
These conversations kept me company as I married a seminary student and we launched into full-time ministry. Life was blissful and an adventure. And without much intention on my part, years passed by quickly.
So, it was a shock when I began to realize there was a restlessness growing within me. That the routines, activities and relationships that had always worked become void. When I was desperately searching and unable to obtain a contentment. When the hard things of life knocked me off my foundation. When I noticed that the tears were gone.
Looking back now, I know I was cocooned in a wilderness season. I had been invited into a sacred journey of divine transformation and would be called into a new way of being. Yet, at that time, I didn’t have the words for it. It took a while to uncover the grieving that needed to happen in my life and to settle into that space of wait.
And while all that inner turmoil was happening, I played my part—my roles. I smiled and gained weight on the outside yet felt sluggish and indifferent on the inside.
In 2009, I was introduced to some spiritual practices at a Southern District Conference pastors’ retreat. They began to birth a dream to be trained as a spiritual director. In 2014, fruition came, and I started a two-year spiritual direction training program in 2015. At last! I had words and community to express my struggles. It was the birthing to come into a fullness of self as God’s beloved daughter. All of me. An invitation to not be filtered in fear or others’ expectations. Time for me to find myself. My voice. My joy. My confidence. My freedom. My uniqueness in Christ.
Returning to those dancing autumn leaves. One morning, sitting out back in deep admiration of God the Creator, I heard the song I Arise by Keith Duke. The words and phrases expressed themselves deep within me as I did a lectio divina of sorts on their words.
I arise with the light of morning.
Called to journey where I may.
Hear us witness to the birthing,
of this new and wondrous day.
I arise and face the sunrise,
with the wind upon my face.
Know God’s breath, divine within me.
Grounded on this sacred place.
I arise with a cloak of healing.
Tempered by my time of rest.
Called to journey with the Spirit,
On this sacred healing quest.
On this sacred healing quest.
As this article comes to print, I will be mindful of the one-year anniversary with my bladder cancer diagnosis. Last January, I was ready to come alive in the fullness of myself. I was ready and willing, yet abruptly halted. There are stories to tell another time. For now, the words, “I arise with a cloak of healing. Tempered by my time of rest. Called to journey with the Spirit, on this sacred healing quest” are divine and inviting for me. They illicit tears, and I welcome their return. I can without hesitation thank the Trinity for my healing—physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Chandelle Claassen is a certified professional life coach, a member of the USMB LEAD Coaching team and has led several LEAD Cohorts. She is a trained spiritual director through The Schools of Sustainable Faith. She lives in North Newton, Kansas, with her husband, Russ, who is the youth pastor at Koerner Heights Church and also the Southern District Conference youth minister. They have two boys and enjoy being an active family in their community.