This story is by guest writer, Carrie Beth Davis. Her story is featured here as a collection from The Holy Ordinary Collective: A podcast + blog community of beautiful stories the articulate God in our regular spaces of life. You can listen to their story and interview on the podcast, and read more about them at the bottom of this page.
I grumbled when I saw the patches of ice on my windshield. I was already running late for work, and I didn’t want to make the time to go back inside for warm water to throw on my windshield. I reached out and touched the ice and felt its thin fragility beneath my fingers. I nodded triumphantly, hopped in the car, started the engine, turned on the defrost, and flicked on my windshield wipers to their highest speed.
The ice was spotty, so I was able to peek around it to see my way down the long, winding driveway. I trusted the combination of the heat from the defroster and the friction of the movement of the windshield wipers would clear it before I made it to the highway. But the more the windshield wipers worked, the more stubborn the ice became. It was loose enough that it was moveable, but it was literally moving millimeter by millimeter across the windshield. Every pass of the wipers moved the patches of ice one teeny, tiny bit closer to the edge of the window.
As I considered how slow things were progressing for my sometimes hurry-up-and-get-done-already nature, my mind wandered back to a time this summer when another bit of progress was just as slow…
There was a week this summer where it rained every day. That’s not unusual for a Georgia summer, but I still remember it just as clearly as if it were yesterday. The week offered a beautiful respite in the form of late afternoon rainstorms and thunderstorms that smelled earthy green and swirled cooler air through the sticky, stifling summer days. And just as with any typical summer thunderstorm, the wind blew, covering anything that stood still with debris.
I grabbed a broom one of those late summer evenings and stepped outside to sweep the back deck. It was completely covered in leaves and pine needles and other random bits of trash, and I just felt this pressing need to clear the space. I needed it to be clean. Maybe what I really needed was a distraction—anything to keep my hands busy so that maybe—just maybe—my scattered mind would still. I was lost in my thoughts, my mind circuitous—twisty and loopy with thoughts and feelings I was having a hard time untangling.
You see, I’m a feeler. And an over-thinker. I identify as an Enneagram Four, and most people joke that Fours don’t just have feelings—they are their feelings. That’s been my story most of my life. I feel deeply, and I have this innate and inexplicable need to examine and experience the full range of my emotions. I want to know what I feel, why I feel it, and decide if I need to stay in that emotion or find a way out.
Sometimes being a Four comes with a heavy price tag—it’s often hard for me to get out of my heart or head and into the present of my life. Experiences and interactions and conversations can trigger me into a deep, sometimes dark place. I tumble headlong into my thoughts and feelings, and I quickly find myself knotted up around them. When I get lost in my thoughts, I can spend hours—sometimes even days—trying to make sense of how my current emotions fit into my story and whatever the world around me has thrown my way.
I needed to smooth things out in my mind so I could have a normal evening with friends and not stay lost in my head, so I grabbed the broom and went to work on the deck. What should have been a quick task took much longer than expected. For every piece of trash I corralled into a pile, it seemed like five more were either wedged between the cracks of the deck or splayed and stuck to the few stubborn puddles lingering on the surface. I worked at clearing that trash-strewn deck for what felt like hours—sweeping and re-sweeping, going back over the trouble spots that just wouldn’t clear again and again.
As I swept and re-swept, the Lord showed me how my physical actions were mirroring what I’d been doing in the spirit. Earlier that same week, I’d felt this crazy, relentless drive to push myself toward the uncomfortable. Toward some things that ruffled my spirit and sent me to the cobwebby places in my mind. Toward the things that made me question my security and firm footing. That summer week, I purposefully forced myself to get close to things that I knew would brush up against the raw places in me that were in desperate need of healing. The places that needed to be exposed to what made them weak. Jealousy. Loss of control. Fear of the unknown. Feelings of unworthiness. Places where I fully felt the twin lies of not-enough and always-too-much. I was forcing myself to face things I didn’t want to face so I could see growth and healing replace the ugly bits of debris in my life.
As I swept into the corners of my heart and mind, I could feel my flesh reach out and grab hold of the things I needed to brush away just like the cracks in the wood and the slowly-evaporating puddles grabbed the pieces of trash that escaped the broom. I found it so frustrating to step back and still see those stubborn few pieces littering my soul, but I knew I had to slow down and trust the process. The friction of my spiritual broom was still doing its job—collecting the debris that smattered my life.
As I made my way down my driveway that cold morning, peeking through the patches of ice and remembering the summer, I knew the Lord was connecting the February ice patches and the summer debris-filled back deck for a reason.
Just that week, I’d lamented to a friend and mentor of mine about my own struggle with emotional equilibrium during a recent hard situation, “I just don’t understand. One minute I feel the full release that comes from having dealt with my pain and confusion. I find myself feeling so even and in such a steady place of trust—like I’ve conquered my own emotions once and for all and have stepped fully in the covering of trust. And the next minute I’m trembling and feel myself shifting to a place of uncertainty again.”
As we talked, she reminded me of the ebb and flow of the Spirit—and the rhythmic nature of deep spirit work. We’re always in process, always becoming. Deep spirit work requires deep commitment. Any time we need to do heart work, hard work is at hand.
We put our hands to the broom, we look inward, and we start the movements that feel like second nature to us because we’ve done them so often. Following the movement of the Spirit in our life takes time. And sometimes it takes a second or third or tenth sweep to clear the space.
Carrie Beth is a believer, writer, dreamer, deep-thinker, question-asker, laugher, daughter, teacher, and friend. She is a high school English teacher by day, and when she’s not teaching her students how to write, she’s chasing her own words across a page. She’s passionate about self-reflection as a tool for spiritual growth, the Enneagram (she identifies as a 4 and have ALL the feelings), emotional health, and looking for God in her everyday moments.
You can visit Carrie Beth’s website: www.carriebethdavis.com, and read more of her beautiful words. Find her on instagram @carriebethdavis.