For the Celtic monastic tradition, wandering was a powerful practice, shaping much of their vision of Christian spiritual life. There is a unique term for this Celtic wandering–peregrinatio pro Christo–the call to wander for the love of Christ. It is a phrase without precise definition in English and that means something different than pilgrimage. This wandering is an invitation to let go of our own agendas and discover where God is leading.
–Christine Valtners Painter, The Soul’s Slow Ripening
Hurricanes and Hunkering Down
Hurricane Florence, a force of nature, pummeled a portion of the East Coast this past week.
I watched and listened about her impending fury in a hotel lobby in Nashville. Initially she was headed directly towards Norfolk, VA, and my hometown of Suffolk. I called home and urged my husband to stock up on water and cans of tuna. He was cool, calm and collected.
“Should I come home early?” I asked him, as my flight home was scheduled for the morning when Hurricane FLO was to come on land.
“No, you’ll be fine,” he assured me. “I’m not worried.”
“Well, everyone around me is worried,” I said, becoming more anxious by the hour.
Once again, he remained cool, calm and collected. In a very disarming way, his peace gave me peace.
Hunker, defined, “Apply oneself seriously to a task.”
With every passing hour, I checked in. I did proceed with getting an earlier flight out, just in case, as the airlines urged me to do so.
Over and over again, I heard one phrase repeated, to the point that I had to stop and take note: “You better hunker down.”
Hunker Down. Living on the East Coast, I’ve heard it a million times, but this time, something resonated deep inside my soul.
In true Janell fashion, I googled the definition: “To hold resolutely or stubbornly to a policy, opinion, etc., especially when confronted by criticism, opposition, or unfavorable circumstances (usually followed by down).” It can also mean, “To prepare or stay in a particular place or situation for as long as necessary, esp. for protection or to achieve something.”
Hunkering Down Emotionally
As my heart grew more and more anxious, I knew I had to find a quiet place in order to “hunker down emotionally.” I’ve learned to immediately activate this spiritual practice whenever I grow increasingly “worried” or “stressed” or “flustered.”
So what might this “hunkering down emotionally” actually “look like” in our normal life? In the physical realm, it looks like buying lots of water, piling up on flashlights, batteries and candles. It looks like stocking the pantry with non-perishables just in case electricity goes out for days.
Emotionally, hunkering down looks like:
- Grounding: When it comes to our emotional state, our nervous system runs the show. “Sweep a negative emotion under the rug and you sweep it straight into the nervous system.” There was no way to escape the negative, fear-inducing weather reports or comments from those sincerely concerned about my welfare, so I had to find a way to ground myself, i.e., hunker down my nervous system.
- Breathing Deep: One sure-fire way to reduce your anxiety is to implement breathing exercises. I went into the hotel’s beautiful garden area, leaned in and touched the stunning flora and fauna, and took a few minutes (it doesn’t take long) to breathe and calm myself.
- Spiritual Meditation: My daughter, Candace Rose, has written and recorded several incredibly calming bedtime stories for adults on The Calm App. This app also has short, meditative exercises that help reduce anxiety and stress. I’ve created several for Overcoming Hurtful Words and encourage you to listen to them. I am currently in process of creating even more, so stay tuned! This one practice has helped me immensely and is proven to play a big part in neuroplasticity.
- Prayer: I’m pretty sure I should have put this as #1 (smile). But, oftentimes, we are so worked up that we can’t settle down enough to actually formulate any prayer at all. So, in light of this happening in my own life, I offered 1-3 first. Once I’ve settled down my hyper-active nervous system, I can actually be quiet before God. In that quiet, I recall the story of Jesus calming the storm: Mark 4:35-41. I read it over and over again, in LectioDivinaPDF, until the emotional hurricane storming my soul quiets down. It works. I promise.
Be Still My Soul
I woke up the next morning with a beautiful text from my husband. It read, “Praying for a calm day.”
His strong words meant so much to me.
The primary reason I was stressed to change my flight was my full schedule. I had a television interview set for 4pm, with my new flight scheduled to depart at 6:50pm. A little too close for comfort.
Yet, my husband’s confidence and his prayer for “a calm day,” gave me immense confidence and enabled me to hunker down emotionally and achieve the goals I had for this important trip.
I’m so happy to say that the day went exactly like my husband projected. My interview started exactly at 4pm. We taped two segments efficiently. Nashville traffic was minimal. I returned my rental car and got to the airport in record time. Smooth as silk. When my husband picked me up at midnight, all I could do was smile quietly and thank God for his faithfulness.
I was home.
Hunkering Down Takes Practice
Hunkering down doesn’t come easily. It takes practice. Hurricane Florence wasn’t my family’s first hurricane.
We’ve been through quite a few.
The hunkering down never gets easier, but each time our faith in God grows stronger and deeper, making any and all fear a little less scary. Faith begins to quiet the emotional storm and brings a deep, inner calm that everything is going to be alright.
You might be right in the midst of an emotional storm today. May I speak these healing words over you and yours:
Help my friend lean in and “hunker down” today.
May a heavenly calm surround her all the day long.
May her anxious heart and ruffled emotions find solace in your presence.
And may she find her way home. To You.