The waning days of winters can be especially trying. There is an urgency to finish tidying up your inner space, shedding layers and a calling to feel the rays of warm sunshine on faces. There is a sense that enough time has been spent inventorying the situation and thinking about what steps we must take to improve our lives. Essentially, we have gotten cabin fever of the soul and yearn for the new shoots of hope and promise to break through the cold, dark ground. We can feel lost when these shoots are slow to break through and frustrated with the additional work of tending to these vulnerable seedlings.
Christians are familiar with the story of Jacob who felt alone and lost after manipulating a blessing from his father that was birth righted to his brother Esau. Esau was so angry about being defrauded that he vowed to kill Jacob. To escape this fate, Jacob quickly fled, forced to abandon everything he knew and steeled himself for a long journey in the hopes of seeking refuge with distant family. During the journey, he received a prophet dream of a ladder with angels going up and down with ease. At the pinnacle was God. God spoke and told Jacob that he would never leave him and would allow Jacob to flourish in this new land.
When Jacob woke, he saw his situation from all angles. Now he had a sense of peace knowing God had not left him and would aid him in this new phase of his life. When no one else seemed to be there, God would always nurture him and guide his life’s journey forward.
When we suffer trauma in our lives, like sexual assault, we are called to both name and claim the people and forces that keep us grounded and inspire us to break through any barriers blocking us from wholeness. During this season where I feel lost and bound up by the physical pain and fatigue, I draw strength from the Divine and the rhythms of nature. I think of the first flowers of spring, like crocuses that must not just burst forth from the hard protection of the seed coat, but then break through the hard, frozen ground. This new shoot is then vulnerable to the elements and reliant on the sun to help it blossom and flourish.
Similar to the crocus, we must break forth from the seed coat of our pain and hurt. Next, we must be brave and break through the unforgiving ground of limiting beliefs and unhelpful interpersonal dynamics. We must tap into forces that uplift us and bring us encouragement, joy, and peace. Whether that is a Divine force, a close family member, treasured friend, place of refuge, or even hobby, cultivate this support system with renewed vigor. Finally, when you feel a bit more settled in yourself, use this strength and light to help blaze a trail for people that might also be feeling lost and alone.
But how can one find the trail, when we ourselves struggled so mightily to get our bearings?
Returning to Jacob, he paid it forward for his fellow travelers by using the stone he used as a pillow, and created a stone mound, or “cairn.” For millennia, cairns have been used as markers to denote sites of importance. They can mark a sacred location, serve as a memorial or provide a direction. Cairns implore travelers to take note of and honor this space. They speak to the perseverance and commitment of those who erected them. This space gave someone a sense of meaning, purpose, and value.
In modern society, cairns are used to mark a trailhead and guide people along a safe path. As people who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse, we must embrace the message of the cairn and aid fellow survivors and thrivers who feel lost on their journey. Without this tangible sign, people could become even more disorientated and experience the unnecessary stress of helplessness and hopelessness. We must work to magnify our moments of clarity, peace and empowerment to shine more light on the harshness and shame that surrounds the current narrative of sexual abuse.
Use the force that helps steer you through the roughest of waters to remind yourself that even in moments of feeling lost and alone, there are signals and helpers along the way that can help you “find” yourself. When you take a deep, cleansing breath, you can gain new clarity and peace. You can discover wellsprings of support that help you better listen to your inner wisdom and help you thrive. Although it takes immense courage and faith to display vulnerability, this act provides profound healing for both you and people you encounter.
Even if you grew up lacking unconditional love and direct support from those meant to care for you, you can flourish. We might not have always been seen for our unique and vivacious selves, but today is a new day. Begin by using the self-care skills you honed during winter to break forth through the dark, frozen ground. When you feel more solidly rooted, pay it forward. Celebrate this profound victory and help lead others on the way towards lightness, healing and thriving.
Share with us via email, social blog or blog comment about the cairns you have found in your life and how you nurture the new shoots of rebirth in your life – your stories may help inspire others.