Amidst the silence

Hurry is a violence on the soul.” This is a quote from John Mark Comer’s remarkable book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”. So many times I get myself somewhat lost in the depths of a book, come out the other side of it and declare “This changed my life” only to forget the quality of the points months down the line. This book, however, is one that I yearn to have actually changed my life. Every page my eyes set upon, I found myself drinking in the words, it spoke directly to my heart and gave me the stark realisation that hurry was destroying my soul.

Hurry is a violence on the soul

John Mark Comer

We find ourselves in a season like no other. A season that has forced many of us to come face to face with emotions that we may have tried time and time again to escape from. You see slowing down has a habit of stripping away those things that took up every inch of our being. Things, though not necessarily bad, have taken up home in our lives and have become idols, these are habits, things or activities that once upon a time, we could never have imagined giving up, be that work, money, exercise, busyness. For many, we have been forced into a time of lockdown where engaging in these things have become somewhat limited and we are now forced to stare at the state of our own souls. Slowing down for me has never been something I have taken seriously. For quite some years I have sped through life engaged in countless activities, having lived out a job in personal training and N.G.O work. I find myself constantly on the move, coupled with a deep love and passion for fitness and lack of ability to say no. We have a millenial who finds her self worth and identity in the doing. I have acknowledged this for quite some time now and recognise the fear of losing control. If I take myself back to a time where my way of dealing with pain and trauma was to medicate with self sabotage, I see here that I had no structure in place. The only bit of control I had during this time was the eating disorder that I took solace in which then rapidly spiralled. The fear of going back to this state of being has gripped me, hence the repeated efforts to live my life by a strict set of protocols and schedules forgetting sometimes that I have a creator God who has both rescued and healed me from this life and I can rest deeply in him. Many times the desire to cram and control everything in my life takes over and I feel that the more I do, the more loved and accepted I will be. Pretty warped right? If COVID-19 has taught me anything it’s that my life simply cannot carry on the way it was. 

I have a creator God that has both rescued and healed me from this life

I currently find myself back in the UK about to enter the 8th week of lockdown. For the first time in my life I am faced with forced time and a God crying out for the attention of my soul, I have time to rest, time to heal and time to reflect. 

There was a lot of stress that had built up over the past 6months with my move from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with a final disaster of visa problems which meant I had to leave the country. Ordinarily I would have popped to a neighbouring asian country, applied for a new visa and travelled back into Thailand but as was the ever increasing problem of CoronaVirus, borders all around me were closing which meant the UK was the only option for me. Coming back sat heavy on my heart initially. The thought of leaving my new community in Chiang Mai for an unknown length of time was heartbreaking; now reflecting on things, I see the beauty in the disaster. The UK, whilst having a ton of virus cases, was indeed a safe bet for me and God foresaw this. I am blessed to have a home that I can come back to with family and friends that were waiting to speak life over me and allow me time to process and heal. Of course all these conversations have taken place via Zoom which, for an extrovert whose off-the-scale love language is physical touch, has been incredibly hard. Despite having a routine that has me exercising in the garden daily, journalling, praying and walking. I miss the human touch of loved ones. I miss the feel of a barbell cycling through my hands, but as of now, such is life. In the quiet of the morning, I have sat with God and questioned him, I have wept, I have been angry more times than I can begin to tell you – and yet his peace descends on me in moments I need it most. There are so many questions unanswered and pain that is yet to heal but I know deep in my soul that it’s going to require more slowing down and more moments of silence and stillness to hear those whispers my heart so desires. 

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain” The Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the lord passed by and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the Earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”

1 Kings 19: 11-12. 

To me, God’s voice is gentle and the scripture above echos this. It won’t always force us to stand to attention, the only way we have the delight to hear the kind words it has to say is to stop and listen and my gosh we are going to have to fight with all we’ve got to make ourselves come to that holt. We are so bombarded with distractions. My mum and I are constantly talking about our “washing machine brains” which is such an apt way to describe what goes on in my head especially during times of struggle. I have by no means mastered this. I am only beginning to scratch the surface but what I do know is that it is time for me to slow down. If I have any hope of fighting for the cause I so desperately believe in and bringing hope to the vulnerable then it’s time I start to listen to my own soul and admit that this life is absolutely not something I can control. This is a journey I am willing to fight for and see the beauty that awaits before me.

I believe fear is at the root of fighting against stillness. I know this because it’s something I have experienced over the past 8 weeks. As I mentioned, during this pandemic, I find myself with a ton of time to truly sift through the chaotic mass of thoughts that run rampant in my brain. An issue that I have come to face is the fine boundary between a gift and a passion that God instills in us, becoming an idol. Fitness always was and always will be a deep love of my very being. I love the strength it gives me and the sense of empowerment. I thrive in the community of fitness and being surrounded by fellow athletes that love each other so well and celebrare from the smallest to the most epic of achievements. I know in my spirit that I have been called to use this passion and gifting to bring hope and healing to those around me. To people who have spent their life in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction, to women who have endured abuse and trauma heaped upon their lives like burning coals. To walk along this journey of discovery and healing with them fills my soul. It is the arena that God has called me into and for that I am so eternally thankful, so what I am about to share makes me both cautious and wary.

If we are not careful, the gifts we are given can so easily be tainted. How do you find the balance between thriving in the arena in which you love, to using it as a place of security and protection? This is something I have desperately had to assess since having my outlet taken away from me. Not being able to train and compete in the way in which I have become accustomed has not been easy. Yes, I am finding creative ways to move my body but the intensity of my training has for sure gone down. There are moments where I find myself panicking about this. I scroll Instagram only to see my fellow athletes lifting heavy barbells, tracking calories, raring to go for the time the competition floor opens up again. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there are still the moments where my panic of not being good enough takes over. It comes with the illusion that this gift was mine to control, this body was mine to scrutinise. What I am certain of is that God blessed me with this beautiful gift to bring love and healing to those around me. Yes he loves to see me smash it on the competition floor but it was never just about that. How I choose to hold on to that gift tells a lot about the state of my heart. Will I choose to bully myself in this season and hold myself to a standard that was never really there in the first place or will I choose to sit in the hurt, accept the reality of the situation I currently find myself in and let it go? My body brings honour to God and he adores to see me rest it. I am enough on and off the competition floor and his love for me penetrates deeper than anything I could ever comprehend. This is a realisation I have to allow myself to sit in, to get quiet and listen to the small, still voice in the wind. 

How do you find the balance between thriving in the arena in which you love, to using it as a place of security and protection?

Before I leave there is one last thing that I need I touch on. I did an Instagram post just the other day about an issue that has seriously played upon my heart and this is the issue of domestic abuse during lockdown. Recently,everytime I pray and ponder, it’s something I cannot get away from and brings me to tears at the most unexpected of times. We are indeed seeing the rise of domestic abuse cases at this time. The helpline Refuge, a domestic abuse charity for women and children, has seen calls rise by 700% during this period. This. Is. Shocking! I cannot imagine the pain of those most vulnerable who are stuck in their homes during this time when places such as work and school were previously their safe havens. I urge you to think on this and find a way of supporting charities such as these if it’s on your hearts to do so. It rips away at my heart when I think about this and just hope and pray that soon enough we will walk away from this season with a deeper compassion for the humans we share this earth with. I meander my way though these months not knowing when I will return to my home in Chiang Mai but I trust in a power far greater than myself to navigate this journey with me. I pray that you are safe and know that the day I get to hug you and sit with you over a coffee will be a day of such deep, deep joy for me. 

Stay safe, 

Love Ashleigh 

It isn’t simplicity: it’s freedom and focus on what matters most. It isn’t even slowing; it’s to be present, to God, to people, to the moment.”- John Mark Come

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