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How to Wait in a Consultation Room

1.     Find a pen in your purse, and pick up the Avengers coloring book. Flip through until you find an unused page. Tear out the one of the Black Panther standing before a crowd with bold type on the bottom of the page, “Black Panther Protects Wakanda.”

2.     Write the date on the top of the page, October 29. Two days before Halloween. Look around, and begin writing what you see. Beige walls. Unadorned. Black shelves that are mostly empty besides the three coloring books, some markers, a box of Kleenex, and a very few Duplos.

3.     Notice the chairs. They are the heavy ones, hard to scoot, like the chairs in many psychiatric settings. Not easily throwable. Wish you didn’t know this. Write that these chairs are secure and certain for those who enter this room, whose worlds are not. Well, that’s a positive and poetic spin on the furniture.

4.     Now move on to yourself. Write it. “I am tired, always tired.” Notice the irony of these words written next to a symbol of strength and heroism. Go deeper. “There seems to be no answer, no long-term help. No doorway to flourishing or even just functioning.” Sit with that. The lack of strength. The lack of hope. Remember words you read recently in a book. Something about the fertile void, a time of emptiness, and a sense of being stripped of vitality.[1] Yes, that rings true. [1] Beth and David Booram, When Faith Becomes Sight, Opening Your Eyes to God’s Presence All Around You (Downers Grove: IVP Formatio, 2019)


5.     Notice the tightness in your chest. Your irregular breathing. Go to the prayer that you have prayed so many times in so many places. A simple one, stripped down to the essential.


Breathe in slowly,

“Jesus”

Breathe out,

“Have mercy”

Breathe in,

“Jesus”

Breathe out,

“have mercy”

 

Repeat until the tightness loosens a little and you feel your breath.

 

6.     Keep writing what you know, words that are stable, words that are as solid in your life as these heavy chairs are right now, words that you have prayed over the years, through all kinds of feelings and places.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

7.     Feel the longing for all of this. You do want. Write what you know is coming, the words that are so familiar that the cadence of them in your mind is somehow a comfort, an acknowledgment of being seen and known. 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil

For thou art with me

Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

8.     Acknowledge that this room is the valley of the shadow of death. There is no pretending here. No putting on a bright smile or a Blessed hashtag. Maybe the very spareness of this room is a mercy. The beige walls and the lack of any beauty or comfort are in perfect alignment with all that you bring, all that you carry.

9.     Keep writing through the Psalm, through the overflowing tables and cups and anointing. Flip the page over and keep writing,

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

 

10.  Rest in the cadence of the words. Feel the juxtaposition. The valley of the shadow of death. Goodness and mercy will follow me. The valley of the shadow of death. Goodness and mercy will follow me. Remember the words of a wise friend. The council to be open to all that is hard, to what is out of your control, to the feeling of helplessness. To hold your hands open to this moment and whatever will come when the door opens.





Michelle Shappell Harris, ThD, MFA, has lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana since 2012, after nineteen years abroad in France and Gabon. Her doctoral work focused a theology of hospitality demonstrated through community-based welcome of newcomers to the US. Michelle is

passionate about spiritual care for those walking in and out of consultation rooms and is available for speaking and writing. You can reach her at michelleshappellharris@gmail.com.

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