We take time off when we’re not feeling well, or we take a vacation to visit friends and family, but rarely we think about taking time away from home for a mental health rest. What I mean by this rest is to slow down our minds by being still in the moment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to slow down. My mind is constantly busy. I can be in a room filled with people and yet not be aware of anyone because my mind is somewhere else. As a result, I decided one day to get away, to slow down my thoughts so I could focus on prayer and listen for wisdom from God. During my time away, I learned three valuable lessons.
Tilghman Island getaway
For my mental health rest, I chose Tilghman Island, Maryland, mainly due to the pictures I saw on the internet. Tilghman Island is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live and is located where the Choptank River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The island is literally where they connect. At the point of connection, there is a bed-and-breakfast called the Black Walnut Point Inn.
When I arrived, I admit, I wasn’t impressed by the inn and the surrounding landscape because the pictures on the Internet didn’t reflect the current environment. They had been taken mainly during the summer. The scene during my visit was of winter: cold, windy with no snow, and the flowers all gone. Furthermore, the inn is a historical site owned by the state. Most of the interior was built in 1847. Not much has changed, and the caretakers are not allowed to make any structural modifications. I personally prefer contemporary interior decor.
I soon changed my attitude when I realized the building wasn’t the reason why people chose the inn. It was the view! I was mesmerized by the sunrises and sunsets and overpowered by the colors I saw. There were pink and purple hues during dawn and yellows and reds at sunset. All I could do was stare at the sky.
Lesson 1: I can’t slow down until I explore my environment
Now let’s go back to the lessons learned. First, my brain has to immerse itself in my environment before it can slow down. There was so much beauty around me that my mind got distracted. I felt like a kid in a candy store who is excited to see the different kinds of candies and doesn’t want to leave until she has tried each flavor. My mind was so diverted that I couldn’t say which was the most important reason for my coming here. I had to see everything before I left.
Instead of slowing down mentally, I went into a picture-taking mode. All I wanted to do was find new things to take pictures off. I even decided to walk through the thick marsh to look for swans, even though I am terrified of snakes. I didn’t find any swans, but my new-found courage to walk through the swamp took me by surprise.
Lesson 2: Focus on the images that interest the mind
After exploring the area, I realized I needed to focus on one particular aspect of the place that captured my mind. For example, there were the sunrises and sunsets I’d mentioned earlier, but the most thought-provoking place was the site of a huge cross. The cross is at Black Walnut Point, the southernmost part of the island, where the Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay come together. I don’t know, and I didn’t think to ask, why the cross was placed at that spot.
I began to leave behind my hectic thoughts and enjoy the majestic splendor of God. Gratitude came alive. With a joyous heart, I started to thank God for being there, for allowing me to immerse myself among his magnificent works. With my grateful heart, I poured out my prayers and petitions to him as an overwhelming sense of calmness came over me.
Lesson 3: Be still to listen for God’s voice
As I stood still under the cross with the sunlight striking the left side of my face, and the river and bay before me I felt God telling me to pay attention to see how this moment, this image of the environment, related to my present life. It was an analogy for my life. Ahead of me was this body of water which represents all my fears. The fears of the unknown. Yes, I have a lot of unknowns in my life. The fear of rejection, failure, lack of confidence, the evils of the world and so forth—they all prevent me from moving forward and sometimes stop me from accepting God’s truths about my life.
The cross, on the other hand, represents love, forgiveness, hope, triumph, and the assurance that I am never alone. I am part of God’s family. Because of his Son’s suffering on the cross, I can conquer any difficulty.
The sunlight that was radiating over my face represented God’s light. A light so powerful that it can banish any darkness. A light that allows me to shine regardless of all the mistakes and messes I made of my life.
I felt God speaking to my heart and saying: Rose, because of the cross, you are with me. I have chosen you to shine. Step into my light. I know you’re fearful of what is ahead, just like this body of water. It looks enormous, but I am still greater. My light is greater than any darkness you have ever feared. I will help you overcome your fears and the obstacles that that block my light. What a rejuvenating mental health experience! But I had to keep still so that my senses could engage in that experience.
As I drove back home, I felt a sense of freedom listening to the below song, Step into the Light by Passion.
Life bombards us with decisions that we have to make every day. It is important to find time to take a mental health rest to declutter our minds and listen for God’s voice. That might mean going away from our familiar environments. The lesson for all of us is that we can’t hear God speak to our hearts if we don’t slow down and keep still. Check out this link for scriptures about stillness and rest.