The frigid winter breeze blew through me as I walked against it. My book-bag heavy on my back, I headed almost blindly to the library. My face numb, I continued forward, my head down. The continuous list of things to do rolled through my brain. Two papers, a test, call Brittaney, dinner at five, colloquium on Friday. My mind was tired, and my heart even more so; yet I pushed forward and kept walking straight, knowing I needed something to change. Catching sight of a divergent path, I spontaneously turned down this walk and headed toward the back of the chapel. The wind blowing hard against me as I pulled open the heavy door, I stepped quickly into the small hallway. I hesitated a moment, then opened the next door, flipped on the light, and walked to the middle of the room.
The last few months had been difficult ones. Not as a result of some extraordinary circumstance or unexpected sorrow. No, I knew my enemy well, and was well acquainted with this pain. The thing that made this time so hard was simply that I was exhausted. For too many years, life had been a cycle of mind-numbing highs and heart-wrenching lows. Last year, I left school happy. I loved God, loved life, and wanted to share this with the world. Over the next three months, my family and I each took turns breaking down this confidence and whittling away at my advancements. I returned to Ashland seeking a haven. I found a heavy course load, two jobs, and no respite from the pressures of home. For months, I still fought to regain the happiness I had found. I did everything right. I went to class, prayed, worked hard, attended church, and read the Bible. What was I missing? I didn’t know, and I found myself standing in the middle of this small white room, cold and tired.
My senses were overwhelmed by the almost too quick change in temperature and the unbroken silence. I took in the room, seeing the few chairs, two desks, papered walls, and small cross with a sense of discomfort. CDs were piled and falling next to a small radio. I walked over to them and began to file through; this casual action masking the fact that neither artists nor albums were familiar to me. Arbitrarily selecting one, I put it in the CD player and hit play. The first notes filtered through the room; then the words began sweet and untainted, the melody rising in the background. The notes fell and rose, gracefully expressing the emotions I so ungracefully felt. Tears filled my eyes and began to fall down my cheeks. Heavy and silent they fell, as I collapsed into the nearest seat, my book bag falling next to me. Pulling my legs under me, I let myself simply cry. My tears soon turned to prayer. "Help me Lord", I whispered. I repeated it, quieter and louder, emphasizing each word as I went. My words hung in the air for a moment and then disappeared. This was the first true prayer I had offered in so long. What drove me here, the pressures and the obligations, did not disappear. My problems, and the pain they caused, didn’t fly away so easily. Yet it felt good not to be carrying this weight alone.
Time passed, and eventually I had to leave. Standing up, I turned off the music, flipped off the light, and headed out the door, pulling my jacket tight around me. Walking away from that room, I did not know that it would become part of my daily life. But it did. Hours would be spent there, more tears would be shed, and more prayers would be spoken. It would become a place for me to hide, find comfort, and be safe. This room would reveal to me the true mystery of God’s ways. I would come to find that when you pray to Him for angels, He sends you acquaintances; when you desire from Him strength, He sends you pain. And when you cry out to Him for a sanctuary from the winter, He sends you four walls and a prayer.
Valentina Wysocki is a sophomore from Lorain, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.