Be Our Guest: Hannah Flaten
My name is Hannah Flaten and I was recently asked to write a guest blog for The Dented Fender. At first, I wondered what someone like me could possibly contribute to such an insightful and spiritually engaging blog. I’m 21 years old, I rarely go to church, and I spend more time thinking about dogs than anything else. I was initially inclined to say no to guest writing. I’m in the process of wrapping up my first semester at Ohio State—I recently transferred from Miami University (think bleak Western Ohio, not vibrant South Florida)—and have a lot on my plate. I pushed the blog to the back of my mind and tried to focus on the final projects, essays, and exams that are fast approaching. Instead of focusing strictly on school, I found myself constantly coming back to the idea of a blog post. I kept my own blog a few years ago when I was sick and it provided me with both a creative outlet and a deeper sense of purpose. Since coming to OSU, I haven’t had either of those things and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was asked to write for a reason. So, with that, here is a glimpse at some of the dents in my own fender.
I have always had a hard time sitting still. I was a rambunctious, bubbly child who probably only avoided trouble because I was exceptionally bright for my age, and I don’t mean that in a snooty, ‘spoke-four-languages-straight-out-of-the-womb’ way. In kindergarten, I was reading Charlottes Web and Harry Potter and analog clocks. ANALOG CLOCKS!! Honestly, I can barely read those now so how smart was I really? As I progressed through elementary school I continued to bounce from thing to thing. One year it was gymnastics, the next it was a creative writing class held every Saturday morning, the following was an all boys flag football team. I was never truly still during my childhood years, which is hardly noteworthy for a young girl with undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As I grew older, however, my classmates began to settle into their own being. They found things that interested them and chose their lunch table companions wisely. Meanwhile, I would bop around from table to table, never quite settling on one friend group or one particular interest.
In junior high, I started spending my summers with family and friends in Iowa and Minnesota. I loved my visits to the deep Midwest because I never had time to fully settle in one spot. I would arrive, wreak havoc for a week, and move on to my next destination. I didn’t settle, I didn’t stop, I didn’t think. When I was in high school and the rest of my peers continued to develop their own sense of self and establish tightknit circles, I was trying new sports and picking things out of my braces and stillnot sitting still. After a few years in high school, the hyperactivity shifted to restlessness. I soon decided to transfer to Culver Academy, an Indiana boarding school that offered a whole new world and a whole new reason to start over. I truly enjoyed my time there and I still feverishly rave about it to anyone who will listen. My time there flew by: I never had time to settle, to stop, to think.
The next step for me was college. I was excited to have yet another reason to start over in a new place with new people. I hit the ground running and enjoyed the new freedoms and fun that life as a freshman had to offer. This new world spun to a halt my second semester when my lungs collapsed from a virus that forced me to stop school for an entire year as I made my way in and out of various hospitals. While the sickness itself was a challenge, the hardest part was that I was forced to sit still. I finally had to settle, to stop, to think. I learned a lot about myself in that year and saw a pattern in my life; I was never content with where I was. I was never content with who I was.
It was like I always wanted more. I kept trying to fill myself up and try new things and go different places but I always found myself struggling to sit still. When I got to OSU, I wasn’t sure how to enter this new world. I was no longer the only new girl in the high school dormitory, I was no longer surrounded by eager freshman desperate to make friends and go to parties where no one knew their name, and I was no longer sick and able to hide behind the medicine. I was just another face among one of the largest student bodies in the country. In this realization that I’m not always the blooming center of attention that I should be (kidding), I felt myself being pulled to something bigger than me. As I allowed myself to move closer to this feeling, I found myself becoming more and more still. I didn’t feel like I wanted anything more. I also realized that this is the feeling my mom had so often described to me when she talked about her relationship with God.
I decided to write about sitting still because I think it’s something that has been relatively abandoned in today’s society. Everything is fast food and instant message and two-day shipping. We so often forget that where we are right now is okay, that we can stop and sit still and bask in the glow of uncertainty and chaos. That very glow is the light of God, the same light He sheds on all of us in times of immense joy and comfort. His light is never dimmed, although it may appear filtered by different circumstances, which is why it is so important to settle, to stop, to think. The different filters we place on His light are simply our own projections blocking the true radiance of his love. We get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and remove the opaque filter the hustle and bustle puts between us and God. We forget that the gloomy storms are still part of the same sky that casts rainbows above our heads, and that weather is only temporary, the sky itself, unchanging. We can continue to search for rainbows after the storm, but it is also important to know that the storm is okay too. Instead of jumping from one thing to the next and always searching for that instant fulfillment, I’ve learned that I can be okay right where I am because I know that both God and the sky are always above me, even if their light is dimmed. Although I still have relatively severe ADHD, I have finally learned to sit still.
For Further Thought: In Psalm 46:10, God tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Message Bible says it this way: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Take time this holiday season to step out of the craziness, be still, and connect with the God we’re worshipping this Christmas. Let Him give you that immense joy and comfort only He can give.