My friend lies broken in a hospital bed across oceans and continents set adrift by her loss. I’ve sent prayers into the heavens on days when the clouds hover, petitioning for miracles, the kind that pop up in two tiny pink lines and no more blood. The kind that come in flutters and heartbeats and lab test results delivered with a smile instead of a somber tone. The kind that pushes out with life and arches backs wide and straddles miracle and wonder and life.
But she’s left with why? It’s not an answer I have, it’s not an answer she knows.
I wish I could gather my strength like wings, weave hefty breaths under sinew and stretch my arms out and command a stop to the pain. I wish I could play God when He seems to have it wrong. When this tiny life could have been saved, but was not.
I wish I could gather words and quilt them together into a story with such heft it would warm that cold hollow.
There are barren spaces among us. In us. I know the hollow well.
How do we speak to the void we feel when prayers seem to echo unheard and vacancies take place in our hearts?
I feel the loss in my bones and I find myself weeping for a child I’ve never known. For a mother that’s yet to become. If she were here or I were there we’d share tears. I’d sit by her side and hold her hand and cry with her. I am realizing the importance of weeping with those who weep.
I am learning to love in the way I long to be loved. I am learning to love with a ministry of tears.
A few days ago, I gathered my things and lugged the suitcase out of the garage navigating my way through stacked cardboard boxes and piles of things we’re getting rid of, the neon garage sale stickers slapped onto items as they’re tossed aside to make room for the change that’s coming. I am stifled by the reminder that we’re moving and this four-day jaunt across the country will do little to help me get my to-do list checked off.
I drag the luggage up the stairs and lay it open on my bed. My closet is mostly packed away by now. I’ve a few dresses hanging still, ones I wear over and over, and I toss them in. They’re the same ones I wore last year to the (in)courage retreat. I will be the same but different. Last year I came without need or want. This year I come famished and with so much need I wonder if it lingers on my skin like a haunted thing reeking with longing.
This year has spread me thin. I am contrary. Worn thin like a wisp, sheer as gossamer yet weighted down with hefty burdens. I come weary and raw, tears just shy of the world always at the ready. I know to pack waterproof mascara if I pack anything at all.
My friend asks me why I’m stalling, why the suitcase sits open and empty at 11 pm when I have to leave by 3 am to make my flight. I tell her I’m having anxiety and I don’t want to go.
“What’s the scariest part for you?” she asks.
“Falling apart in an unsafe place where I will be judged for my lack of success and fragility and not being able to pull it together. The pretense of niceness but not understanding, “ I text back. I don’t even have to think about it.
I am afraid of wide circles and pity. I am afraid to be unfine. To be found poor and wretched and offering so little.
I am afraid of platforms I won’t reach and questions I have no answers for and the shadow of me at the corner of groups. I feel like I am in middle school all over again and I hate that I care.
I am afraid of my reputation. I thought I was past this. Last year I stood confident in my place. My obedience and faithfulness felt like enough. Maybe there was pride too that I was untouched by want, contented with God at my side, faithful to sew words in my small places.
This year obeying God has cost me, and I’m desperate for Christ’s presence and beginning to understand more of what it means to be poor in spirit. A longing so tangible it aches for just a touch, a glimpse, a taste, I am an unclean woman grasping at the hem of His garment.
I am hungry eyes in search of the Kingdom of Heaven, ravenous desire and such a keen awareness of all I lack on my own.
A few months ago I spoke — no, I preached — and the message burning holes in my bones and scorching holy ground was simply that when we are weak He is strong.
“Weakness is a holy invitation to allow grace to do it’s work. What if weakness was a spiritual gift?” I whispered through eyes brimming and full. I’d felt the cost then and knew its worth. And I felt the spirit of God carry me through because I’d been limping for so long.
I am crippled for glory, I thought, and that’s ok. Just give me Jesus.
I’ll stumble along all my days if it means being close to You, Lord.
Could it only have been months since I prayed those things? Weeks even? I am three rooster crows cackling in the wind before I forget what it means to only want for Jesus. I don’t want to be sifted anymore. I don’t want to have the scars it takes to resemble my Savior.
So I’m staring down unpacked things and the emptiness of my spaces and I’m desperate for the fullness to come back but scared about the fissure breaking me open to more of Jesus.
I sit in the back of Nester’s barn, pulling up a chair on the margins hoping to keep myself contained. Hoping not to make any more of a fuss among these Jesus women. I’ve shed tears all weekend long, everything is surfacing in knotted up wads of Kleenex and runny eyes.
And women are sharing and worship floats up into the beams and rafters and everything is beautiful and pure and white and suddenly I’m panicked because I feel it rising in my chest, a sob so heavy it carries my multitudes and I’m plunging my face into my hands and trying to push it back down. To make it stop. I do not want to be unfine here. A spectacle of brokenness and need.
But it’s too late. It unfurls in heaving, working loose my broken parts, my body curled down trying to disappear and I feel Amber’s hands on me and then Lisa Jo’s and I mumble prayer needs that scratch the barest surface of the truth but it’s all I can manage.
And the women pray. I see tears not my own and I feel what it means to have those who will weep with you.
I am an unclean woman being healed by touch, by a ministry of tears, by Jesus turning in the crowd to lock eyes on me, to say I am seen and known and called Daughter. To go and be healed.
I am learning to love the way Jesus loves. Broken open and weeping. Finding my way home.