To Re-Emerge

It started as whispers.
Gentle nudging in this direction or that.
They promised the water wasn’t that far away,
the well wasn’t too deep into the wood.
We trust at first because we have no reason not to.
They tell us that a woman will travel for hours to draw a day’s worth of water.
She will walk dusty trails
and brave dry heat,
all for a bucket of water
and the assurance of one more day without thirst.
There is a particular magic surrounding a well:
The vessel of one more day.
She will plunge her pail into the coolness and darkness
and it will emerge with a sweet hope,
a gentle promise of one more day.
The well is safe,
no matter how dangerous the journey was getting there.
That’s why we walked, too:
Because they told us that getting there would be the hardest.
But being there would be easy.

And so we wound our way through the brambles,
scratching up our ankles on
misplaced trust and withheld affection.
They told us to expect the scrapes –
We were not there yet.
Naturally,
nature would leave us a little dirty.
So we kept going.
They pushed walking sticks into our hands,
promising an easier path just ahead.
And sometimes it did become clear.
And sometimes it became more dense.
So they gave us boots to protect our feet.
And sometimes it did hurt less.
And sometimes the boots hurt our feet.
So they piled packs on our shoulders,
full of proverbs and roles and statistics.
And sometimes we found what we needed.
And sometimes our shoulders just ached.
They told us we were close to the water.
Close to the assurance of one more day without thirst.

No one really noticed how parched the journey had made us.

Then one day,
the whispers grew to shouts.
You’re here!
they congratulated.
And we could see it just ahead:
stone cylinder and pyramid roof,
like a little fairy tale cottage tucked into the forest.
A well so deep and everlasting that surely
we would not feel thirsty again.
And in that instance it seemed as though our journey had never happened.
Scrapes turned to scars,
boots forgotten and packs suddenly light.
The promise,
it seemed,
was real.
We peered over the edge to catch a glimpse of the sparkling water within.
And perhaps we were not paying attention,
or perhaps we were too mesmerized
or too convinced that we had made it at last –
Because we did not feel ourselves falling until we had hit bottom.

They told us that a woman would travel for hours to draw a day’s worth of water.
We traveled for years,
and then they pushed us in.
And when we found ourselves at the bottom,
we did not feel or see the water.
It was just cold and dark.
We looked to the top,
a circle of white sky far beyond our reach,
and there they all were:
Our guides, looking down on us, smiling happily.
You’re safe now.
they said, content.
The journey was long, but you learned enough along the way
and you’ve made it.

It was there,
at the bottom of the well,
surrounded by our walking sticks and boots and carefully packed bags,
when we realized that we had already been trapped.
Only now did we feel it.
Only now,
when we ached so desperately to return to the top,
did we realize how tiresome our journey to safety had been.
Because there is no safety at the bottom of a well.
There is only damp air,
and hollowness.

But when we asked for help no one came.
No one threw us a rope
or sent down a ladder.
They only kept dropping more books and rules and traditions on our heads.
They told us we had done everything right,
and now we were receiving the reward.
And the worst part was,
they believed themselves when they said it.
They couldn’t see us wilting,
growing paler and colder and less like ourselves.
They were too high
and the well was too deep.

They had told us that a woman would walk for hours to draw a day’s worth of water.
But they did not know
that women would sit at the bottom of a well
for much longer,
figuring out how to escape.
A day’s worth of freedom is worth more than a lifetime of suffocating safety.
We will stack their books and their pages of rules
and we will climb onto the shoulders of our sisters
and we will crawl to the world again.
We will walk back through the forest,
but this time we will go on our own terms.
And maybe we will be scratched and lose our way.
But maybe we will find others, too.
Maybe we will ask them to join us.
We will find our water.

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Coming to life

I used to think that death extinguished life.
I thought it was a weed,
creeping over the breathing things,
crippling the moving things.
I thought it dragged us into the desert,
slowly –
slowly for a long time,
until it sped,
until it tore and ripped us.
I thought dying was a savage thing –
overpowering.
I used to think that death was a taker
and that it took what was dear
and hid it in the thorns and underbrush.

And then I watched it at work.
And it was a weed,
and it crept over what I loved
what we loved
loved
And it crippled what once sprang and shuffled.
Death was not slow,
though I imagine it had been slower for 67 years
(we just didn’t notice then).
But in it’s speed and unforgiveness,
despite the taking –
I saw no savagery.
And though I was lost,
I was not lost alone.

So then I began to think that maybe there was more life in death than I thought.
There was laughter
defying the dimness and the silence
of sickness.
Tears and smiles and sighs of relief
from nestled-together family.
Whispered prayer.
A Healer who long ago cast out the fear.

We are found people
He found us in our grief
and mourning.
He found us tearing our clothes
and rolling in ash
and He
lifted us up
and draped us in white
and fed us clean water
and returned us our joy.

(This is my face, and my face is smiling in a big way)

I have to tell you how good our God is.  I have to tell you how much He has blessed us.  I have to tell you how magnificent He is.  But I do not have the words to do it right.  There is nothing in me that could adequately describe how perfect and amazing He is.  How beyond He is.  He is everything.  He keeps showing me how everything He is.

Sometimes, I wonder if I will explode from the weight of His grace and glory.

This is the best I can do: it is like He has created billions of little gemstones; billions of beautiful little crystals, so divinely crafted and so incredibly loved by the Creator.  And each gemstone has facets – so many facets, each delicately, purposefully carved.  God, in His unfathomable wisdom, whispered an adventure to each little gemstone.  A story, full of big things and little things and hard things and amazing things.  Always full of blessing.  He promised each and every tiny stone that it would be blessed past any earthly sort of understanding.

Our Papa would have been completely within His rights to tuck His billions of gems into a treasure chest and keep them.  The gems would be for His glory, to display His artistry and craftsmanship and beauty.  Those jewels would be His, only His.

But our Papa did not hide the gems away.  He dumped His treasure chest out, showering the universe with billions of bright, complex, staggeringly beautiful little raindrops.  His creations – His gemstones.  And He wrapped each fragile stone in a beating heart, and the heart He enveloped with a strong body, a transient home for His precious masterpieces.

Are you getting excited?  Because every time I get to this part, I get even more excited.  This is where it gets amazing.  This is where I see His grace and love.  I am smiling.  You can’t see me, but I assure you – I am beaming.

God is opening my eyes to see the gems in the hearts of His people.  These past few weeks, I have been blessed with the opportunity to pray with people, to eat meals with my friends, to share in joy and in heartache, to praise together and sit together and laugh together… God has given me people to love.  He has given me small pieces of Himself – these gems – to hold and smile at and tell stories with and love.  Me!  I get to love people!  Why would He trust me with His creations?  I barely trust people with my books, and God has given me people to love.  In all the ways.  I can’t contain my joy.  I am not a jump-from-my-seat, hands-in-the-air girl.  When I am floored by the Lord, I stand and smile.  I sit and stare.  I close my eyes and wring my hands together and sputter nonsense and whisper what feels like the most inadequate thank You.

How do I do this?  How do I praise Him the way I must?  How is anything I give enough for everything He has done?  I have tried to explain it to people.  I have tried to tell people what is going on inside me.  All I can do is smile.  I am busy, so busy.  And overwhelmed with school, and rushing from one job to the next, and it is hot out, and I don’t have enough time.  But there is something in my heart that I do not want to disappear.  Peace.  Joy.  Love.  All those Christian buzzwords… those words mean something.  Everything – they mean everything.

He has given me people.  He has let me into lives.  He has let me jump into the adventure of another person, another gem.  You know, though, what thrills me even more?  The fact that this isn’t all He has to give me.  These blessings, which have always been here, are only pieces of whatever He has yet to give me.  In this life or in the one I will one day get to spend with Him.  We get MORE LOVE.

(This is the part where, if we were together, we would just sit and smile at one another for a really long time.  And it probably wouldn’t even get awkward.)

And so this is it – this is what has been running through my head: He is so perfect in His grace and so stunning in His love and so oh-my-goodness-this-God-is-mine-and-I-am-His-His-His.  The twelve thousand thoughts that jumble my brain every day are still there – oh, are they ever – but it is like the weather in my head is a constant sunshower, and the rain that is falling is Grace.  Love falling on the quick, racing, filled-up landscape of my mind.

I am in love with this God.

Figuring out the beautiful unworthiness.

Everything is by the grace of God
and it has happened in this way:
He took the unchecked heart in my chest –
the rock that hadn’t really breathed deeply –
He took it and kissed it,
all warmth and light
flowing endlessly from endless lips
that whispered holiness.
I was a submerged fortress,
the sunken battlegrounds of a long-fought war
for a trivially important soul.
And He was there
and He opened the dam,
releasing a salty ocean of
never-me and
better-alone.
Some unheard-of mercy bathed some unrighteous girl
in good truth that made her better
than she would have been.
And I should have earned it.
I should have died for mercy like that
but something made You want me.
I am a mess of a human,
like a worn-through slipper
or a burned-out candle.
I take hold of the universe like it belongs to me
and I think I can jerk the reins
I’ve thrown around You’re neck.
I am foolish with my heart
and I am proud and I am scared.
I throw dust onto the things I create
like I grew the ability in my own garden
and decided that this was the way I would
impact the world.
This was the thing that needed grace
and You gave it to me.
I am the bitter water flowing
from a broken cistern.
And this is all Him,
in all the ways.
This is grace that knows me
and wants me,
and that should be enough.
I am only shadows,
but You see me in the dull light.
Claimed by an untamed God.
Fed mercy from the hands of
Love.
There are no words that can describe it
and I can do nothing
but say it.