Friday, November 11, 2011

The Work of Community

You may not have known it when I darkened your door for the first time. Maybe you knew and just didn't let on. You were always so gracious. When I came to you first, my brokenness was too profound to call even broken. Shattered might be a better word. Tiny shards blown like chaff in all directions. Too small to even pick up with my fingers. Cuts like that usually don't stop bleeding. Disillusioned. Doubtful. Terrified. I had done this before, showing up with the high hopes of being accepted, of belonging. I had tried before, and just never fit.

Early on, I had to talk myself into going, every week. A small pep talk as I drove, willing the steering wheel towards your house. I knew it would be good for my heart in the long run, even if a bit uncomfortable in the present time. I would do my best to sweep up all the remaining pieces of the heart that could be found, dump them into an inconspicuous baggie, and carry them with me into the small gathering of smiles and warm hearts, hoping that you would be the glue. I know you didn't know about the tears as I left your house, feeling useless and spent. I carried with me a fear of being disqualified for service, no longer useful for anything. Too broken. Too damaged. But you, your warmth oozed and my fragments began to come together.

I tried to hide the times that I would excuse myself from the laughter and joy, slip into the bathroom and cry. I felt lonely, alone, even in the midst of you. I tried to hide it, but my red eyes would usually betray me. But you, you were so gracious. You allowed me to just be, to absorb, to sit silent. You allowed the Holy Spirit to use you, and wounds were washed out by the outpouring, and I began to recognize some of the fragments that were being pieced back together. And you, you just loved.

And when selfish jealously, and self pity tried to creep in and destroy what you were pouring in to, you smiled graciously, and mourned with me. And you didn't know, but your silent presence was life-restoring ministry. And you don't know, but you should know, that the Almighty is using you and you are giving me courage and hope. I watch how he esteems his bride and looks to her where he is weak, and he is not scared or proud, but boasts in what God has done and what God has given him. And I heard how he made decisions based on his adoration of the girl to whom he gave forever after, and how he edified her and she will respect him forever for that. And I see how you talk with my little ones, as if they are yours, and I have hope for them, and me. And I see how he pours out his heart in absolute vulnerability and speaks of a desire to lead his family well, and she, well, the stars in her eyes shine even brighter when she gazes at him. And I am proud, and humbled, and honored to sit in the midst of such a gathering of brethren. And those undecipherable pieces that I was sweeping up before can now be carried to and fro.

And you don't know, but I have prayed for an increase in capacity, an earnest desire to be used again by You, for You, that I may be restored enough that You may be poured out of me. Filled, to be emptied. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. And I have cried, wept bitterly. Will You not use me again? And last night, you blessed me to love on your little ones, and God's grace poured out on all of us. A simple act, and weeks prior I would have dreaded it, knowing that I had nothing left to give. I could barely keep up with my own little people, much less 8 others. But I have asked for strength, and increased capacity, and last night, You. Said. Yes.

And no one cried, and we laughed and danced with princesses and silly squirrels and talked about choices and honoring mother and father, and wiped runny noses, and pranced with ponies, and we played and built. Yes, we built. And I was built by the grace of little ones as we, many, cuddled, all lap space and arm reach spoken for. And they leaned in with trust and precious eyes of innocence and heaven. You graced me to love them and showed me that I could.

The warmth of the Holy Spirit has poured out its healing upon my shattered heart, and you are the glue being used to bring jagged edges back together, warm glue allowing pieces to find their way back to rightful places, and a sense of wholeness restores the soul. You are purifying the air that I breathe, and refining my vision for the graces of God, and I am seeing Him everywhere. I no longer carry a baggie with broken pieces because the grace of my Redeemer has placed a restored heart back in its rightful place, beating in my chest, and your fingerprints are all over that glue that has bound it up.

I am eternally grateful.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mourning will one day be dancing...

Seven years ago tonight, a boy and girl stood in a church before a pastor and a slew of friends and family, and said forever after. There was euphoria and bliss, but there were also doubts from onlookers, wondering how long it would really last. Questioning eyes and slight shoulder shrugs said, "we'll see how it goes and how long it lasts." So I dug my heels in, determined to prove them all wrong, that we would make it. I painted on a smile in hard times, and boasted loud in the good times. I was sure that my love and determination would be enough for both of us.

There was a night when this boy and girl strolled, hands intwined, on a moonlit night through a nearby canyon while conversation flowed of the future, of family ministry across Africa. Statements were made of family priorities, boldly pronounced that the order would always be God first, then family, then ministry/work, then all other demands of life. But lines are blurred when God and ministry/work take on the same face, and family is bumped further down the line. I wished you had loved me as much as you loved her, or them. I wished that the ministry would be poured into the family as well, but all was spent elsewhere, and we got what little was left.

There was a time that someone spoke to you, saying that "Your pride would be your downfall," and you laughed it off and I chuckled nervously, wondering when. But I dug my heels in and repainted the face whenever it began to droop. Maybe if I were thinner, or more spiritual, or prettier, or nicer, or quieter, or more submissive, maybe he would love me more. I was sure it could all be saved.

But alas, it would not be saved. I have struggled to separate God from you, and was told to be quiet and submissive to the man who is the representation of Christ to his family, but if that were so, then I hate you both. I remember through the years, women would say to me how blessed I am to be married to such a spiritual man, and I would bridle my tongue and nod my head with a forced grin. What is that like, really?  Because in my house, it meant abandonment, neglect. Is that what God is like?

I have learned that that is not true. And in God's hate of divorce, His love of mercy is much greater. For the six years prior to this one, this would have been a night of celebration, though hope forced and waning with each passing year. For years I heard pastors talk about the effects of divorce, the ripping of flesh that had been melded into one. Tonight I know that pain. There is no comfort, or balm to soothe the ache, dreams lost and family sacrificed on the altar of ministry.

And so today has become a day of mourning. Mourning for a life that could have been, dreams that could have flown high. But You have said that You turn mourning into dancing, and ashes into beauty, and I am believing and clinging and looking forward to a future, even dreaming again. It is a reclamation of life, and so tonight, amidst the mourning and sadness, I will pour myself a glass of champagne , maybe cry a little, and rest in His Goodness. Even now.