“Lila would never tell anyone about that time. She knew it would sound very sad, and it wasn’t, really.” (Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p. 4)
How do you tell a story of grace, of being so deeply loved that you know you can trust this love? How do you tell it so your listeners can feel the story from the inside as a breath-taking place of beauty and lovedness, rather than leaving them standing at a distance looking at the outside of the story and judging it sad?
I sat last week with the first of the six hundred pages of emails I'd sent from Afghanistan, emails that Mom had found and returned to me. I sat to mine the wealth of concrete detail that I needed for the next stage of the book I’m writing, oblivious to the fact that I’d placed my desk in the center of a major highway.
A truck travelling north slammed into me as I relived stories I remembered: the feel of the wild dog’s teeth behind my knee, moonlight reflecting in the eyes of the rest of the pack encircling me. Then a van travelling south ploughed over me, crushing me with the forgotten story of the mother of six who bled to death with my hands in her abdomen. One after another the memories flew at me, no space between to scrape myself up off the road. How did I ever live this when I can scarcely bear to read it now?
I’ve booked my first appointment with a trauma counselor. That’s the part that might sound sad to someone standing outside, looking at the story. More than six years after leaving Afghanistan and this is still surfacing, still raw?
But to me, inside the story, this place is beautiful. Crazy and overwhelming and uncomfortable—and one of the most beautiful places I've been.
Jesus, how do you want to love me in this place?
I find myself again in a womb. “In Him we live and move and have our being. We are His offspring.” (Acts 17:28) It’s dark, and I’m curled head-down. I can feel the warm, stretchy walls of the womb containing me, God “enfolding me with strength and steadfast love” (Nan Merrill, paraphrasing Ps 62:2). It's timeless here in the One who has all the time in the world and knows how to use it to gently awaken me to the beat of His heart. And it's sheltered here in this place where I can dare to let myself feel: everything I feel, I feel here, safe in the God who surrounds and holds me.
There is an eye of the storm, even when the storm is happening in your own mind and body. There is a place still deeper. And that place knows that all of me is safely held and loved.