Vantage Point

This is a story that isn’t mine to tell, a question that isn’t mine to ask… and yet, it is.

A story of questioning, or perhaps it’s a questioning of the Story.

The one that brings us to our knees every time.

Our knees, the vantage point of life.

Those knees ravaged scarlet when I tumbled today… on a run hell-bent to mend my word-bruised, my doubt-drenched heart…
That vantage point wrecked starless when I squinted up… to see instead the un-mendable; a real-bruised, a real-drenched body…

This girl. This beautiful girl. Violated in the worst way possible. Why? Abba, Father, cry… why?

We stumbled the two miles back through these woods. These woods where everything’s changed.

Amidst a week of conversations about His sovereignty, His Hand in absolutely everything. Conversations posed of instances just like this. The what if this, the what if that?

No more what if for this girl. This beautiful girl.


Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
{Lamentations 3:37-38}

We whisper He allowed? We fester He caused.

We wonder well, He didn’t prevent.

We blanch at spoken doubt. But doubt is what we live out.

Pupils dilate, fingers tremble in the tracing of His Word:


For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him?
His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?
{Isaiah 14:27}

I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
{Isaiah 45:7}

In the day of prosperity be [assured],
and in the day of adversity consider:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Remember that nothing in this life is certain.
{Ecclesiastes 7:14}

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
{Matthew 5:45}

And yet…


A bruised reed He will not break.
{Matthew 12:20}

Well, this girl looks pretty broken to me, Father. This beautiful… oh so beautiful girl.

Questions of from His hands every imperfection wrought, and for glory? How is it that broken pieces speak of the whole?

I. do. not. understand.

Why it was I to topple in search of holy ground,
to find it defiled instead.
Why it was not I the one to be found,
to have been left for …

And don’t you dare, dare murmur of grace.
For then what you’re really saying is Grace was only with one of us girls today.

Oh, don’t you know that all is grace?

That life is grace.

 
For from His fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace.
{John 1:16}

And You know exactly with what grace offered would I come back to You…
or would I turn from You.

You know.
If the apple was golden delicious or red delicious. If she hesitated to smile sly at him before raising the forbidden to her lips, her palms sweaty. Did he avert his gaze?   His temples throbbing from resentment frantic?

If the scales of the serpent shimmered, his tongue darting to trace the vestiges of sin now palpable… now and forevermore.

You watched the first fading of light from pelted eyes drained to adorn the first shame, our nakedness.

You knew. You know.

And I don’t.
Don’t know the point. Don’t understand what You get from our ever predictable scampers in attempt to cover our own bare shame. From our ever giving ourselves up not at the foot of the cross, but at the tree from which it was taken.

Don’t understand why You watch on as we pick that rotting apple back up off the soiled ground, convincing ourselves that it’s not a worm squirming away below. Pretending that we can just shine off the bruises on those pelts. Right. The ones You gave us. And we play with it. We toss it up, and back up again. We turn it over and over… glance to the sides to see who’s watching. And we bite.


But someone might still argue:
if through my lie God’s truth abounds to His glory,
why am I still being condemned as a sinner?
{Romans 3:7}

Why do You watch when You already know? Why do you let this go on?


What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power,
has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy,
which He has prepared beforehand for glory.
{Romans 9:22-23}

…but for now, the beautiful girl has sodden the stretcher that wails ever faintly off in a distance. The uniforms stamp feet in the unexpected cold, muttering about statements and grunt work. My own feet crusted with the crimson lechery, my own grunt work of I’ll have to wash these off.

Have to go home now, take these off weary and decide to scrub them or scrap them? Mundane while the beautiful girl is scrubbed of traces and the just as beautiful man is scrapping his trace?

The man that You made. Whose hands You have washed as clean as mine, as hers.


But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins,
He sat down at the right hand of God.
{Hebrews 10:12}

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree,
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
By His wounds you have been healed.
{1 Peter 2:24}

And now you, you who have read this… in your car on your cracked phone screen, sitting on your bed where you couldn’t sleep last night, at work where you’re just passing the time… will x out of this. Will feel torn for a couple minutes. And then forget.

Not because you’re insensitive.

But because what else are you going to do?

…right?

Abba, Father, cry… why?


But if I go to the east, He is not there;
but if I go to the west, I do not find Him.
When He is at work in the north,
I do not see Him;
when He turns to the south,
I catch no glimpse of Him.
But He knows the way that I take;
when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
{Job 23:8-10}

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while,
if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
so that the tested genuineness of your faith –
more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire –
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
{1 Peter 1:6-7}

Abba, Father… all is to bring us to our knees, bring us to You.

All this we have wrought, all this for our own glory.
All this that You have redeemed, all this for Your glory.

It’s all You.


The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,
provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
{Romans 8:16-18}

We live by faith, not by sight. {2 Corinthians 5:7}

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.
{Job 1:20-21}

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bloody grace
with bark upon those raw wounds,
of an iron ore self-thrust through and through

and through

grace that trickles crimson bright
upon grime, filth
mine

smudging frantic
come off, pleadingly

regret streaks clandestine

hushed radiance beneath
shimmers sullied

to reveal
that hourglassed Fingerprint of

grace bloodied

Hmm.

I’m in a small group with some people from my church composed of three married couples, two divorced men, and lil miss me. And we’re talking about sex.

Thaaaat’s right, ladies and gents.

Sex.

🙂

It’s not going so hot either. The facilitator and her husband are quite uncomfortable with the subject matter, having apparently been unaware of the topic when they agreed to lead the group. The husband of the older married couple won’t engage and just sits there with his arms crossed the entire time, while the wife basically nags at him to speak up. The younger married couple bickers about how he won’t do the dishes, but then it somehow ends up deriving from her lack of respect for him, basically fulfilling every stereotype in the book. The older divorced man is unabashedly condescending, while the younger man is so ashamed of being divorced that he feels he doesn’t have anything to contribute.*

Meanwhile I’m sitting there reeking of my own brokenness, monopolizing the conversation to compensate for everyone’s discomfort while simultaneously attempting to keep in check the overbearing baby counselor in me aching to solve everyone else’s problems.

And as I walk away from these times together, my aversion to marriage feels to only be seemingly further perpetuated week by week. To already be on one end of a spectrum, fully aware of how harmful the perspective is, but then to experience it affirmed in the very avenues pursued to push back on it is rather deterring.

What a mess.

And yet we’re trying. In spite of all that comes trailing in that door behind us, we each still show up every week. Catching glimpses of each other’s measured unveilings, deeming passage and reminding each other of the privilege it is to be privy to others’ inhibitions.

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed anything more beautiful in all my days than someone letting down their defenses.

I think I’ll stop there for today… yeah.

*This paragraph morphed into a cynical play-by-play for the purposes of reader’s attention spans. Please process with a grain of salt and a dash of hope.

Connection, yo.

You know, it’s startlingly easy to hide things from other people… to get away with something. In both the sinister connotation that phraseology stirs up, and its more naïve cousin of mere indifference.

Indifference?

On other people’s part, I mean. Apathy.  To you, to your particulars. The word hide infers a calculated effort to conceal something. An intentional lack of disclosure. But couldn’t it just as easily be unintentional?  A lack of opportunity instead?  That just because something’s hidden doesn’t have to mean that you’re hiding it.

It’s just… unspoken.

Indulge me here: think about all the many, many things that quite honestly no one may ever know about you. Ever. Little things. Little details. And big things. Really, really… really big things.

Like how you tripped down the stairs that one morning a year ago and giggled at yourself. That you only slept for four hours last night. How it felt when you finally told someone what you wanted to tell them. If you secretly like clichés.  Where you go when you just need to get away. That you prefer to drink your coffee black because it reminds you of someone you once knew, not because you actually like it that way.  The keys you dropped on the way to the car. How disappointed you were when you didn’t see your person. The most hurtful thing ever said to you. The addiction that is gradually seeping into every area of your life.  When you lost your hearing (hah, okay, maybe this one’s just me – wink). How you had turkey instead of ham for lunch and now you’re making the switch permanently.  What you do at two in the morning when your son is having nightmares. If you brush your teeth twice a day, or just once.  That you just want to die.  If you’d rather someone just listened, or if they tried to cheer you up… and who the person is that knows which of those it is you really need in that moment. If you ever tried looking for a four-leaf clover, if you ever found one. When you raped her.  Your wish on your ninth birthday.  The real reason you got married. The last time that you prayed. Where you like to be kissed. Some stranger who smiled at you, really smiled, and made a difference when you were having a boring day.  Not a shitty day, not a good day, just a boring one. How you justify the lie you told.  That cozy socks make you quite happy.  The thought that keeps coming back to you time and time again.  If you cursed that one time when you realized that the toilet paper was out in the porter potty.  Why you’re proud of yourself. That you went through someone’s journal.  When it is that you most forget that He made you.

Little things, big things.  So many things. That were affected by more things. That now affect some other things. Things that you don’t even know are at work.  That are maybe significant, maybe not. That maybe a lot of people know, or that maybe no one knows. So many details. Forgotten. Ignored. Hidden.

And then there’s the practical playing out of all this.

Forget details and particulars and being known.  How about just day to day interactions.  Say you spend ten minutes with someone. That’s all you get with them and that’s all they get with you. You only see those ten minutes in a framework of whatever compilation of mood they’re in based off of the other fourteen hundred and thirty minutes of their day and if you happen to hear about some of those other minutes, it’s all secondhand, expressed through their lens of life. And likely it’s only a retelling of another ten minutes of something they deemed significant enough about their day or normative enough to share with you, relayed through the basis of whatever relational foundation they’ve happened to construct with you thus far. And these retellings could be laced with a motive to shape an impression they hope to give to you of themselves, either consciously or subconsciously done. Seeing how these connections are contingent upon so many mitigating factors… how so much is riding on so much… one has to wonder as to how the stars are ever in alignment for connection to happen period.  How much is chance.  Or is there really such a thing as chance?

Okay, my head hurts.

I don’t have to have a point, right?  This is MY blog after all.

Muah ha ha. Peace out, homo sapiens.

Doing

This morning I watched as a little girl tugged on her mother’s sleeve, book in hand, full of an expectant hope that kept casting longing glances at another child being read to in his father’s lap across the room. The mother, staring at her computer screen, ignored her daughter’s attempts to get her attention and eventually swatted that sweet hand away. The little girl then turned and stared at me staring at her. This continued for a good thirty-something seconds (during which I noted interestingly that little people don’t mind eye contact, evoking me to wonder why so many big people do), before she turned to sit in a corner and read to herself instead.

I continued to stare at her. And I stared at her mother. And I stared at the father across the room reading to his son.   But that’s all I did.  I stared. When what I should have done is walk over to that corner to pick the girl up and plop her in my own lap. Shown her that she is worthy of the exact same attention, that she is adored, too. And then did my darnedest to read that book in funny voices for the funny characters and mean voices for the mean characters.

But I didn’t. Because I was too scared. Too scared of embarrassing the mother. Too scared of assuming I know what’s right. Too scared that I wouldn’t do the voices justice.

And who knows, maybe that mother is a single mother that reads to her daughter every night before she tucks her into bed and kisses her sweet dreams before heading off to turn in the papers that she writes on that computer for the night school that she attends to one day better provide for that little girl. Maybe the father across the room was putting on a show for everyone else sitting there. And maybe I shouldn’t make so many assumptions.

But I still wish I’d gotten up. Not let my fear get the better of me.

And when I finally did, it was off to do something about another time that I let my fear get the better of me, too. When I lied to someone about a month ago.

It was when I was checking out somewhere, and at the end of the transaction the cashier asked if I wanted to donate a dollar to St. Jude’s foundation for kids with cancer. And I said what I always say. Not today. When I looked up though, I was able catch that she had rolled her eyes. Oh, hell no. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such an immediate rush of anger well up in me as it did right then. How dare she judge me? So I asked her how many people actually donate. She looked me square in the eye and said, “People donate all the time.” Which pissed me off even more, because I’ve done my time in retail, and let me tell ya… no one ever donates. So I said (rather condescendingly, oops), “Oh, really? They do?” She challenges back, “It’s for kids with cancer, isn’t it?”

At this point, the people in line behind me are shifting their feet with unease and I’m shaking I’m so mad. Shaking. I’d only ever heard of that expression before, but apparently it’s a real thing. And looking back on it I still don’t really know why I got so upset. I think it was probably a combination of how my day was already going and this lady’s body language that got the fire raging, but what happened next was like a bucket of water dousing out the flames and replacing them instead with a kindling of shame. Because then she added, “Actually my son has cancer.”

…yeah.

And it all clicked. Why it had struck such a chord with her. And the clicking took verbal form before I was able to cut myself off, “Oh, that’s why you’re—” … I think I was so shocked that I couldn’t even keep the putting two and two together inside my own head. I apologized to her, knowing that nothing I said would take her son’s cancer away, and hating myself at the same time for trying to make up for something that I couldn’t make up for.

Then comes the truly appalling part. I say, “You know, I actually volunteer at Saint Jude’s.”

As the words start to come out, they are already laced with regret. Yeah right, I volunteer at St. Jude’s. That’s for the other saints of the world, not me. I lied to this lady purely to save face. And I don’t lie. I do a lot of things, but lying is not one of them. That was for another period of my life, and I refuse to go back there again.

Which is partly what made this one so shocking. And shaming. I walked out of that store sick to my stomach, and was soon mortified to realize that during that entire exchange I was wearing a cross necklace. I couldn’t believe that I’d acted that way anyways, and then to have potentially pushed this lady away from Him had she noticed my jewelry.

Now, I don’t think not donating is wrong. And no, I’m not the only person this woman has checked out that has denied to donate. I think that, like me, our interaction was perhaps the culmination of a bad day for her and that perhaps I was in alignment to be the final straw (unless she really does do that with everybody who declines, ha). Anyways, not the point. God used the interaction to get my attention, and maybe hers, and maybe whoever else was watching.

But like today, I didn’t do anything.  Love is doing though. It’s not talking about doing, or thinking about doing.  It’s DOING it.

So I got up and went to the Children’s Hospital of Saint Louis and began the process of becoming a volunteer there.

And I’m already annoyed, because apparently I have to get shots and attend some orientations. And I have no idea how I’m going to fit an extra three hours in a week into my already brimming schedule, especially when I honestly don’t want to.

Plus, I suck with kids. Half the time I have no idea what they’re saying (#deafproblems), which is only made worse when they don’t understand that I have to see their lips so I can at least attempt to make sense of their adorable spews of nonsense the other half of the time.

But damn it. Imma try.

Because as I was filling out the paperwork a sweet hand tugged at me to get my attention this time. And it was a little girl with a mask on. Uh oh, is my first thought. I won’t know what she’s saying. But crystal clear did her question ring out, “Are you here to love me?”

Because love is doing.

Chance Encounters

Apparently I have this weird penchant for telling complete strangers things I don’t even tell the ones closest to me.  But He knows that I’m rather keen on chance encounters, strangers or not.  And He chose to wield this soft spot of mine not just once in one day, but twice.

One of these was, like I said, with a complete stranger.  I was in a bookstore… wait, before I continue on, I feel as though I should confess that I often do this.  That is go to bookstores.  And I just wander the aisles.  Usually for an ungodly amount of time that I’m not sure I’m quite ready to own up to on here.  And then I’ll walk out without purchasing a single thing.  It’s like my version of porn.  That was probably weird to say, but hey, it is what it is.

So I was in this bookstore.  And I was meandering the maze of other worlds, when a particular other world caught my eye.  I was a little nervous to pick it up though, and with seemingly good reason, as the man beside me just seconds later chose to comment on the book’s title after I let my curiosity get the better of me.

We ended up talking for over two hours.  Which just flew by.  And it was a most intriguing conversation, perhaps the most intriguing one I’ve had to date in my twenty-two years.

That ended with me walking away as he calls out, “It’s worth it.”

My second run in of the day was a literal running into.  Because I was running.  My mind racing after the above conversation, with my legs trying to keep up.  And I actually run smack dab into someone as the trail winds around a huge oak (it was snowing, too, in my defense).  A someone that, as my apologies begin to pour out, I realize that I know.

Guys, it’s a rare thing that I delight in more than running into someone.  Well, not literally running into… okay, this is getting confusing.  But what I mean to say is if you arbitrarily bump into someone (again, think figurative here) you just so happen to know amidst a county of over a million people… well, that’s not just chance.  There’s a Reason behind it.  And I’m always eager to figure out why.

So we wind up talking, too.

And this one ends with me walking away soon after he calls me out on something I wasn’t altogether too pleased to hear.

But. There was a Reason behind it, right?  I’m unable to say with confidence just yet what was gleaned from those conversations, even after having several days to mull over them.  For it would be fair to say that my introverted, contemplative self has gone a little haywire in their wake.  The kind of chaos that makes every emblematic step I take seem dizzying… the allure of every potential increment paralyzed instead by hesitation.  Uncertain for fear of some butterfly effect, some identity crisis catalysis of sorts.

And so I’m stuck.  With flashbacks of epiphanies once lived out, with pipe dreams that swore to fit snug like a lover’s fingers interwoven amongst my own, but turned out instead to be like the sweet tug of my hand from a child.  Sweet, but sticky.  Not the same.  Melancholic.

But it’s not a quicksand sort of stuck.  It’s a hopeful kind.  The kind of stuck that just takes time.

 The kind that must be carried around inside for a little while before it can be shown.

Convictions

This past week I’ve been reminded of someone I used to know. Or rather, someone I knew of… that I was deprived of knowing. And was deprived of being known by. Someone that inadvertently shaped me more than perhaps anyone else ever will.

And the reasons for which I came to believe in the things that I do were thus prompted as well.   No, not prompted. That’s being too nice. More like… um…

More like…

I was inside a cabin in the dead of winter, amidst some rhetorical forest out in the middle of nowhere (dun dun dun). And I was beside this blazing fire, bundled up in the wooliest of blankets. The cozy kind, not the itchy kind. Complete with that cup of not-too-hot cocoa with not just three marshmallows, but four, because the person who made it for me adores me. With a book in hand that was just getting to the good part, the part where I can’t put it down…

When there’s a knocking at the door. No, a pounding.

And I get up to answer it, half annoyed that whoever it is interrupted the story line of this oh so captivating book.   Because I had the blanket wrapped just right to where I was toasty warm, but I could still turn the pages comfortably.

But I go anyways, and I open the door to see who it is. But no one’s there. I step outside, curious and confused.

When suddenly a furious gust of wind, fierce and obsessed, comes swirling up around me… slamming the door shut behind me and taking my cozy (not itchy) wooly blanket with it into the darkness beyond.

And my breath. It takes my breath away.

And I’m standing there, shivering, gasping. Left only to gaze longingly back into the window of that cabin with those raging flames licking the logs in the middle of my carefully constructed and put together conception of a life lived well.

That’s where I’m at right now. Maybe that doesn’t make any sense. But… that’s exactly how I feel. Shivering, and feeling ashamed for having been so blind. Foolish for having duped myself into believing I was content in my little bubble, my little corner of the world.   For having been deceived by distraction. For not being on my guard.

Wake up calls come in all shapes and sizes. Well, I’m assuming. I haven’t had that many, but those that I have had indeed were fashioned very, very differently. And this one… stings. I feel like a child being reprimanded, but sheepish, for I knew all along that something was amiss.

Eh. Just realized that there’s something wrong with my above analogy. It made it seem like I want to be back inside the cabin. Which I don’t. It was comfortable in there, sure. But I would’ve gotten bored eventually. And I was all alone. Oh, wait. But someone had made my cocoa with four marshmallows, huh? Well, shoot. Okay, okay… so not my finest work.

Fine. Here’s chapter two.

I THINK I want to be back inside of the cabin. Because of all that it seemingly represents: security, comfort, not a care in the world… but that never lasts.

For it never truly SATISFIES.

It just doesn’t. You guys know this.

Mostly, I’ve been reminded this past week of some of the verses I very first highlighted, circled, underlined, all of the above in my Bible:

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place. – Revelation 2:4-5

I realized this week that the light I offered this world had been removed. And almost just as important of a realization being that I want it back. And He, in pure grace, seems to blowing the dust off my candle and illumining the wick once again…

For in addition to the nudging of the above verses came these as well:

Psalm 40:2-3a –

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
Out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
And steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
A hymn of praise to our God.

And 3b, which can only be done through Him:

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the LORD.

Praying that your light has not been dimmed, but that if it has, you put your trust in Him to gleam brilliantly again.

Amen.