We’ve been cleaning up the house, and we keep finding old, hand-drawn pictures and letters, so I looked up a couple of pictures on my phone.
I showed the pictures to my Mom, but she didn’t want to look at more than one. She just handed back my phone. So I curled my soul up around them, and looked at your smiling faces, and was glad you were at least still alive. At least one of you almost wasn’t (nobody told me, but I knew in my gut what had happened).
It still twists in my chest, some days. Fire is not just light – it burns and destroys too. So I go from beautiful moment and joy to hearing people’s brokenness, their darkest secrets that they pour out to me and I don’t know why, and I have to fight to lift up my hands and let go of my burdens. It feels like even the rocks cry out, groaning under so much shed blood and spirit. When my eyes get heavy, I have often forgotten the crucible of the story – that Christ died the deaths of thousands in one life, and that He carries my load. But this still feels like a thousand small deaths, even after so many years.
My heart still breaks at seeing you change from a distance; maybe for worse, maybe for better. I can’t assemble any of these pieces, this logic, for myself. I don’t know where you’ve been for years, so I’ve tried to stop assembling a logic in my head for you to understand. Perspective is best when it’s asked for, anyway.
”I miss you guys. I miss how your brother was my comrade-at-arms with me, my brother and our friends. I miss how I could always bet on you guys to have my back. And it damaged my sense of trust all the more when adults tore that friendship, that community, right out of our lungs. And I know that it made me stronger, but just because a cracked rib heals stronger than it was doesn’t mean it fully recovers from the blow. I’m older now, with a busted ankle that still grates and a busted-up heart that still aches some days.
I don’t want to assume I understand your pain; nobody can really claim that on this spinning earth. But what rattled me, scared me most, is that flawed people are never logical. You can know someone’s mannerisms and thought patterns to a T, and they can still make such a move that an earthquake rolls through your heart. There is no 100% guarantee of “I can bet my life on this person” for sure after that trust has been broken even once. Turntables play songs that bring back long seasons of weeping. Pictures can be too much to bear. Names can make you pause. Joyful moments make you miss those who are gone. The cracks in your heart will remain, even after it is put back together by the gentlest Master’s hands and filled with precious material.
It’s hard to believe people now, even when they mean well. It’s even harder when you aren’t sure of that. And if I still carry those scars and fear and hurt around, I’m certainly sure you do. More keeps coming too, doesn’t it? 50 people died today, and I keep having to get off of Facebook because of all the hysterical political rants. Growing up in a broken place means drowning pretty quick without a solution.
So let me say this: I hope we both learn to open our fists gripping that pain as soon as we wake up to it. I hope we learn to trust again out of peace in something greater than ourselves. I hope we learn to resist being shaped by the fear that we will be just like those before us. I hope we both learn to live and to love well, not out of experience alone but out of the fact that we are incredibly Loved by the Author of that word.
I hope we both take all that pain and loneliness and loss and turn it to beauty, turn our lives into places that other just-as-broken people can see echoes of that Love, that Story, and that trust and hope and small Resurrections bloom in those places. I hope that your heart, and mine, your brother and sisters and so many others, become holy ground.
I hope we both live so that we can laugh Death in the face. I hope for the day when that Author looks at our messy, tear-filled, laughter-brimming lives that crossed for far too short a time and tells us the Truest Story ever to be told, and our search for answers in all that sorrow will be finished, like the last breath in a chapter, and the next will begin.