Were you to ask how I’ve been doing, I’d probably say fine. Because really, we’re fine, it’s been fine. Hasn’t it all been fine?
And then it’s entirely obvious we’re not fine at all.
I wouldn’t say I’ve been completely aware of all of the things building into this crescendo, because so much of it is just your normal living-of-a-life kind of things. Getting used to the pace of a new school year all over again- signing folders, making lunches, balancing after school-activities. Battles over outfits and homework and cleaning up the playroom over and over again. Searching for my car keys and patience for the 2-year-old who is so good at being 2.
Also though, it’s the big things, like adjusting to Daddy being home. Still. He’s home. He’s home girls. He’s home and he’s not gone.
But Ellie wakes in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, crying and shaking, “MOMMY! What time is it in Iraq? Is it day in Iraq? Or night? I forgot to say bye to him, Momma! I forgot to say goodbye!”
“Oh baby. He’s home. Daddy’s home. You don’t need to say goodbye to him.” And I hold her and rock her and call Lane into the room so that she can hear his voice too, in person, face to face.
It’s in these moments that I think back to some of the things we endured in this last year; I revisit the deep ache, I remember the pain and the loneliness and that deep, deep sorrow.
And I suppose I was internalizing this great sadness and the stress of learning how to match our steps again, how to share a home with another adult and share space and power and ketchup at the dinner table. I think he was too- I saw it the time we went out for lunch on a Saturday, something we never do. We’re sitting there eating burgers and fries and listening to songs on the restaurant stereo that remind us of our college days together and I look up and his eyes have misted up.
“It’s just that I missed this a whole lot,” was all he could say.
And then we miscommunicate over something so small but it spirals out of control into big: Big feelings and a big conversation and too big of a deal.
So the next morning when I am talking to a friend and she asks how we’re doing, I cannot hide it. My feelings are laid bare on my sleeve, and I tell her of how hard it is to pay the cost of the life we’ve chosen to live.
As we’ve been talking, she’s been multi-tasking a little, cleaning up, gathering things, making things right again in this little space of hers.
But it is here that she pauses, looks me in the eye, her own lined with tears, as she says “Well. I’ll carry this with you, then.”
And I wanted to protest right then and there: Oh no, we’re actually fine. I’m probably being dramatic right now. We’re fine. I’ll just go ahead and bind up my wounds myself, make things right myself. We’re not that much of a mess, not really.
But those words she said, the ones about carrying my hard thing with me, so matter-of-fact, so kind, so strong, silenced all of my objections.
As much as I try, I don’t do well on my own. I don’t think we were intended to do well on our own. I think that there’s something that happens, something sacred, as we walk our roads with each other, with a splayed open heart, me carrying you as you carry me.
And oh goodness, does this feel vulnerable. It feels messy, out of my control. No longer can I hide behind a facade of perfection or try to fool you into thinking that I actually have it all together. Not when you see my 2-year-olds’ tantrums or hear about the fight my husband and I had over who was going to get the 4-year-old dressed.
But still she said it, despite the mess- I’ll carry this with you.
No qualifiers, no disclaimers, no declarations that I have to clean up my act before she’s willing to be in it with me.
Nope, just withness.
And I feel pulled forward, into, toward love. Toward a new way of seeing, of interacting, of being with people.
It makes me wonder how much I’m willing to be with others, to carry them, to let them need me and then let me need them. Couldn’t we all use a bit of that right about now? The marriages, the mothers, the broken-hearted, the lonely and broken open? Couldn’t we all use a little bit of someone being with us?
I’m convinced that it is this kind of love that will heal a broken heart.
I’ve seen it before, I know this much. We’ve seen it in the name of Jesus: Immanuel, God with us.
We see what love looks like when we look at him and it looks like withness.
We’re all trying to do the best we can in the little spaces we’ve been given, make it right the best way we know how. If we’re just willing to risk it, invite another in, live out loud- together, we will see that we’re surrounded by love.
Not alone, nope not ever.
I’ll just go ahead and carry this with you.
Don’t you see? Making things right and this withness-kind-of-love are one and the same.
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