Tuesday, January 8, 2008

As we pulled into the driveway and prepared mentally for a dip in the hot tub, Lauryn and I listened to Reliant K’s song about emotional girls—we should get them all mood rings. Once upon a time I prided myself on my stoicism. If I ever cried it was for a very good reason, which still holds true, no doubt, if only I could figure out what my good reason is. At the moment I think I want most to crawl into bed and curl up in a ball and cry my soul into the gates of paradise. Which does, believe me, feel possible at times. Why bed is the chosen haven, I have no clue, but some things are simply facts because they are.

To pin myself to one emotion at the moment would be more cruel than pinning a living butterfly to the Styrofoam wall of a bug collection. Today spanned more lives than those of a cat, so I think I must be at least as old as Methuselah now.

It began with something as simple as driving the poor, skeleton of a Tempo into town to the mechanic and then hitching a ride with Papa to the dental clinic, where I swiped millions of dollars (in gospel tracts, courtesy of Living Waters) and headed out for a shopping spree of my own, since Mom had given me no shopping list.

Dashing through the early sprinkles of rain toward Wal-Mart I spied a couple standing under the eaves—the girl on the phone, the guy standing patiently by. Quickly I approached them and began talking with the guy, sharing the gospel with him. They were living together, but seemed to be new believers and were very interested in our churching situation—even were asking to come visit. After we parted, the guy came running back to me asking for a couple more million dollar bill tracts to show to his mom and another person. As I was making a return, the tornado sirens began screaming overhead and a voice came on over the loudspeaker: “This is a code black warning! All associates and customers, please go to the back of the store by the toys.” Early morning doesn’t yield a hefty crop of customers, and we were soon all crowded in the back rooms near the bathrooms, waiting for word that the tornado watch was over. The moment seemed simply too opportune, as the Lord had gathered the whole store together in one place with nothing to do. I didn’t have the guts to just stand up and preach to all of them, or the peace with feeling that was appropriate, but as I moved from person to person sharing, the Lord allowed me to speak at least briefly with several ladies. After that, the Holy Spirit had me on a roll, and I moseyed around town, poking into stores, walking through the open doors of opportunity. Sharing the gospel through the midst of a fast-paced society is nothing like the easy chatting that leads into depth in a clinic room while a dental patient waits to see the doctor, and I must confess it’s often less promising. Folks are in a rush and their happy to take a tract and even visit with you for a short time, but while moving through check-out lines and grocery aisles it’s hard to do much more than plant seeds. I also must confess that the south must surely be one of the most evangelized regions I’ve been in. Nearly everyone can spout out “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.” I just pray that He died on the cross for their sins in such a way as to cause them to repent and trust Him.

I ordered Miss Judy up an egg mcmuffin meal on the way to see her and Amber, and was so busy thinking about other things I drove past the second window without pausing to pick up the food. I remedied the mistake, of course, but I must admit I’m finding it harder and harder to concentrate on simple, little, temporal tasks. Three hours passed pretty quickly with Amber and her mom. We studied through Ruth, since Audrey’d been recommending it for some time, and I felt strange explaining Jewish customs and laws to fill in the background for the story. Sometimes I find it hard to remember that others haven’t sat under the same thorough Bible teaching as I. The life stories unfolded innocently at first, from the vignette Judy shared about stealing corn when she lived in a children’s home at age eight. The picture became more sinister as the years passed and she was adopted by a family who turned out to be abusive, struggled to make her way the in the world, married a man who proved to be a jerk and passed her LPN test the day Amber was molested at the home of the babysitter. I sat spellbound, not by details, which they kindly spared me, but by the sheer horror of the facts—the shock that the people with whom I was laughing and joking had seen the evil face of Satan with such reality. Just the other night Amber shared with me how she had witnessed a fifteen year old boy drowned. It’s just Amber and Judy against the world. They have no one else. My stomach tied up in knots, hating the horrible tangle of events that has finally landed them where they are, suddenly understanding so much more than before. Now, more than ever before, I love them, deeply, painfully for the suffering they have endured because of the sin of all history and because of the redemption God would love to bring about in their lives—and has already begun. At the same moment, I felt intensely humbled. Unworthy to be sitting with them pretending to sympathize when there is simply no way in the world I could ever understand the pain they have been through. Only Jesus will ever fully know the extent of the devastation wrecked on them, and only He can know the extent of the beauty He can bring from it. I hope I may be privileged to be a witness to His work.

The rising chill, in spite of the sun, didn’t daunt Lauryn and I. We met up at her church downtown, planning to work out but became adventuresome and ran a couple of miles instead—outside, against the shivering wind. We finalized the experience with a trip back to my home and a dip in the hot tub, where we girl talked about frustrating things like emotions—who needs them anyway? What purpose do they serve? “If we’re made in the image of God,” Lauryn pondered, “Why do we have these crazy emotions? And what are we supposed to do with them? How in the world do they glorify God?” Should those who love the Lord be always cheerful? Jesus wept. Weeping with sorrow, repentance or sympathy is encouraged in the Bible. How about weeping for no reason—just to clear one’s mind? We both confessed we are guilty of this one, whether we wish to or not. It simply happens. About once a month. Sometimes more often.

Tears are coursing down my cheeks now. Try as I might, I can’t deny them their duty of staining my cheeks, swelling my eyes and calming my spirit. Why? How can I tack such a simple question to such a complicated day? Why am I crying? Because I don’t know what else to do. I am utterly incapable of mending such enormous brokenness.

In the secret recesses of my bedroom, in the quiet hours of the night, alone with my thoughts, memories and emotions, I crawl into bed and weep. My heart breaks and splits wide open. Purged of the poison of the horrors of this world, bleeding and in pieces, I cuddle in the arms of my Redeemer knowing beyond argument that He can and will bind the gaping wounds and renew life.

Lord, bottle up my tears before Thee
Count the tears I weep before Thee
Promise me that Thou wilt hear me,
Keep Thy presence ever near me.

Hold me in Thy arms and still me
By Thy perfect pleasure will me
To be restful, trust no other
Like a child against its mother.

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