I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:13
“He does laundry, too?” she asked. “Really? Mine doesn’t do laundry.”
“Mine does!” another bragged with a wide grin, prying a paper clip this way and that, bending in birds and fan blades, a lop-sided daisy.
They were discussing spouses, and whose did what. And whose didn’t.
And I could care less. All I wanted was to gather the trash and go. But, he had to ask and get me involved.
“What about you, Bren? Got a man?”
Before I could reign my tongue, my attitude, I responded with a very firm, a very emphatic “No”.
We were at work, so why were we discussing this anyway? Most already knew I was a single girl, and very (did I say VERY) happy about it. I wasn’t one of those women who pined and prayed for a mate, who failed to see the beauty of singleness. No, not me. In fact, I was just the opposite.
Please, Lord, I really don’t want a husband. Really, truly I don’t. An old, crazy, cat-loving spinster; that’s me. Right?
But this guy was new and hadn’t a clue, not until my resounding, nearly snarling “No”. He pressed the matter anyway.
“No husband? Why not?”
“Been there, done that,” I replied as curt as I could, hoping he’d drop the matter. But, just in case, I ended it with “and I don’t ever want to do it again”.
End of sentence, end of subject.
“Oh, c’mon. It couldn’t have been that bad,” he quipped, his quizzical grin starting just below one baby blue and ending below the other. And those pretty blue eyes were the only thing that saved him from the angst growing in my chest. Couldn’t have been that bad? Oh, buddy. If you only knew. But, of course he didn’t, so I offered up the only other callous response I had:
“Between my pile of pillows, my two cats, and my own big Self, there’s absolutely no room in my bed for anyone else.”
Like I said: crazy cat lady.
I spun on my heels, trash bag twirling like a fancy skirt behind me, and headed for the door.
But he wasn’t done yet. Oh, no. Not yet.
“You know, being alone too long tends to make one really self-centered, too self-reliant.”
Good thing he was well behind me.
Good thing he had those baby blues.
Besides, what did he know.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And it was true. He didn’t know a thing about me or my life. He had no clue about where I’d been, what it’d taken to get to here, to now. He didn’t know the sleepless nights or the worried fear, didn’t know the burning bruising or the silent shame.
He hadn’t a clue just how long one could hold their breath.
The forever of my years.
And it wasn’t just about a spouse but also a mate, and about the origin of it all: a father.
The totality of my memory is a shivering, skin-lined cache of fear, of wondering if, of wondering when. It is a stretched tinsel-tense chord from trauma to turmoil playing out like a lyre with each angry, violent strum, each remembering. I don’t know a time without fear; not one day, not one moment. The fear festered from who was near, just how near, and what had I done. Would they only grumble or would they strike. Who would take me this time. Where would I be tomorrow.
Something. Always something.
I learned to read my surroundings like others read Dick and Jane and watched Spot run. It wasn’t Humpty Dumpty in pieces, it was me. (Who would put me back together again?) I learned to sense a mood like grown men sense the rain. Or none. The heaviness of a step, the heaviness of an exhale laid out the plan sure as lightening on the horizon, thunder from who can tell where.
Lay low, girl. Lay low.
It was a forever-life of what to do and when to do and how to do and you better smile while you do. It was where’s my socks and where’s my dinner and where’s your head, girl. (Can’t you do anything right.) It was the food and the drink running down white walls, the back of a filthy hand, the threat of being put out.
It was the snarling, piercing, “No wonder your mother didn’t want you.”
And that was that.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Forty years of that just might leave a girl pretty happy to be alone. And, I am. Besides, “alone” doesn’t mean “lonely”. Not by a long shot.
But I am here, and here is now. Here is this place of respite, this resting place and now is without fear. Now is me, just me and it is quietly, blissfully, freely lovely.
Now is this time and this place where I came with only a box and a bag, a cat and a few momentos. Now is a couple of sons and no one else. Nothing else.
Nothing but my sadness and fear and what now, Lord.
But the Lord said, don’t worry, girl. Exhale. Just exhale.
It’s okay now.
And that bag and those boxes multiplied like fish and bread and grew into a home of my own, a home full of needed things, and even not-so-needed things. A car sits outside. My empty days filled with work and church and friends; with my sons. My empty life expanded with hobbies and fun and laughter. Everything I could ever need grew right up out of nothing, just like a miracle. Everything I could ever need.
Or so I thought.
My heart, well, it languished. My heart was a raft on the waves of a stormy sea tossed to and fro, to and fro, full then not, full then not. I often saw myself out on those angry waters rowing like a mad woman, my arms and gut burning from the effort while all along, unbeknownst to me, an anchor held me firmly, tightly in place- right where I was.
I could no more save myself than an angry bear in a tight steel trap.
Seven years later I continue to busy myself with work and hobbies and friends. I stay so busy my arms and gut burn from the effort of it all. And when it all slows, I shut down. I turn off. When it’s slow I pull into my home and into my Self where it’s calm and quiet, where I can exhale. I can recuperate. I pull in to my space, my own private, quiet space where it’s only me, only what I want, what I don’t want. I pull in where it’s safe; all comfy-cozy like. Where I don’t have to think. Or feel. Or do.
Eventually, though, that boat starts rocking and I’ve got to row once again lest I topple and go under.
For seven years I’ve been clinging to this solitary life. Clinging? No, grasping. I’ve been grasping white-knuckled and fiercely protective, unabashedly proud, arrogantly entitled. I am the toddler who’s stolen a doll and stands here now stomping my feet, red-faced screaming, crying and wailing, “Mine! Mine!”.
Who could blame me? I was treated so poorly for so long, who could blame me? Really, I ask. Who could blame me?
No one. Not a soul.
Not even God.
I deserved this. I’d earned it.
And the boat sways, the anchor digging deeper into bedrock.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Corinthians 6: 19,20
Truth be told, I’ve been fooling myself. More truth be told, I’ve been a part-time disciple, a when-it’s-convenient Christian. Truth be told, I’m really just another Jonah, running and hiding and avoiding til the great whale of my very Self swallows me whole.
Like it or not, I can no more hide from God than Adam and Eve. My fig leaves always give me away.
Because this life is not my own. Despite the path or the events, the whats or the whys; despite the narrative, this is not my life. This is His life.
Everything I own, I do not.
Everything I am, I am not.
It’s about the origin of it all: a Father.
And that explains the storming seas, the swaying to and fro. That explains the constant, nagging suspicion that I’ve forgotten something I never really knew, yet feels so intimately familiar.
The Lord owes me nothing; not a single, solitary thing. It is I who owns the owing.
There was the cross and the attic, the surviving and the respite. There was the shelter and the provision. There was the everything and everyone. There was the saving from first to last, day in and day out, over and over again. There was…
And now I’d like to freely answer, “Here I am, Lord”, scars, shame, leaves and all.
Now, I’d like to offer up an inch, even just an inch, because I know He’ll receive it and return to me one glorious, splendid mile.
Now, I’d like to freely return what was never mine. I’d like to finally exhale fully, inhale deeply, lock eyes with His and step right on out of this boat.
Now, finally, I’d like to unfurl these clenched white-tight fingers and let the blood flow back in. I will.
I will let my blood flow just as freely as His, just as freely as the day He gave me Life.
I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24