We meet in the early hours, before noise and people and duty clock in. Before the push and pull of the day. Her spoon clinks deep in the belly of her cup as she slow swirls cream into coffee. Butter melts and glistens on the bagel beside her, morning laid out and waiting.
She’s bright and smiling, says “good” when asked how she is, how her weekend went. She swirls the spoon once more then taps it hard on the lip, brings it to hers, looks up at me. That’s when I see it, the something else. The something other than she said. It’s in the eyes, always the eyes, buried behind the ruddiness of her cheeks. Buried beneath that “good” too pitched and animated.
I’ve been praying for compassion. I’ve been asking the softest heart I know to make mine more like His; mine so hard, so calloused and closed-off. It was a learned trait, a slow-simmering of years and hurts that baked me tough as sinew. But the Why is way gone now. I know this. The How has become history. The When is long past, merely a memory. Only the What matters now: what’s left and what is and what’s to come.
She sips coffee and tells me of her daughter’s plans, her grandson’s banter, the outing with her husband and it’s there, again, that something in the eyes that look beyond me, right there yet so far off. And it’s there when she looks back to me, in the weak smile and feigned happy, in the deep V that forms between her brows. She shifts and sips again, glances back down in that dark belly of her cup.
I want to cry for people. I want to cringe at injustice and mourn misery. I long for the tenderness I see outside myself, outside of the me I walled up and barred off. The Me who dug in her feet and closed off her heart believing it a better version. The Me who learned to lift her fists first. The me so full of Me I can’t see You.
I ask again. How are you? Really. And those brown eyes grab mine, latch on like a drowning and she tells me her health is not good. Again. What left has returned and he doesn’t believe her and he doesn’t care. They fought all weekend. And those brown eyes grow so deep and glisten such sorrow. Her cheeks flush crimson. A tear seeps over. Flows down. She swipes it gone.
The holding on is hard. Clinging and clenching is exhausting. Gritted teeth and clenched fists and fighting. Always fighting. Always fixing. Fixing wears a body down. It’s a slow suffering suffocation. And yet, the letting go seems harder still. The letting go of all we know, of all we know of how to be. The all we know of the Me we become. When the only thing there ever was was Me and the only How or Why that mattered was saving Me.
But the saving Me is killing me.
The saving Me is losing You.
I ask her what she will do. Has she made another appointment.
She says no.
It happened as I slept as best as I can figure. I didn’t see it coming. I wasn’t aware. It crept up subtle, slow, silent as dawn. Like dawn it seeped in and over the jagged landscape of Me and my ways and it flowed down into my deepest places driving the darkness back, back. Further back. And it flowed further still like light spilling into valleys and it flowed until the low places were filled and overflowing and it came upon jutting rock yet it pushed on and rose up, climbing, climbing, higher and higher until vast walls glowed golden, until it toppled over peaks filling the whole of me, a me I didn’t see coming.
No? What do you mean no?
I’ve never spoken of God outside my circle: my church, my friends. I can’t say exactly why, cringe at the thought of my shyness, my fear. Shame? Oh please, not shame.
No, she says again. She doesn’t care. She says he doesn’t care; why should she. Says she’s just so tired. So very tired. She just doesn’t care anymore.
And those broken brown eyes break me. Her sadness sears me and sitting right there with noise and people and day barging in I fall apart at her folding up and I grasp for her but there’s nothing I can do. Nothing. All I got is nothing but inside- inside there’s everything and right then all I want is to hand it over. I want to give it all to her. Every last little enormous bit. I want to fill her up with the fullness in me but I can’t.
But He can.
And I smile.
You may not care right now, I tell her, but He does. In fact
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
And there’s more, Friend. So much more…