I might have been the one that hurt you.
I might have turned away a bit as you were sharing your story. I may have broken eye contact and glanced beyond you when you were talking, making you feel small and invisible. You might have flushed red as I excused myself with an empty smile and moved on.
I might have used you when I thought I’d stand a little taller on your shoulders and ignored you when I thought I couldn’t. I might have belittled your dreams and made you feel small. I might have spoken into your life with discernment and truth but no love or empathy.
I might have wounded you.
I might have talked behind your back, excluded you, prayed for you while passing on gossip.
I might have been the problem. And I might not have cared at all.
Some people gush love out of their pores, a sloppy mess all over. It covers and saturates everyone together in the puddles of life. And suddenly everyone is splashing in the muck and there’s joy and rainbows and some people just have that ability to see past things, to lay down cynicism and distrust and jump in, knowing there’s no way to stay tidy and love well.
I have these people in my life and they helped heal me from people like me.
Because I saw storms and learned to weather the downpour with carefully placed cruelty and a hardened soul.
Because I might not have known how to love well or at all.
I might have been too hurt to try. I might have been jaded and angry, judgmental and jealous. I might have sized you up and determined your worth before I ever really saw you.
Because I haven’t always wanted to love well. I was never the good girl who gave a crap.
I learned not to care about what you thought because I chose not to care about you at all.
I may have pushed you away or scared you away or ignored you until you had no choice but to walk away.
But I find myself soaked down heavy, this new heart birthed by God, all watery and weary.
Because love makes a mess of things.
I sit in a room filled with women. I feel the weight of my stone and the smooth edge where I will write my word, but really there are so much more than one. I would need a mountainside of smooth granite to carve out the lies I’ve believed. The lies I’ve told myself.
Jennifer threw the gauntlet and offered to shoulder the burden we carry, to learn to tell the truth about ourselves. There are baskets waiting to collect the stones, which she will cart home with her and pray over, her daughters and her tossing them to the bottom of a nearby lake.
And I remember when I did this, years before at another retreat.
One where I held the rock in my hand with shame written in sharpie across it and I had picked it up to soon and smeared shame backward, the faint wet ink tattooing my hand dirty. I rubbed that spot with spit, my fingers working the indelible, the inevitable off my hands. And then I heaved it out to sea.
And I remember when that girl, the one I couldn’t stand but smiled absently at anyhow, started to cry and her shoulders heaved and mascara ran ugly scarring her cheeks and everyone gathered round her but I just stood, dug my heels down into the sand because wasn’t it just like her to make this all about herself? The cloud of drama that followed her everywhere she went. The stories that always seemed to change. The way the conversations would get sucked into her vortex as she went on and on and on. The monologue of the needy.
And words of affirmation and love poured out over her as arms tucked her tight and handed her tissues and then they all ventured down to the shore, their toes mixing in the spray as it lapped up on them and cheered her on as she tossed it into the waves.
I felt as though I was in some cheesy after school special where the moral of the story would be that friends are awesome and there are no cliques once you get to know everyone. Smile! And my mouth stayed hollow and empty, the taste of salt water bitter on my tongue.
But this is different. I am different.
And they say, you will know they are Christians by their love. Not because of some line I signed my name on accepting grace. Not because we made a deal, grace for sin, or life for death, Jesus in place of Alia and we’re good to go.
I know because my soul is heavy with the weight those baskets will carry away.
My heart hurts for those women who drop stones and pray to God to quell those fears.
It knows the thud of the stone hitting dust and walking away free into new life. And there is only one who can make it so.
I know because I am tired and know I can’t do it all. I can’t always do it well, I don’t. But I want to. I want to.
And that is death to life, empty to full, dark to light. That is the transformational power of God.
I know I am His because I love, in all my messed up frailty, my flesh, my failing, I want to do it better. I want to do it well. That stone, it’s gone, and in its place, this sloppy, soaking heart.