Poem secret place

arnsberg-617991-mTake me into the secret place, Father.

A hidden place of muted song and raging melody,

Of solace and passion.

That same place, with You,

I find that pours and presses peace into oft unwilling mind.

But that pulls me to my feet and sweeps me in ecstatic circles.

That place,

Only You know the way.

It’s never the same path twice,

To trace my steps or share a code:

“Two steps, a prayer, a toughened knee, three songs, a verse by heart.”

So I come, as far as I can go, the threshold of Your throne room.

So close.

I can taste Your goodness

Swoon with the sweet fragrance of a thousand prayers,

Peer at Your beautiful strength,

But freeze in awe of contained majesty.

In flesh!

A hand pierced, extended.

Please, please take me to the secret place,

Where no one else can see my tears today.

I need the sound of Your breath,

Even in the absence of Your words.

I need the thunder of Your heart,

Even when You do not lead me forward.

Oh, that secret place.

Where tears, shy of human comment,

Flow freely from waves of pent fears and awe.

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From Cheers to Tears

Funny how quickly we can go from cheers to tears.

This afternoon, some girl friends and I embarked on a teaching series by Mark Gungor, called Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. I’ve written on that here before, but if you missed it, just click on the tags related to this post.

We picked this teaching series because there’s no homework and life is crazy at the start of the school year; and because no matter what we’re discussing, we always gravitate back to marriage issues. I don’t suppose that’s surprising. Our husbands are the single most influential persons in each of our lives – for better or worse. Right?

Mark Gungor is hilarious. His accurate and exaggerated portrayals of his and her’s brains kept all of us in stitches. However, within 15 minutes of ending the video, one of my closest friends was nearing tears. The beauty of it, is that she’s one of those super-women who leads and coaches and strengthens and mentors, but never needs.

She whispered, “I haven’t been able to cry for weeks.”

I think it’s easier to hurt than to watch a loved one hurt. When I see someone I cherish whimper in pain, I see no privilege in it. There’s rarely beauty in the creases of their eyes or the way their chin tugs when they cry. But then she said something else.

“I have never had someone else to reach out to in order to get my needs met. I’ve always been the coach, the mentor.”

She’s also been the mom, the wife, the professional coach, the teacher. And it’s here where I think our roads cross. I think this loved one is walking a similar path to my own. (Hmmm, we’ve done that before.) 🙂

You see, I’m the oldest. I’ve also been the FRG leader, the team captain, the manager, the Bible study leader, the financial manager, “household six” in Army lingo. For most of my life, someone has looked up to me. For most of my life, I’ve been praised for my leadership skills and my charisma. Believe me, I’m not tooting my own horn. These generous accolades have not always benefited me.

I only recently discovered what I believe lay at the root of my eating disorder. Needlessness. Does that sound crazy? Is anyone really needless? Anyway, what do the privilege of pain and needlessness have to do with each other?

Ruth Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. I recently read an interview with her.

This is a long excerpt from the interview, but worth the read:

RUTH GRAHAM: Sometimes I think we miss the most obvious example of suffering – the crucifixion. I believe that suffering strips us of self-sufficiency and we learn that we can’t go it alone. And it makes us rely on God. Of course, the more we rely on God, the more we find that He is trustworthy. And the more we find that He is trustworthy, the more we trust Him. And I know that God doesn’t delight in pain, but I know that pain is where growth takes place. And if we are to know the deep things of God, I think very often it is taught in suffering.

ELLIOTT: This idea of self-sufficiency that you mention is interesting. It is often our tendency as humans to try to cover up our problems because we don’t want people to know what we are dealing with. Why is that the wrong thing to do?

GRAHAM: Well covering up our pains, our faults, and our mistakes only isolates us more. I have found that as I have shared my faults and failures it’s as if I’m giving permission to others to share theirs with me. And I believe that’s where real ministry takes place, when there’s a real communication on the deeper level. And I think when we take our masks off, we enable each other to communicate on a deeper level.

I can’t speak for my friend, but I surmise we’re learning the same thing. I’m not needless. And the beauty of being needy is that it makes me more aware of my Jesus’ nearness.

Protection of Pain

Another tendril in the ever-reaching privilege of pain. It started with one sore and bloody spot on your heart.

A wound, untended, glaring, raw.

Your beauty marred, a fatal flaw.

What good can come, this spreading ailment

As blood seeps out and down to deeper strands,

Threads of life, woven tight,

Till pain has stained it all.

I bet you hadn’t ever considered all the benefits of bleeding. In the physical realm, medically, we know there is a benefit to the rush of blood through a wound. Cleaning, scabbing over, protection, eventual, slow healing.

What if pain had a way of protecting your heart? I read a story recently in my Bible study by Beth Moore. She mentioned a friend of her daughter who heard that another friend had committed adultery and decided to abandon her marriage in favor of her lover. When the friend heard this story, she broke into uncontrollable sobbing. Vicariously, she experienced the pain of that family, the loneliness of the children and the betrayal of the spouse. It rent her heart.

“‘She cried over the thought that all of us have the potential of doing something that destructive. It scared her half to death.’ If that fear became a liquid shield against a wave of temptation, could it be appropriate?”

In my own life, I have shared here on many occasions that I battled anorexia for about 15 years. Once and while to this day, there is a gleam of temptation to go back: an excuse to begin distance running again and the appeal of being the thinnest of my peers, the awe or mis-guided admiration of friends when I express amazing self-control in my diet, the power trip of denying my need of anything and anyone.

But, then there’s the memory of pain, a liquid shield. My journals bear the wrinkles of dried tears when I was in the hospital. I easily remember the loneliness of refusing invitations to go out with friends. I remember the strangled protests in my mother’s eyes. I remember the painful agony of unrelenting thoughts about calories, exercise, weight, work and laziness. It was hell.

And therein lies my protection. Pain often keeps us from making the same mistake twice or from making the same mistake our friends and family make. Think of the adult child of an alcoholic. Not always, but often, they are more determined than ever to never become what they observed and bring that kind of pain into their new family.

What about you? What lesson have you learned while bent over the knees of pain? When you stood again, wobbly and tearful, were you resolute to never do anything that would put you in that position again?

Privilege of Loss

I’ve been blessed to go home to the mid-west multiple times in the last 12 months. My checkbook might not be feeling very blessed, but it did survive!

First Kylie was born!

Then, a couple months later, poor Kelsey got sick. Then Chelle got married! Each time I am swept off my feet by how much I love my sisters… and their husbands… and their daughters… and my parents. I am in love with steamy-hot Kansas and Oklahoma. I am in love with what will always be home.

Quite literally, I live a nomadic life. Patrick and I unpack as little as possible with each move, just to avoid re-packing it later. I am of the mind that if we don’t open in the two years that we live somewhere, everything in the box is disposable. He doesn’t agree. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

When I flew home after Kylie’s birth, I felt buoyant. I had enjoyed every moment, hugged at every opportunity, stayed up late, and soaked all the life out of every flicker of the second hand. But suddenly, as Kelsey drove away, and I stood on the curb outside DFW my heart lunged toward my feet.

Oh how it hurt.

To leave.

To leave Kylie.

To leave my sisters.

Say goodbye for longer than a restful night.

The pain was all-consuming. I wandered into the airport feeling lost and listless, panicked and angry. What time would pass, what days would lengthen Kylie’s little body? What progress would be made toward Rachelle’s wedding day? What tears would drip without my knowledge? What happy moments would I never experience?

Never mind that I would have my own happy moments, tears, friends, joys, growth… my own life. I would miss them. The pain wedged itself in my windpipe and fought each inhale for my whole flight home. Slowly, it loosened…

When Brave ran into my arms at my own front door,

When Patrick came home and we sat down to watch our favorite TV show together.

That’s another privilege of pain I realized. Do you see it? What if there was nothing wonderful about my sisters? Nothing compelling about home? Nothing to long for, look forward to? Isn’t it far better to have someone to cry for than to shed no tears at all?

Recently, my Bible study girls shared prayer requests. One of the girls asked for prayer for her grandmother. Another one mused out loud, “How blessed you are to have had grandparents for over 30 years!” In my self-pity moments after a sad goodbye, I don’t stop to be grateful for the fact that I have someone to miss.

My grandfather died last year and it hurt deeply. But I had loved him and been loved by him for 30 years.

I am certain that I would rather feel the pain of longing, the ache of loneliness and the tears of goodbye than to have no one to love, no one to miss, no one to hug goodbye.

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” Tennyson

Running and Resting

I have never known such rest and peace

As shedding tears and here I weep.

Flay my heart, lay bare my guilt

Let all my pride and hot fear wilt.

Destroy the “me” that kicked the goads,

Stubbornly stumbled down lonely roads.

How I loved my companions: myself, my beauty, the wisdom of my mind,

But anguish overtook me, a loneliness I thought would kill

When I ran hard from you to chase my will.

But I fell.

Landed alone in a wasted hell.

If not for you, if you had not been on my side…

Oh Savior of those who take refuge in you.

In this pleasant place I will rest in you .

A Reason For Pain

Lord, I don’t want my tears to be born merely of self-pity, but of confession, repentance, gratitude and restoration. Let my life be poured out as a drink offering, if there be pain let it overflow only to your praise – the praise of your sufficiency.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6-8