Batter my heart
The alarm on my phone goes off and I fumble to reach it, dropping it on the floor. Rolling over and running my fingers across the carpet I reach the smooth black case, pull it under the covers with me and tap the snooze. A 9-minute nap. Today I’ve set it extra early in the hope that I will get out of bed and exercise, but no one is waiting for me at the gym and the air from the fan brushes my cheek gently and I burrow back in, again and again.
Finally after tapping the button more than I meant, I groan and roll out. My feet move slower than I’d like – everything moves slower than I’d like – and I get down the stairs before I realize I’ve left my shoes at the top, forgotten to put my hair in a ponytail. Back up and back down and finally out the door much too late, my brain asking the whole time are you sure you don’t just want to get back into bed?
As long as I’ve been doing this, there’s hardly ever a morning where it comes easy.
I plug small white buds into my ears and pull up a podcast that I’m still not sure of. I like it and at the same time am skeptical of my own liking of it, these people that are younger than me and so white and male talking about faith and art and worship and I think they are just a little too sure of themselves and how hip they are and my finger hovers but I think screw it and push it anyway. The episode is called One Wild Life and slowly, slowly, I start to walk.
This summer has been unbelievable in the worst kind of way. Loss after loss, wave after wave of anger, fear, and grief. There have been times I’ve had to laugh – hard, sharp – at the sheer absurdity of it.There have been nights that I’ve gone to sleep just to give my eyes a rest from crying. If I weren’t living out these days, if you were the one telling me, I would think you a liar. It’s too much. I want to say it’s the worst summer of my life but then I stop myself: it’s not. I’ve been here before, hardly a soul I know hasn’t.
It is a cruel season, but this is life. It’s breathtaking in its beauty and in its pain. Which is a pretty way to phrase it, but what happens when you can’t catch your breath?
Me, I do everything I can to hang on, and I turn my face to the heavens and ask what more do You want from me?
I push my feet down the street, my pace laughably slow. In my ear there is music and then talking. The artist who usually hosts (young, white, male) is introducing his wife and they are talking about their new album and how close it is, how dear, how it was written out of hard things they have just been through.
Such a crazy year, the husband says, and then the wife: it was kind of like, one thing would happen, and we would feel like we were just catching our breath, and then…something else would come.
Ok, I thought. You’ve got my attention.
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself. – CS Lewis
I’ve turned off the street and am cutting across the golf course now, sun peeking over the trees, and I’m listening still. I’m walking faster, dew shining on the grass, music and story intertwined, the pain of this couple and the resulting art. Their decision to work beauty out of the darkness.
I know this, I know that art is often born of pain, that it is the places I’ve walked this summer that force this spinning existence to slow. I won’t stop, I won’t pick at the pieces, shining and desperate, unless I have to – I won’t search. I won’t see.
I’d like to think that the pains of my past are enough, that a reservoir exists within me to draw from. I have suffered, I understand pain, I am magnanimous. The universe does not easily bend to my wishes, though, and life keeps coming. And the only choice I have is what I will do with this pressing, this crushing, this expanding, this reminder.
On the path through the neat green grass, I am running.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Winding through neighborhoods, little arrows of answers are flying. Not the whole, not the large ones, the ones that would make it all okay. But small and piercing still.
The podcast plays, the husband says: I think so many times in church we reduce love to this nice, small thing. But true love is not small or nice, it is ferocious. Love will stop at nothing.
Ferocious is what this summer has been; a tearing, clawing, roaring passage of days.
Somehow, in all this – are You stopping at nothing? Could this be how You love me?
Batter my heart, three person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
– John Donne
I round the corner into my driveway, puffing and sweaty.
As long as I’ve been doing this, there’s hardly ever a morning where it comes easy; true for exercise and prayer, life and faith.
One walk and one story will not fix all this. I have no idea where the fallout from this season will eventually land, and I would always and forever rather nap for 9 more minutes. But slowly and groaning, each day that I can, I will keep on putting my feet down.
I will look hard and listen. I will live the questions.
I will let You stop at nothing, ferocious for me.
By In The Pipeline: September – Chino House 11 Sep ’15 at 8:00 am
A battered and bruised heart is still a beating heart. This season has been awful, but it is only a season.
I love you, and your words are always soothing to me, even the ones like these that are so hard to read.
Beautiful words, beautiful heart!❤️
Oh, the joy at finding this in my inbox today.
Beauty from pain.
Just this Sunday I wrote down this quote from the sermon: “If you have a faith that gives you the answers to all your questions, you aren’t asking the right questions.”
Suffering makes us not only ask the right questions, but stand in the middle of them.
Love you, friend.
So sorry for your suffering this summer. There is such beauty in your painful words.
Sarabeth, this is beautifully bittersweet. I am so sorry for your pain. I know this exact feeling of trying to breathe and just when you get the inhale of “everything will be ok again”, your gut gets punched and out goes all the air you worked so hard to collect into your lungs. In times as this, I’m reminded again and again that the vinedresser is ever nearest the vine when he is pruning it. There will be life which blooms from this somewhere. Thank you for your words, your transparency, and for continuing to put one foot in front of the other in life and in faith.
Absolutely powerful words.
Amazing. Beautifully written. One of my favorite passages from European literature. I cannot think of a more perfect post.
Thank you, so much!