I Kissed Self-Preservation Goodbye

He told me it wasn’t my job to worry about him, but I’d long ago decided that I am my brother’s keeper.

She told me it’s okay to be friends as long as I don’t get emotionally attached, and I ask myself how that’s possible.

There’s a reason my mama named me “Devoted.”
And it’s not so I could offer my friends half-hearted affection.

Let’s pretend, shall we? Let’s pretend to care about each other until the going gets tough and we backpedal through our promises in the name of Self-Preservation.

Self-Preservation. I hate her. If Tragedy walking down the hall makes me cringe, Self-Preservation makes me grit my teeth, clench my fists, and say a prayer that I refrain from slapping her phony smile right off her face.

Because Tragedy may hurt, but she draws people together in a way that comforts and heals. At least, until Self-Preservation walks in. “It’s not your fight,” she says. “It’s messy and dirty and uncomfortable here. Let’s just walk away. Let’s just walk away before all of this becomes too much for this heart to handle.”

And we think we’re doing the right thing, listening to her. It’s the best thing for us, we reason. Because who wants to be burdened with all that heartache and despair?

So we plug our ears and walk away, hoping to forget the cries of the world.

But baby, baby, I hear you.

I hear the way your heart splinters into a thousand pieces.

Self-Preservation doesn’t care. She’s not going to rock you and hold you and wipe away your tears. Instead, she’ll tell you to get up and keep going and forget about this mess. And, yes, there’s a time for packing up and moving on, but you’ve got to pick up the pieces first.

Give yourself time to pick up all the pieces.
We wouldn’t want any fragments of you lost down this road.

Tragedy ripped through your world like a whirlwind, and, baby, it hurt like nobody’s business, but you’re going to be okay.

Yes, you’ll be just fine as long as you’re not looking to be preserved. Because maybe you weren’t meant to maintain your original or existing shape. Maybe you were meant to change with the seasons. Maybe you were meant to be remade and redefined.

Self-Preservation doesn’t encourage that in you. Self-Preservation tries to cling to the things that were. But, baby, those things simply aren’t anymore. There’s nothing you can do about that. I’m sorry if that’s not the way you wanted it, but, sweetheart, that’s the way it is. And that’s okay.

Change is a good thing, honest. Change is a requirement of growth. And trust you me, there is nothing more tragic than when a being stops growing. Stops becoming everything it was meant to become.

A friend told me that the enemy traps women through their emotions, but I think he traps us through our lack of emotions, too. And I believe the latter trap is far more deadly than the first.

So I said goodbye to Self-Preservation and made Sorrow and Heartache my friends. And maybe it’s morbid to say I love the way they make me feel, but I do. I do because they make me feel where Self-Preservation offered nothing but numbness.

But God is good and life is beautiful and pain is not all I feel.

Oh no, pain is a mere side effect of love. And love is so much bigger than pain. Love makes all the pain worth it.

So I don’t care. I don’t care if it defies the laws of self-preservation; I’m always going to love you this big.

Because you’re worth it.

Every single moment of loving you is worth it. In both the good times and the bad.

And maybe it’s true that you’ll only break my heart. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t be okay with that, but, darling, I am. I’m okay to be ripped apart, shredded open, and ravaged to pieces by you.

Because I think someone should care that much. And I think someone should love you that deeply. And I’ve never been good at giving anything less than everything.

So maybe it’s my own form of self-preservation—to love you with all that I am.

(So go ahead and rip my heart apart. Send an email to beyondwaiting@yahoo.com and tell me how you’re really doing. I want to know your story, I’m willing to enter your tragedy, and I promise to send a little love your way in response.)

How to Cradle the World

I fell apart with a five-year-old boy in the middle of a classroom. And by “fell apart,” I mean I maintained that calm exterior that is necessary in a room full of preschoolers, but my heart completely ripped in two.

He said he was hungry, and maybe he was, but it wasn’t the kind of hunger a handful of Cheese Nips could solve. And I wish that it was because it’s so much easier to conjure up a handful of Cheese Nips than to piece together the splintered remains of a broken heart.

So there I am, with my box of unwanted snacks, simply staring at this boy with his thick, long lashes that are laced with tears and longing.

“He wants his mommy,” one of my students sagely observes.

I’ll bet he does. I’ll bet he does. And it would be so much easier to see him cry if I knew he had a mommy to go home to. But he doesn’t. Because he was transferred to my school at the same time he was transferred to a new foster family.

He’s five years old and he has nothing to cling to in life.

He mentioned a brother, but I didn’t dare ask if they were placed in the same home. I was afraid of what the answer might be.

Can I confess something to you?

Sometimes I feel so small.

Sometimes I feel helpless and useless and completely overwhelmed by the world around me.

And while I’ve never been one to doubt that one life can make a difference, sometimes I wonder if we make difference enough.

Because my arms aren’t quite big enough to rock the whole world close to my heart.

And I realize that my presence in the life of this child is temporary. Just a few, short weeks until school is out and he passes from my life forever—gone just as quickly as he came.

It’s almost enough to make me question the purpose of giving him all I’ve got.

Almost.

There’s a reason Rebekah means “Devoted.” I don’t know how to love with anything less than all I’ve got.

So I’m sitting there looking at this child, asking God why. Why would He give me something so fragile to hold for such a short time? Why would He give me the desire to nurture and mend and create wings for this child when such a task cannot possibly be done in a mere handful of weeks?

And what does one do with an untouched pile of Cheese Nips on her table and a steady stream of tears creating a puddle on her floor?

You let them stay just as they are, and you draw that child close to your heart, and you make him your world for a moment.

Yes, you make him your world, and you’ll see…

The world fits quite nicely in the curve of your arms.

You’re big enough to cradle the world, after all.

Yes, that’s how you cradle the world.

How to Cradle the World

Bleeding Hearts and Useless Words

There’s a word that keeps resurfacing in my prayer journal—an adjective I keep using to describe my heart.

Bleeding.

My heart is bleeding. Cracked. Broken. Rubbed raw and aching with the harsh realities of life.

Some of it is my fault—decisions I have made, bitterness I have harbored. But some of it… Some of it is completely out of my control. The only contribution I made to that pain was deciding to love too deeply, but I promised myself long ago that I’d never apologize for that.

So here I stand.

Bleeding.

Which is why I’ve been silent here of late. The words have slipped right through the cracks in my spirit. And I’m laughing to think that I had all the answers right up until it came time to use them, which makes me wonder if perhaps they weren’t the right answers after all.

Because when your heart rumbles and shudders with the force of an earthquake and your soul rips apart at the seams, you find that answers aren’t a strong enough foundation for the process of rebuilding your life.

So what is? What remains when everything else lies in ruins?

It’s simple, really. Simple and short and perhaps a bit cliche:

When answers fail—when words are rendered worthless—love remains.

…Which is a difficult concept for a writer to wrap her mind around. You see, words are pretty much my life. I live off them and in them and for them. I’ve read as many as fourteen novels in a single month and still didn’t get my fill of them. Words. Piles and piles of words.

I’ve never believed in letters that don’t wrap around from front to back. I’ve never learned to stay within the margins of my pages. And when I’m broken, I resort to poetry and prose.

But I realized just the other day that I often fill the silences with fluff as if I’m afraid of fresh, white pages. I realized just now that I craft entire paragraphs when only one sentence is needed. And maybe the message I’m trying to get across is found somewhere in that 500-word-essay, but there’s a chance it got lost amidst all the scribbles in the margins.¬†And after all my assurances, condolences, and cliches, you still stand there. Bleeding.

Because I gave you pages of poetry when all you needed was a simple confession.

“I know that you’re broken. I’m broken, too. But I’m okay to be broken for you.”

Maybe all I needed to say was, “I love you.”
As cliche as that sounds, I love you.
Forever.
For always.
Yes, even in this.

Or maybe I don’t need to say anything at all.

Yes, I think for now I’ll just remain silent and bleed right along with you.

ruins-001

The Miracle of Unbreaking

If there’s one thing I’ve learned with certainty in the twenty-one years I’ve walked this earth, it’s that my world is broken. And my greatest fear in this moment is that you may be broken, too.

I know far too many people who have been crushed by the weight of this world. Sometimes I look at the pieces of their shattered lives and nearly fall into despair. Because there behind the haunted eyes, I see a trace of a girl I used to know. And I remember that she was all smiles and potential then. Now she has a past with the potential to drag her down as she drinks of a sorrow so deep it only leaves her empty.

But somewhere beneath the pain and the lies, her true value remains. She’s every bit as beautiful as she was five years ago… only a little less innocent.

And I know that when she looks at her life, she doesn’t see what I see. She doesn’t see the potential that remains in the depths of her soul, begging for release. No, what she sees is a disaster—a disaster so overwhelming, it leaves no room for believing in starting over and second chances and a God who makes all things new.

Because she’s broken.
And I… I don’t just want to fix her. I want to unbreak her. I want to restore the life and beauty that once was.

If I even half believed she would hear me, I’d tell her that the potential is still there. That life is still fresh and bright and beautiful on the other side of the darkness. But her ears are closed to me right now. They’re closed to hope and faith and the impossible things that are made possible through the God of impossibilities.

If I could rewind time, I would go back to the place where she was still impressionable—back to the place where a word I said might have made all the difference—and I would say all those things that I forgot to mention. I would breathe hope and instill courage and whisper syllables of impossible dreams fulfilled.

I would unbreak her.
I would keep her from falling or at least be there to catch her when the ground shifted from underneath her feet.

But I don’t have a time machine, though I am still a firm believer in second chances. So maybe my second chance comes in the form of someone else.

Maybe my second chance is you.

And maybe these are exactly the words you needed to hear at exactly this moment.

Maybe this is the start of your unbreaking.

And maybe there are others who are still waiting to be unbroken. So I’ll look for the girl with the starry-eyes—the one with impressionable innocence that screams of potential—and I’ll take her by the hand and walk with her into the life my first friend forfeited. Because if I couldn’t keep her from falling, maybe I will have at least learned to catch someone else.

And maybe it’s not too late to be part of the miracle of unbreaking.