I wish I knew you

Maybe you think I don’t notice that bruise on half your face. You light the room with a smile and a dignified calm.

But I wish I could grab him by the throat and not let go until I know that he will never touch you again.

Except with love.

But how can I know unless you tell me? And how can you tell me unless you trust me? And how can you trust me when you just met me and he calls your phone and you need to go before we even know each other?

We say goodbye with an embrace, two kisses, and a few besides.

Then I stand and watch you walk away, wishing I knew the you behind that sparkling smile. 

And that black eye.


Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

The Half

You tell me I am half
Or maybe even less
When I don’t dream your dreams
Of how my life should be.
But while you count my flaws
And give advice, of course,
You are the one who’s half
By never knowing me.

I wrote this poem for one of the writing prompts my sister and I are doing this year. The inspiration? The countless North African women (and the few men) who have told me, whether directly or indirectly, that my worth is determined by my marital status and number of children.

But this poem is only part of the story. The sting of being under-appreciated for not ticking the “right” boxes has motivated me to find my worth in my Savior. I’m still learning; meanwhile, God has brought many others into my life who value me for being me.


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Aging alone

Back when I was teaching, we took a field trip to The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There were these cool machines with cameras that would age a photo depending on life choices. Are you a smoker? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? And so on went the questions.

One of my junior highers got me to pose for the camera. My mistake was not taking over the controls afterwards. Having already gone through the process once, he knew all of the answers to age my photo as much as possible. He ignored my protests as the screen spun out an image of a worn out old lady who eerily resembled me.

Thanks, kid.

I remember that photo sometimes when I find a new gray hair or a neck wrinkle or an age spot I never noticed before. The realization that one is aging is hard for many people; however, as a single, I wonder if aging alone is different. Not harder, but different.

As a single, there is no togetherness in disintegration. It’s just a party of one who watches the body in the mirror stoop and droop a little more each year. A party of one who gets pitied as she grays because there go her chances to snag a husband and, if she doesn’t have children, she can’t even attribute the grays to the honorable occupation of child-rearing.

His eyelids sag and he gets an extra roll of fat at his waistline.

There is no together giggling at age creeping over two bodies become one. It is just her facing irreversible doom as she watches those creeping spider veins.

There is no one to notice that mole on his back slowly changing colors. No one to miss that tooth except him.

Those freckles that once were becoming are overcome by age spots and they’ve scattered farther than she ever imagined. Her body is no longer what it used to be. And sometimes she’s glad she doesn’t have to share it.

I read through 1 Peter recently, about beauty being internal rather than external. Because remember, these bodies were not made to last forever. Whether one is aging together or aging alone, that truth is comforting.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear other perspectives. What has it been like for you to age alone, man or woman, single or widowed? Or what has it been like for you to age beside someone else? Maybe you’ve had both experiences. What are some things you’ve learned over the years?

Good

It’s not that we don’t believe You’re good because we know You are.
It’s not that we don’t believe You can heal because we know You can.
It’s just that we ask ourselves if You have her best in mind, 
And by association, our best.
Not doubt exactly, but frozen waiting for Your next move
Even while begging You to take this cup from her.
Can we yield to the nevertheless-not-our-will
And trust Your goodness without knowing Your plan?
Because it’s not our understanding of her good, 
But Yours, O Restorer, Redeemer, that’s tucked into Your promise.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Go ahead and hurt

Not acknowledging your own pain in light of someone else’s worse pain does not cultivate a heart of gratitude.

Last fall, I was hurting, but I noticed that there was always someone hurting more than I was. So I began to bury my pain inside, believing that my struggle was not valid compared to what others were going through.

I did a lot of people a disservice. Had I acknowledged that pain to the Lord and sought healing, I could have been part of the healing process of others. Instead, my own hurts handicapped me because I sunk them deeper and deeper into myself. On the surface, my pain gave way to resentment. It made it almost impossible to respond to others in need.

I stopped seeking out a place to share my pain because it wasn’t supposed to be real anyway. And I reminded myself over and over that I had so much to be grateful for. 

What was I doing? I was comparing myself to others and saw them as more needy and thus more worthy of care and attention. And my hurts…what hurts? I don’t have any hurts!

When we compare ourselves to others, it can cultivate faux gratitude. “This relationship may be broken but at least I have a solid roof over my head, unlike those war torn refugees.”

Real gratitude comes after we acknowledge our pain and still find God bigger. And still find Him good.

Have you ever read the Psalms? The psalmists don’t pretend that everything is okay. Instead, they often pour out their hearts in startling honesty. But then they rest in God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. They see their pain in light of God’s bigness and they are grateful.

I’m not sharing this piece of my journey with you because it’s pretty (it’s not) or because it’s eloquent (it is only notes jotted down on my phone); I’m sharing this because maybe you are here at this point with me where you feel like your pain isn’t worth God’s time of day, or anyone else’s, for that matter.

We can keep believing that if we would like, but life is so much richer when we seek  healing. What does healing look like? I’m not an expert yet, but I know that sometimes it looks like confession, sometimes like forgiveness, and sometimes, it’s just acknowledging that the pain is real.

None of those options mean we magically stop feeling the hurt, but that we relinquish control of it and its control on us. And without the “at-least-I-don’t” comparisons that tell us we should be grateful, we find that we have tasted God’s goodness and we are truly grateful.

Her perception is her reality

It was happening again. Round two of the same problem, only this time her hurt was bubbling up in anger. As rage overpowered her tears, she clawed at her clothing as if wanting to rip it—to rip anything—to shreds.

But was her reality real? Ever since I had met her months earlier, I had never been able to determine exactly where reality and her misguided perception began to blur.

And yet, her perception was her reality because it was the filter through which she understood life. Pain and shame were just as real in both truth and misconception.

And the questions I have asking myself over and over are:

What does loving her look like? How can I help? How do I enter into her reality and walk with her through her pain to bring her to truth? What does that look like practically?

That night, I held her baby while she wept and spat out in anger. I prayed for her but after my amen, I still let her ask the question, “Where is God in this?”

When she had calmed down, she stood up to leave. Anguish still twisted her features into a frown, but she thanked me for listening and praying.

Most of the time, loving isn’t easy. I will probably spend the rest of my life learning how to do it well.

WhatamIdoinghere

WhatamIdoinghere
And whatwasIthinking
To expose myself to rejection
And the stinging unknown.
WhatamIdoinghere
And whatwasIthinking
To make myself vulnerable
To a broken world,
Tasting its pain and distress
Hearing the cry of the oppressed.
WhatamIdoinghere
And whatwasIthinking
To let my soul experience
The piercing emotion that comes
From living a full life,
Allowing my will to battle strife,
Petitioning for souls at heaven’s door,
And understanding love more than before
WhatamIdoinghere?