There are days when in spite of all of my best efforts, my hearts shows the cracks anyway. Those days when the tears come a bit too freely, when the texts that I usually write and delete get sent instead, when I try one more time. There are days when I get lost in remembering and hoping and wishing and wondering, I forget to stay where I am, I go back to what was. Instead of gratitude for the plates that I do set around the table, I want to put out more. Those days, I wonder why God gave me a love I can’t stop for those who seem able to. I listen to sermons about all those who need me and I try to reach out to the needy but I want to be needed by who I choose also. At least seen by them. I try to strike a bargain with God, if I see those you put in my path, if I love those before me, won’t you please bring the other two back? Those days come and go, when they come, my heart shows the cracks.
Today the world sang the Hallelujah chorus and heard sermons on grace and I wondered if Stella was listening. On any given Sunday I feel convicted by the messages and try to correct my course, always correcting my failures to align more with Jesus. How can we listen to the songs and the words and the greetings as we walk into church in our best clothes and not feel compelled to adjust our behavior and notice how often and how much we have been forgiven? Of all the things I don’t understand about the estrangement phenomenon that is so incredibly prevalent and there are many, is how it can possibly live companionably within the heart of a Christian, that is the greatest. But probably that is true of so many ways in which we hurt each other and then go to see our priest or pastor or preacher each week. I know that no sin is worse than any other, I have been granted grace beyond what I can ever express. That is the very reason my heart just cannot hold on to a hurt, a grudge, a wrong. I know the power of forgiveness and multiple opportunities to get it right. I still get so much wrong. Another Sunday, course correction. Somehow my heart just believed that my daughter would walk into a church today and hear a message and the clouds would lift and the angels would sing and the phone would ring. It is Easter, for God’s sake, the big grace day. Did she listen to a choir sing and not think of giving another chance?
Instead I listened to a sermon about a woman who was estranged from her family and went to see true devastation in Rwanda and then heard God speak to her about not straying away from Him. I thought, Stella and I went to the Killing Fields, we did that. Why are we now estranged? I heard the pastor speak of a family that discovered their child dabbling in illegal substances. They decided to go all in and build an orphanage in a foreign country, a means to reach out and pull themselves back together. My cracked broken heart only heard that I should have built an orphanage when I found the first joint in Arrow’s room. My heart was showing the cracks today.
I was missing the message. The point is that people mess up and God finds a way to bring them back together, if they stay open and present to His word and His calling. I am open, I am listening, I am mostly present. Let’s see some results, God. Challenge accepted. The pastor didn’t talk about the happily ever after part, the immediate appearance of the angel and the chorus. Surely it happened. I just want my angel and my kids and my happily ever now. See my heart cracks? I was a bit angry in the chair during the sermon, I really felt I was doing my part and God was just not showing up for His. Bold, right? On Easter no less.
Most days I seal up the cracks with forward movement, planning next steps and answering calls of ministry. I spend time with the ones that God puts in my path and I actively seek out more that need what I have. Putty, spackeling, this stuff restores what is breaking in me and in the world. On good days, that is enough to hold me together. I can keep busy enough that I barely consider what size dress my granddaughter might wear, I barely allow myself to note the calendar inching closer ever closer to her birthday. Then Easter comes and suddenly my hopes are raised, this could be the day that restores us all. Might this be the day that I can stop pretending I am my own devastated wasteland, a family killing field, a place where traditions and laughter have been destroyed by the regime of estrangement?
I listened to a podcast Steve Wiens put out on Holy Week, the episode is called Loss. Had me from the start, sigh. I considered not listening but Steve usually gets me so I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t going to disrupt my cracked and barely holding together heart. I was wrong. He smashed it open, he expanded my grief and I am sitting with a new understanding of my loss. He told me I need to offer grace to myself. He is a crazy man. I have spend two years now seeking begging pleading for forgiveness from my daughter for all the wrongs I can imagine, plunging into our history for evidence of my rights, searching for an identity that allows me to still be her mother when she just says nothing which somehow means no. I forget that I am worthy of forgiving myself. He shared a story that included the message that yes, of course we messed it all up. Yep. Yep, we do that. Owning that is not the end of the story. What else have we done? Did we try to fix it? Offer grace to ourselves.
This is radical stuff to me, I didn’t see it coming. I still am battling with God that I want restoration with my daughter now, that I have cracked open my heart enough for other people. Maybe though the crack hasn’t widened quite enough to include me. Maybe the voice God is calling me to love in the devastation is not all of His other children but me as well. Maybe the orphanage he wants me to build is a home for this child here, who seeks refuge and safety and a place of belonging. God is so sneaky, sending me a double teaming set of pastors to deliver Easter messages, knowing my cracked heart is turned away, turned toward little dresses on grandchildren in another state that I won’t see today. If that isn’t love, if that isn’t grace, I really don’t know what to tell myself.
So I cry some tears but not many and I remember a bit but don’t get lost there and I make my ham and listen to the chatter of the ones who are here and I make the plates on the table be enough. I know the tomb is empty and the weeping was for that moment when the loss was real. Then all were restored but it was different and unrecognizable, this new Jesus and our job as believers got so much bigger. We have to deal with the cracks in our hearts, we have to let the loss be felt, and then we find restoration and grace in the One who rose. Not a simple 1,2,3 get it done process, no angels singing and the clouds parting when we get it all right. Because we so very rarely do. Thus the grace. For OURSELVES and others.
My sweet friends, offer yourself a gift today and listen to this podcast This Good Word if you dare and if your heart feels ready for some expansion. Some putty may fall away, you may find yourself listening to the call of God’s voice, saying, “You, you child are the one I want you to love and forgive. Then we can do some big stuff with food pantries and orphanages and classrooms and driving without anger.” The truth is we are all mistake making messes but I would sit next to you at church any day. Will you sit next to me as well? Can we make some space for grace for ourselves this Easter? I am not trying to team up with your pastor, but personally, I think you are worth it.