I hear wise words floating around me, coming from trusted women and NPR stories and snippets in the grocery store. Words that encourage and show strength and perseverance, words that show one can survive unimaginable losses and not be destroyed. I hear of widows who carry on, not shut away but still singing at church and baking brownies for youth group for sales. I hear of adults who found their way to America with only one member of their family, the rest victim to the Khmer Rouge. I follow a mother’s updates on Facebook, a woman whose daughter went missing and no trace has been found since that night out with friends June 3, 2011. The world is full of such great heartache and I hear the stories, I want to be able to gain perspective on my losses and get back up, bake more cookies for sales and sing more in church. Yet the wisdom slips through my grasp, too fragile to grab hold as my sorrow weakens me, muscles not exercised have gone limp. I want to forgive those who have contributed to my missing pieces, I want to be the better version of myself, I want to not ache and to allow others the time to grow into themselves without me but the yearning within me doesn’t cease. How do you stop marking the calendar with days missed together? The old Alcoholics Anonymous adage carries more wisdom: one day at a time. Still I know even with this model, I have relapses, I have lost my recovery into a state of sorrow. I hear the wisdom of survivors around me, the low hum of voices that cannot reach my heart. I want what I want, like an addict wants the next fix. Until I chose to get help, I am lost to this madness of mourning.
Finally another wise woman asked, “How is your soul?” and something broke through. I wanted to cry, I knew my soul was in tatters and spilling droplets of memories about me. I wanted to scoop them up and stuff them back in but they leaked and pushed and refused to be ignored. My soul? In a state of disarray, disquieted, disappointed, I answered. But now, several days later I realize I was wrong, my soul is steady and sure and waiting. I had mistaken my soul for my heart. My broken bleeding aching exhausted heart, that had taken over all of my attention and I forget about my soul. I was confused, as so often happens when emotions run amok with their blinding neon demands for attention, technicolor arrays of aches and pains that bleed into the next, no time to catch my breath before the next contraction arrives. God has sent these women to be my midwives, birthing me again and again as I find my soul where He resides. How is my soul? My soul is wounded and broken for the mother who can’t find her daughter, for all the families lost to genocide, for the mothers who will visit their sons this week in prison and the ones who cannot, for the women who feel less than because their body has produced no babies and the women who wish their own mothers were here to accept a corsage and those who never knew them or wanted to give flowers away. God has given me a soul that notices the least, the vulnerable. That is where He resides within me, not my heart, where I live too often.
The run up to this holiday has been brutal but I see now I have chosen to step into the boxing ring to get pummeled. Jab, upper cut, smash, each punch of an advertisement knocking me further into my own heart and separating me from God, dividing me from what it is that He has asked of me. I can’t apologize for mourning, God surely recognizes my loss as well. Yet I just know that He is asking I trust Him to work on that, why cannot I fully turn that over to Him and do what He asks me to do without concern for the world and arbitrary dates on the calendar? Do I trust God? The clear answer is that I want to and I want what I want and I want to be better and I am just too full of humanity to lean so fully on my faith when the bright colors of Sunday ads with flowers and perfume and jewelry tell me that my children have forsaken me, knowingly neglected to reach out on this day, to inflict more damage. Yet, is that the truth? As my friend Janet is want to say, is that the story I am telling myself? I cannot speak to how hard this day is for them as well, I don’t know if they don’t ache to pick up the phone and have not yet reached the place in their journey that allows them to do so. Can I trust God with my heart and carry on with my soul work even on the hard days, the really horrible dark ones where the couch beacons even as the sun shines?
The only way I have ever known to survive is to rely on my soul and not my heart. My heart is faulty, a storehouse of tiny grudges and rather large expectations. My soul, though, no matter what I do, I cannot seem to muddy it up. That temple within me is where God awaits my return, my re-turn into His arms and His word and His promises along His path. Grace finds me there again and again, just as my children will find one day when they call home. Regardless of the calendar, it will be mother’s day. That is the promise that comes from trusting God and seeing to my soul. Hope is too tricky to allow into my heart, a fickle emotion that promises sugary sweetness but the crash that comes after is devastating. No, hope must live only within the confines of my soul, hope in God not in people or circumstances. No blood sugar spikes, no depressive lows, God is constant and persistent and pursues me with NPR broadcasts. God in my soul says make some brownies for the bake sale and take some flowers to another mother this weekend. Go to church anyway, get of off the couch. This is just another day and it is a gift, greater than a corsage or perfume or even a call from children. It is from the One who never stops loving. How is my soul? Restored.