…I must look pretty scary today, because everybody walking towards me on the sidewalk is suddenly inspired to move out of my way when they see me coming. I’ve been told that I look angry when I’m thinking, but I’m not angry. But when I think about it, it’s a difficult task to tell the difference between the facial expressions of someone who’s angry and someone who is badly injured. Observe:
I’m the latter emotionally. I’ve had a really trying weekend. I feel like I’m recovering from my internal organs hitting each other at 80 mph and liquefying. Everything inside of me feels raw like trying to walk on a broken ankle.
Healing hurts. Badly. In fact, its excruciating. That’s a good word! I never realized what power that word had until Cameron’s cousin enlightened me this weekend:
ex- from; out of
cruc or crux- cross
Get the picture? Experiencing excruciating pain directly relates us to the suffering of Jesus. It’s just like Paul prayed in Philippians 3!
10[My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Cool, huh? Well, not the pain but the concept, you know?
Anyway, it was almost easier to try ignore that I was hurting, that’s what my pride wanted to do anyway. Remember that bitterness that I was talking about last weekend? It got dealt with this weekend. I honestly wasn’t in a great mood to start Sunday and I couldn’t tell you why.
I suppose that when something’s trapped inside of you, it can make you feel whatever way it wants whenever it wants to.
Anyway, after Sunday School I had to do something with it all, so I stepped outside so I could write for a few minutes until I had to go in to teach high school.
I had been writing for about 10 minutes when Miss JoAnn saw me, and if you know her, you know that there’s no getting away from her. She’s an older black woman whose serious aura belies her energy and charisma. She’s a dancer with wide green eyes and streaks of gray in her long, narrow brown braids that add a both certain grace and beauty to her age and hint at her quiet but considerable wisdom. Beyond being a dancer, she’s an artist through and through: The very reason I started taking my poetry seriously. Her thematic, monthly creative art expo titled “The Metamorphoo Experience” (metamorphoo is the greek word for transformation) founded upon the principle of Romans 12:1-2, provided my first opportunity to regularly perform my poetry for an audience. She’s now the Creative Arts Director at our church and in two years of infrequent interaction with me, she understands me better than some of the people I live with. It’s because we’re both artists, artists and performers.
But like I was saying, she seemed to see me hours before I was aware of her presence.
“Are you okay?”
I’m horrible liar, so I didn’t even try to. “I’m hurting, but it’s never bad enough to say I’m not okay.”
And so began what must’ve been a 40 minute conversation. She mostly let me talk, but when she spoke, she was a surgeon working over an open heart, each word was a knife wielded with extreme precision and care; not one syllable spoken in error, every sentence carrying its greatest potential payload. My heart cut apart and laid bare right out there in broad daylight in the church parking lot, people walking by and everything.
The entire conversation was intense, but one part of it pushed me over: She looked me in the eyes near the end and said something I suppose I’ve been afraid to hear. A quake roared through me as she said, “There’s nothing wrong with Michael.” At once, I felt my eyes begin burning, and my vision begin to blur. I couldn’t hold her gaze anymore, so I looked away deliberately. My eyes welled up, but no tears came. She seemed to have found exactly what she was looking for though, so she prodded me with the same statement again, somehow drawing my eyes back to hers. Something in or behind my eyes surged again, pushing for freedom; I made no conscious effort to restrain it this time.
For those who don’t know, I’m quite emotional. I can easily jump from passionate and energetic to pensive and somber. Maybe it’s because I have a small range of emotion or maybe I because have a hard heart, but I have really hard time crying. I’ve never thought so much of it, but a few people have told me it’s a problem now, even that Sunday.
Still nothing came.
I’m starting to wonder if I’m broken. Mama Jo must have thought something similar because for the rest of the conversation, she talked about the health benefits of tears. I just listened quietly and nodded in agreement. Honestly it almost felt like a lecture. You know, like when you did everything you could to stay out of trouble but you get into it anyway and you wish there was something more you could’ve done to avoid it? Yeah, like that. Okay, I’m exaggerating quite liberally, but still. I guess the point is that this woman loves me, and that is beyond valuable. As we embraced and I turned away late for class, I noted that I somehow felt like something in me had softened…
I had no intention to, but I had another talk like that later in the day with my parents, it was a lot different though. My mom saw my feelings on my face from a mile away and immediately came and sat down with me. That’s where everything changed. I never cease to be astounded by their wisdom and by their compassion for their child. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but I figure that I’d be better off never seeing the day where those things become something to be taken for granted.
The way we perceive our parents always affects the way we perceive God.
Anyway, I was finally able to tell them everything. All of my shortcomings in the relationship, some of the questions and problems we wrestled with, how I really felt about her and her family still; I told them everything. Not only did they forgive me and accept me, they related to me and encouraged me by sharing stories of their own. That’s when I really felt everything melt away inside of me: I’m loved, better than any girl could ever hope to, on top of it! That was the most powerful experience I’ve had in a long, long time. Their advice for me? Two words: “Let go.”
So I did.
Over and over again during the conversation I was moved to the brink of my face becoming the Niagara Falls, but every time some unseen force held the water suspended in mid-air. I became somewhat frustrated and tried to force the tears down my face to no avail. It’s actually kind of scary that even though I did everything I could, I couldn’t make myself do something that most people can’t keep themselves from doing. What in hell is that supposed to mean? I’m actually kind of concerned, but maybe I’m just making too big of a deal out of it, I’m not sure yet though. I’ve always been able to cry in front of my parents, but not this time…
There was still one thing left to do though, follow-up on the call I made last week. I did that this morning. I’ve never been so afraid to do something, heh. I sat on the back porch in a chair trembling, my stomach in knots and just looked at my phone for two or three minutes before I actually turned it on and went to her name. I stared at it for another few minutes, gathering my thoughts and framing my words aloud. Finally, I called.
She picked up.
She thought I sounded sick. I listened to myself and I did. Was I really? That was up for debate. I think I was.
I did it though. Short, sweet, and astoundingly according to plan. Bless God! Finally, freedom.
But what a terrifying thing! There was no huge weight lifted or anything like that, I was just suddenly weary, the weight of everything just kinda plopped down on top of me. My soul heaved a sigh that echoed Christ: “Tetelestai“. It is finished. I casually asked myself what should I do next. I decided to take a walk down to the lake, maybe even get this crazy weekend on paper…