I recently started reading the blog of Preston Yancey. He always gives me something to think about. Sometimes his theological musings put words to the practical I have been trying to wrap my heart around. He hosts a series called Conversations with Myself. So I had one, a conversation with myself. And here it is.
I step into the cabin I know she will be. She is alone, sleeping. This is what happens when a teen with a middle-aged ladies disease goes to church camp. She needed a nap in the middle of the day and she is about to sleep through dinner. It is her sister that will come get her.
I am not worried about waking her. I remember that furious and deep sleep her body used to fall into. She has just completed her first year of high school, had her heart broken truly for someone very trivial, had her first kiss in the high school gym during the homecoming dance. She has been serious about God for three years already.
Abby, I call softly. Abby honey, I need to talk to you for a minute. She blinks at me slowly, trying to discern the time of day. I sound exactly like her mother, and look almost the same too. I had forgotten how confusing a deep sleep like that could be. She looks at me and blinks two long slow blinks. She rubs her eyes and scrunches up her face so that her tears leak behind her dry contact lenses.
“You aren’t….” She catches her breath. There is enough youth left in her longing to believe in the mystery of making this possible.
“I know,” I assure her. “I think it is really weird too.”
She sits up quickly. “What do you need to tell me? Is everything okay?”
I smile at her and wonder if there were ever a day where I would not ask that. “Yes love, everything is okay. It is more than okay. We are good. I just came here to tell you that you are enough.”
She looks at me questioning. It is only now that I look deeply into her face. Her big brown eyes are so steady and bold. “Enough for what?” She does not have to speak the rest of her wondering aloud. What things are coming? What might she not be enough for? Surely this means something grand, something BIG is in her future. She knows that she is set apart. At twelve she heard God speak to her.
“Just that you are enough, right as you are. In the great, the trying, the working on it. I need you to remember that you are enough, even when things don’t go the way we thought they would, it isn’t because you aren’t good enough.”
“So that thing God told me about my voice…….”
“You heard him all right. It just isn’t going to pan out the way we thought it would. That doesn’t make it any less true.” I get up to go and she almost lets me. I hear her big breath, and the question she is almost too afraid to ask.
“Will I ever be healed?”
Her tears spill over as she looks at me fearfully. She asks the question even when she is afraid to hear the answer. She is braver than I am. I take her worn broken body into my arms as I sit back down next to her on the bottom bunk. I know that my chest feels just like the comfort of her mother’s. My two girls have shaped it so.
I let her cry the fear, and the weariness into me as I rock her. I know how much she values honesty. I take a deep breath and, holding her head to my chest, I say to her, “It is going to get better, and then it is going to get much, much worse, and if there were any way to save you from it, I would. I promise you.” I whisper, “Not a single second of suffering will be wasted. God will count every tear, and He will be there through this and in this, and you will know Him because of this pain. It isn’t as soon as you want and it isn’t in a way you expect, but eventually, by the time you look like this, God will have healed you, set you free.”
She pulls away to look at me and nod. It is not what she wants to hear, but she accepts it. “Go back to sleep,” I tell her. “Your sister will be here in a moment.”
I decide to sneak off to the vespers spot and hope I don’t interrupt any couples who were looking for a place to be alone. I want to sit on the bench once more, the place where I first heard God speak so clearly. There was less static then.
I am staring at the cross and the altar, remembering what it feels like to be a teenager in love with Jesus, when I hear someone come up behind me.
“I thought I might find you here.”
I turn around to the sound. She sounds and looks so much like my mother. She smiles knowingly. She knows there is enough youth left in me longing to believe in the mystery of making this possible. “I know,” she laughs. “I think it is really weird too. But…” she shrugs, “here I am.”
I can’t help myself, the worry springs from my lips. “Is everything okay?” She gives me a sad smile. I return it. “We don’t ever break that habit, huh?”
She laughs again. “No, but we learn to embrace it.”
“The girls?” I ask.
“Still the loves of my life.”
She knows I need to still hear the answer spoken aloud. “Everything is okay. It is more than okay. We are good. I just came here to tell you that you are enough.”
All the breath escapes from my lungs and I look up at her, now standing in front of me, knowingly. It is only now I look deeply into her face. I find the lines around her mouth strangely beautiful. Her eyes are lighter, warm and familiar. She knows that I have spent the last two years wondering if I was good enough, deeply afraid that when the time came, I would not be. Afraid that the time had come and gone, and I was already not enough, so I was already passed over. I hope that I am still set apart, that the voice I know I heard is still good.
She stands me up in front of the altar of my youth. “Abby, you are enough. I promise. He has made you enough.”
I stand trembling before her, my future self. “I want so badly to believe that is true,” I whisper to her, head down, ashamed of the ways I have not yet embraced the truth I freely dispense.
“This is our life’s great work,” she tells me, looking earnestly into my face. “Learning to love yourself as Christ loves you.” I nod my head and we both sit down on the smooth wooden benches, silent in the weight of that truth.
Emboldened by my younger self, and weary from the battle I have waged this school year I look straight ahead and say, “So….. the depression; will I ever be healed?”
She takes my scared and weeping head to her chest. It feels just like my mother’s. I wonder how many babies have shaped this comfort. She says the answer out loud as I recite it silently to myself. “It is going to get better, and it is going to get worse, and if there were anyway to save you from it, I would. I promise you,” she whispers. “Not a single second of suffering will be wasted. God will count every tear, and He will be there through this and in this, and you will know Him because of this pain. And it won’t be as soon as you want and it won’t be in a way you expect, but eventually, God will heal you, set you free.”
We sit there for a minute breathing together, staring at the cross. Simultaneously we stand up and walk out together. I stop half way down the aisle. “The twins…,” I gasp, “the ones that God promised me.”
She raises her eyebrows.
“I did here from God.” I answer.
“It will not pan out the way I thought it would.” I continue.
Together we finish, “that doesn’t make it any less true.”