Like a hard green pea under my back keeping me from rest is this question: Who was I made to be? Who have I become instead? What are these layers I’ve worn like sweaters hiding my skin and my pain? Who gave them to me or did I knit them myself? It isn’t one question but a cascade of cross-examination. Numbers swirl, overlap, fall into place and jump right back out again. The instincts, virtues, passions, stances, motivations, centers, and wings integrate and disintegrate again only to pile up like pennies in the water. And I squint but can’t quite see.
The story of a gnarled hand on a forearm and “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” spoken in throaty alto, strips off another sweater fast right over my head and I suck in breath and tears surprise me.
Oh, to be green as the moss is green To be small as a pebble and round with many washings To stand straight yet supple, with hollow stem growing in the wet Or like the water, to mirror heaven Yet never conceal all that is beneath.
This came from practicing contemplative prayer, silence, solitude. I am beginning to see how these things help the layers come off to reveal the child underneath. It really is a shrinking, a becoming small in the best way. It’s only in being small that I can crawl up into Abba’s lap. He is the smell of wild patience, a triumphant sunshine without shadows. I’m really, really relieved that there are no lies between us. This sense of home is something I am learning to walk toward but also know I carry with me. It is the beautiful paradox of the now and the not yet.
I’m a white woman. You are a black man. As you walk toward me in front of the convenience store, I prepare myself. I take in your height, the depth of brown skin & the width of cheekbone, grey sweat pants & a ball cap over the durag. You could be my age: late forties. We are a match, made to rewrite the old stories. The ones our great great grandparents were told. I anticipate the moment our eyes will meet. I rehearse what my blue ones will say: I am not afraid of you; you are just like me. I honor you for the cross you bear in this life, this country. I don’t know how to lift that load, but I see it. I do not pity you, Instead I give you kindness because you are my brother.
But as our paths cross on the narrow concrete, you duck your head and cast your eyes down and shuffle just a little. I keep walking. I don’t know what to do.
There is a plumb line. And it doesn’t swing right or left. Steady and straight, it hangs in the middle, making right angles to the earth, to us. It aligns with gravity, the gravity of what is coming.
What’s to be done with a house that isn’t square? A house that is divided within itself, aligned to the acute and the obtuse. Is it to be torn down, to begin again? What’s to say we’d get it right this time? Perhaps it’s best to wait, to watch and pray, to know this world, this house, is not our home.
You once said something about many rooms in your father’s house and that you’d be preparing a place for us, a place to dwell as family. You are the master builder. Unless you build the house, we labor in vain. You are unapologetically right and incomprehensibly kind, regardless of our ability to be still long enough to perceive the truth of your string and bob. You justify that which is crooked if we will but agree.