The dark’s never bothered me much.
It’s women who have scared me.
Because women can haunt with shadows of their own.
I don’t know what grade I was in when Alexa Richards* murmured to Judith Nolan* in the back of gym class that the whole school knew I’d likely end up in a loonie bin.
But I know I vowed right then I’d hide from girls.
Just hide out in the library stacks, a barricade of my own. Safe from Sadie Miller’s* remarks about my clothes thrifted from the Sally-Ann, and Lissa Turscott’s* barbs about being the geek no one would ever want to be friends with, and it’s true — no one tells you that the shields you carry to keep you safe, they become the steel cages that keep you alone.
I never gave the women at university a chance.
I kept the door to Room 411 on the C wing of the French floor always closed and locked.
I told the girls down my hall, Melanie with a Chinese mother and Dutch father and who’d grown up in England, and Cyndi with her Portuguese parents and her boyfriend who had won the lottery and Yamila from Uruguay whose father was an international diplomat — I just told all of them that an open door made it too hard to study.
Truth was, I thought an open door made it too easy for someone to shoot an arrow through my hard and quaking heart.
They always knocked and asked if I wanted anything at the cafeteria. They always made sure I never walked alone in the dark across campus to the library. They had always tried. They had always smiled.
Every single one of those women made the trip to the farm to be at my wedding. They came together and early, to help decorate the tent in the backyard with white begonias and double impatiens.
Why hadn’t I been patient with friendship?
Why had I let the past rob me of the present’s possibility?
Why hadn’t I seen that the price of being safe — is the cost of being solitary?
Why hadn’t I seen that distrust can destroy a life?
And then came summer days when I gathered with women and we had pie together and laughed the dark away under stars and I stand in a doorway late at night, in a house full of (in)courage writers.
One of the women asks me quiet: “Has it really been okay? — I mean, for you to be here with all of us?”
And in a house full of women, the words come in the dark and what haunts can be cast out, and these words are truth:
“God has used you, all of you, so many women, to heal me.”
I have witnessed it — women holding Sara right there in Skype and carrying her out to see the sea.
I have heard it, women asking across tables about dreams and listening long to really hear and I heard women do it — how they helped unfold wings and smoothed the crumpled and timid out with prayer and how they waited to hear the flight.
I have felt it — how no one wants anything of anyone but to be honest and real and to trust enough to take off the mask.
You breathe different in a room when you know it’s not about the good you can accomplish but about the grace you can accept.
Because really — in a refuge of grace, who has anything to prove or protect?
In the hands of grace — who has anything to hide?
In the space of grace — who needs to live for something — when they can live with someone?
When we breathe in grace, we finally believe we can be real — and only then can we begin to be changed into the realest versions of Holy Grace Himself.
It’s in a sanctuary of grace, relationships near extinction can revive.
Friendship is all that will show up at our funerals.
Who can bear living the whole of their lives and never learn what it means to really be a friend?
I long to learn.
I have felt it these days too, straight across me: Women, how they can cast long shadows of their own— the lengthening of a love that picks up the phone, that writes a card, that lavishes patient grace on an old ache…
These women casting shadows that lengthen into the faithfulness of a Cross.
Making all the dark up and flee.
*not their real names
Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart. To read the entire series of spiritual practices
This week, and the next two weeks, might we consider: The Practice of Relationship. We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….
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