It was after the brownies, when I’m dabbing up the calorie crumbs, that she just spills this confession like the folds of some priestly robes.
She says she’s damaged him.
As if you can throw a kid a glare that punches him in the gut so hard you chip off a bit of his fragile soul.
Ask me how I know.
I stop mid-chocolate dab. I catch her eye.
It only takes a moment and we’re looking glass clear into each other, and a mother is a woman who can keep laboring and tearing again and again. The whole thing can be this secret bloody mess.
She’s brave to speak it, brave to say it. She looks away. Yeah, I get it.
I spread out the napkin in my hand, this distracted soothing.
You know how they tell you how that soft soft pulsing bare on the top of your baby’s head, that over time, that soft spot will grow in?
Well, that’s a lie. A child’s soft spot never grows in and a mother knows it — she feels it.
Sure, fontanelles can harden and big kids act tough, but we’re all still children with soft spots pulsing exposed. God help us. And the truck driver and the mailman and the neighbor and the kids and the big man husband and the customer service lady on the other end of the line — everyone you meet has only got this thin membrane between the world and their soul.
And she’s baring her throbbing mother soft spot to us around the table and I want to reach out and touch her there. I want her to feel someone touch the tender, broken place of her, to witness it and not turn away.
Just lay my hand on the fontanelles of her bared mama heart and not reject, not be afraid. Not solve or judge or preach or fix. Just touch her and witness and wait with her — just trust her vulnerable, broken places to birth her into the presence of God.
Quiet spreads deep between us.
If we were sitting in some man cave, some burly chest would gruff out a corny joke.
We’re women. Someone dabs up another brownie crumb. I think one of us should cross-stitch it on a pillow: One bad moment doesn’t a bad mama make. It just makes you cling to an infinitely good God.
And I don’t know who murmured it, but it seemed right, right then, the only thing to really say — “Why don’t we pray?”
Not some trite platitude — “We’ll pray for you” — as if some future promise of prayer can be offered like a flimsy bandage that no one really thinks can heal a thing.
Not “How can I pray for you?” instead of “Can we pray right now?”
Not some Christianese to thinly veil gossip that we pass on in the foyer on Sunday after sermon: “Would you pray for so and so? She mentioned last week that… ” Because passing on prayer concerns but to pass on praying — that’s not godliness. It’s gossip.
So a clutch of women bow unashamed right there and we go boldy before that throne of grace because it’s only in prayer that you find grace to help you when you need it most.
Because when we are in over our heads, the only way to stand is to fall on our knees and touch the heart of God.
Because the communion of saints is in the confessing of sins and we whisper things of the dark here in the light and there are tears.
And it’s there, before I know it, it’s out there in the room, words for these women, syllables I’m choking on, words memorized from Romans 1:11-12, and what the heart knows by heart is what the heart knows and speaks and begs to now live:
“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the Gospel of His Son….. is my witness … how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times… “
God is the witness and there are women dying and women weeping and women alone and women with these soft spots pounding pain —- and there are woman who say God is the one who sees how day in and day out they remember faces and they remember names and they remember brave things revealed and they don’t give lip service to praying — they give knee service to it.
There are sisters who don’t know how to go on and they have sisters who will kneel down and make them the promise:
God, whom I serve with my not half of my heart but with my whole heart … He is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayer…
There are sisters who have whispered things that scalded the throat and they have sisters who whisper right back —
God as my witness I’ll remember you in my prayer at all times —
the waking times and the sleeping times and the cleaning times and the waiting times and I won’t ever leave you with this but I give you my promise, God as my witness, I. am. with. you. in prayer.
Sisters who know that the only thing that prevents us from praying more is us, who know that we only fail to pray when we’ve made an idol out of self and work, who know that prayer is more important than your breathing because your soul is more important than your life.
And at the door, before the leaving, we’re two women who hug.
We nod and hug and wipe away tears and we lean into each other, fragile things, and we make The Sister Promise to each other, God as our witness, because there comes a time to seriously pray, to take parenting not just seriously, but spiritually.
And I murmur it again on the way home, memory work that is working into me…. “how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times…”
The snow falls.
And all that is damaged in this world begins to be remade by His Word.
*UPDATED: Stumbling through Romans 1:1-12 here on the farm early….
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