Back in the early days of blogging, Amber Haines, this young mama in Arkansas, wrote to me of her love for words and the love of children, and we became friends over the miles. She and I have very different stories, yet there’s a common and wild story between us of God’s love… His love for us all, regardless of our hollow places. It’s a humble grace to welcome Amber Haines to share an excerpt of her new book Wild in the Hollow with us today on the farm’s front porch today…
A month to the day after my abortion, the sun blared in on the morning.
Present and sick, the taste of alcohol still in my mouth, I walked to the shower. My feet touched the warm patch of linoleum on the floor.
Passing the mirror, a girl caught my eye, skinny, pale, dull eyes.
I didn’t recognize her.
I stood and faced myself. The mirror, my idol, she had lied, and I couldn’t stand up anymore.
I put my hands to the floor and braced like the world would quake open, woozy all the way down to my side in the yellow morning sun.
I prayed each breath would be my last.
I waited for the tunnel to take me, the blackness to swallow me whole. I planned to wait until it was done. My entire life—the wildcat scream I had heard as a girl and the laughing trees of my tripping days—it had all led to this.
Giving God an ultimatum is risky, but I had nothing to lose, not anymore, so there on the warm linoleum I said to myself, “I’m here to die.”
I fully believed I would die. And there I gasped my first real breath, as if I’d been swimming up and up from an ear- popping deep.
I finally breathed. My body warmed and filled. I drank from the cup from which all metaphors pour. I was Eve again, naked in her garden.
When He breathed, my chest rose.
I was trained to argue, but His breath came when I lay with nothing to say, how broken I was.
I had nothing with which to entice anyone to come to my rescue. I made no argument and no fight; I wasn’t budging in my own power, because I had no power with which to budge.
The presence of God, Spirit, warmed my blood and assembled my bones. I crawled to the bed, like one who heard a voice in the desert, saw fire in the bush.
A path cleared in me. I whispered, “I am free”— lungs full of air. I was newborn.
The weight of legions lifted, taste of forbidden fruit gone from the mouth, sting of death removed.
The Bible from class was on the bed, and I drank it like hindmilk. I was broken but filled. The hush in my spirit, this was freedom, the presence of God.
Freedom is peace.
The first of many births I would witness was my own. I was born into the light.
I would have waited on that linoleum floor until I starved, waited there to be raised from the dead, or be made dead, whichever.
I can’t explain the difference in what was happening in my head and in my heart and in my body. It was all taking new form.
I didn’t lie down so that when I stood up I might believe. I lay down to die because I was done with moving about in a body that had no life.
The fact that the presence of God was so obvious, like Road-to-Damascus obvious, was absolutely shocking to me. I had never felt so pursued or so loved, and love is what got me up off the floor.
As my eyes came open to something so simple as love, that God loves me, I was overcome with new desire: more than for a warm body—for skin on skin; more than for the taste of home— biscuits and gravy on a family morning; and more than for any drug to numb my pain.
I didn’t know who I was, filling with such delight, the allure of God. His meeting me on the floor was my release from being bogged down in self-awareness and loathing. He released me from feeling required to entice love, to always make an offering.
I became aware of God who loved me first.
Suddenly, only God was beautiful. Suddenly, I saw through to the unseen, how He stood outside of time for me, and how He sent His Spirit into my time.
I didn’t know myself anymore, because I was new. I didn’t know what to wear, and so I would ask him. Food tasted different on grateful lips. Three days after I crawled on that floor, I found my cigarettes and threw them in the trash. That’s how I quit smoking, how I became found in the only shameless way to lose oneself.
Who was I?
I was born a daughter of self-aware Eve in Alabama and then born again through the gospel to freedom, to God awareness.
I became one who kisses Jesus’s feet, hair soaked in tears, delighted to be known and desiring only God, and that was enough.
Jesus Himself traveled the abyss and through time to meet me on the floor of a dorm room to lavish me with truth.
And then I learned to walk with God. Isn’t that what Eden was about, man and woman unashamed in the presence of God? That’s what was promised to Abraham too—a land flowing with milk and honey, where God would be God in the midst of his people.
When Christ came, when He entered the world into barn air, deep had called into the deep of a woman, and His name was Emmanuel, God with us.
It’s been the plan all along, the call on every life—we are created beings with the capacity to hold God.
I knew the story—God started with Adam and Eve, breathed life into them both, and called them good. But then desire for the fruit made paths outside of Eden and up into babbling towers.
That same Creator God came like breath to me. Like mouth-to-mouth, He breathed in me on a linoleum floor. He called me good. How is it that He chose to grow within young Mary? How is it that He chose to grow within me?
God offers Himself that way, life in place of death, holy desire replacing deceitful desire, life planted and growing and filling all the hollows of a soul.
I would later learn that Jesus tells us to come to Him, all we empty and weary ones.
Those of us who can’t bear up under the weight of the void any longer, He tells us to come.
Come, and He will take our heavy and fill our empty, because He is meek and humble. He gets low down. And when Jesus gets on the floor with you, you will indeed find rest for your soul, a place to belong.
Maybe the path to Jesus is paved with linoleum.
I learned that Jesus, our God-man, could have considered Himself and said, “Look at how ridiculously awesome I am, people. Now worship.”
But instead He emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, obedient to death, not considering equality with God a thing to be grasped.
This was my experience, sister to Jesus that I am.
I gave up, obedient to death—even death on a linoleum floor—and He roared in.
The God of the universe filled me at my very lowest, my emptiest.
Light ruptures dark every time.
Amber Haines, author of Wild in the Hollow, has 4 sons, theRunaMuck, and guitar-playing husband, Seth Haines. She’s an Alabama girl who’s found home in Arkansas. She loves the funky, the lyrical narrative, and the gritty South.
If you’ve ever been homesick, wrestling with desire, or covered in shame, get your hands on Wild in the Hollow, Amber’s story of wandering and wondering and coming Home.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker Publishing Group for their partnership of today’s devotion ]