hen the woman reached out to hug me just before I got to the door, she whispered it in my ear and I barely heard it through what was leaking down her cheeks, “I don’t know if I’m going to live through this.”
She pulled back and looked me in the eye:
“Maybe it’s — I just don’t know how — to live through this?”
I read her eyes and she reads mine and how do you hear the voice of the Shepherd still calling your name when the lies from the pit keep calling you names, and you can’t breathe for the shame?
How do you live through this hard thing — that’s effecting everything? How do you keep finding a way forward — without losing your hope along the way?
How do you keep taking one step after another — when you want to be on another road?
The woman brushes her cheeks with the back of her hand.
And I don’t know what grief that’s got her cornered at every turn, or if it’s a prodigal child she’s begging to make a u-turn, don’t know if it’s a mountain she’s got to take, or if it’s something that’s trying to take her — but I know that I know that overwhelmed look in her eyes and I feel the cracking ache in her brave voice and the details of our hard may be different, but all our need for courage is the same.
The scale doesn’t move a digit, but your determination doesn’t budge an inch.
The acceptance letter doesn’t come in the mail, but you don’t accept that this any dead end.
The job offer doesn’t come through, but you don’t offer to back down from life one iota.
The knot in your gut that was there last night, is right there strangling you a bit tighter as soon as you open your eyes this morning, but you grab hold of that rope and you just tie it to the next thing and the next thing and you make that knot in your gut into a knotted lifeline from one moment to the next.
And I cup her face in my hands. And I nod, because I feel it too:
Everyone is fighting a hard battle — but there are a lot of us fighting hard battles after losing a whole string of other battles.
It’s one thing to be fighting a hard battle — and it’s another thing to be fighting a hard battle — when you’ve already lost a lot of battles, when you’ve lost the biggest battles, when you have to keep fighting this battle even though you are clearly losing this battle and you will have to keep fighting this losing battle today and tomorrow and the next day.
Life is one hard battle — and there’s no walking off that battlefield, no escaping from that battlefield, no way out of this battlefield called life.
You have to show up, and not give up.
You have to find a way, and not walk away.
You have to keep hanging on, when you don’t know how to go on.
You can’t lose hope — because you have to keep breathing hope.
Sometimes it’s not even about battling to win, or about battling forward. It’s about battling to breathe.
I look her in the eye and only want to tell her:
Everyone’s fighting a hard battle that they’re losing — and winning is staying in the battle.
You’re winning the battle — when you stay in the battle.
The battle you have ahead of you is won — if you just keep your heart in the battle now.
And she nods and squeezes my hand.
Brokenness needs with-ness and witness — someone to stand with us and someone to see us.
And she smiles the bravest and I whisper, “You will live through this.”
Because the truth about every blasted battle is:
What you don’t know how to live through — Jesus died for.
Where you don’t how to go on — Jesus already went through.
What feels hopeless — is where you meet more Jesus.
And that’s what ended up following me all the winding way home under a smattering of spring stars. What they call the dark night of the soul may feel as endlessly black as the limitless cosmos — but darkness isn’t God, darkness isn’t infinite. Darkness has limits, darkness has an end, darkness has borders.
And sometimes you exhale like the expanse of a night sky, like even your breath calls your Father’s name, YWHW.
And you breathe: All darkness has shores and there is always laughter on the other side. You have to believe this.
And when you can’t believe— just breathe. Next breath, next thing, next step — and you will get through now.
He knew: He made your every breath to be the sound of His name, the endless song that comforts your only soul.
Just before dawn this past week, we wake early to stand in the dark and witness the Lyrids, part of the comet Thatcher, shower across the night sky. We have to wait in the dark, wait for our eyes to adjust to the pitch black, wait to see the cascading light.
And when it comes — there is this catching of breath:
Nothing is ever too far gone for hope to come find you.
And we watch how the meteors live through the dark and win the night and on the other side, there’s the rising dawn.