He lifts her up to the telescope so she can see the bald eagles in their nest. He cradles her too-long-to-be-held body and waits for her confirmation that she sees.
And I smile because it’s beautiful, watching him be her dad. And also, my heart aches. Because no one will love me like that again. No one will call me daughter or know and delight in all the details about me, like the way my hair curls after a shower or slant of my nose or how only my right eye squints when it’s sunny outside.
And I remind myself, he’s her father, yes, but he’s still human. He was once a boy and now he’s a man. He grew up. He is an adult. But he was once just a child. He is human. He has flaws and areas where he falls short. And I remind myself, what my heart is screaming for, what I see in him, it’s just a reflection of the One who loves perfectly. And He calls me daughter.
But He isn’t here. He isn’t here to kiss the top of my head or cover me with a blanket when I fall asleep on the couch. He isn’t here.
I read about people who met Jesus in their lowest moments. People high or drunk or contemplating death, who were ambushed by the very real, living God. “I wouldn’t be alive still if He hadn’t met me in a really, really real way,” they say.
And I want that. I need that.
But I have to surrender even that to the One who has a plan. I can’t pray or fall to my knees or worship with an ulterior motive. I can’t do it to get something in return. I have to do it just because He is deserving and He promises to hear.
I have to knock… and keep knocking.
I watch them talk and laugh and play a game in the fading sun. I’m swaddled in a blanket, legs draped over the arm of a lawn chair.
And I wonder, what fuels them? How do they want to be here- talking, laughing, doing life? Their happiness both inspires and confuses me.
And I know they have moments where they’re desperately unhappy, moments of pain and fear and tears. But I also know that each day they wake up and they live this life. And they don’t have to consciously choose to stay alive. They’re grateful for this gift of a new day, even with its highs and lows. And when they get together with each other, their laughter and conversation comes easy and is life-affirming.
And I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine, even in my happiest moments, being grateful for this life. Or rather, being excited about it. Because in my head I know that it’s a gift. And I AM grateful. One by one, throughout the day, I am listing off things that make life worth living. But it’s a practice, a desperate dialogue in my brain in hopes of retraining my heart to want to be here.
But more than that, I want the Jesus who can make my pain go away. And I don’t want Him as something conjured up within me. I want Him as real- as being in me and a part of me, but bigger than me and more real than anything I can see or feel- the fulfillment of every desire.
I hovered behind their circle, listening to the conversation, trying to look like I was a part of it. But I wasn’t. There’s a difference between being welcomed and being a part of something. And I’m grateful for being welcomed, and I don’t fault them for the rest. Because you can’t make yourself feel something. You can’t make something be what it’s just not. They can’t make me be a part of it. They can welcome me in, they can choose to let me be a part of it, but in their hearts? In their hearts I am separate. And they can’t control that.
I can’t make myself be safely held in their love. I can’t make us have a shared past. I can’t make my future be dreamed of and protected by them.
They welcome me. And I’m not alone. And I smile because there truly is nowhere on this planet I’d rather be.
But I am alone too. And I’d rather be in heaven.
She said my name. I didn’t even know she knew it. We’ve worked in the same office for years without ever talking. But we were passing in the hallway and I smiled at her and she said my name. And she said it right. “This matters,” my brain reflexively said.
And my heart asked: “What if she only knows how to say your name because she’s heard so much gossip about you?”
And my heart responded: “So what?”
Let’s be honest, this version of me does provide for lots of interesting gossip. I’ll let them have their gossip. I’ll let them debate among themselves what is true and what is false and what is true but exaggerated. Because it doesn’t matter. Their gossip is no more going to fuel my desire to live than it is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is just a thing, like the weather or what’s coming on TV tonight. Or the fact that she knows my name.
“Don’t be mad at me,” I pray. Because I know my thoughts, my heart, I know they aren’t always obedient to the will of God. Wanting to give up on this life? That’s a sin. I know it. But I think it grieves Him more than it angers Him. Does He hold up a hand and keep me from coming closer when my being is flooded by a pain that I don’t understand? Does any good parent do that? Who, even when their children are wrong, tells them no, they will not hug them? When I beg God to hold me, all the while holding sin in my head as an option, does He not draw nearer? He does. The God I know, the Jesus I love, He will never turn me away.
And I don’t want to exalt my pain above Him. But even that, even that is beyond my ability to promise Him. And so I beg for help. I come to Him honest about my sin and my failings and my desire to do right and my desire to be with Him in a way that is tangible. And I pray He’ll sort it all out.
And in the sorting, I don’t think there’s anger. He remembers I am but dust. He remembers.
And when I tell Him I love Him, even when I don’t always live out my love for Him the way I should, I think He believes me.
And maybe right now what I’m bringing Him is more need than love, but I think that’s just as heartwarming to Him. “I need You,” is just as much worship as, “I love You.”
That’s what I think.
And nowhere in that, in my sin and desire to do right and pain and love and faith and despair, do I think He is going to punish me with hell.
Because I believe. Oh, how I believe. But I’m tired. And weak.
And so I come to Him, and I pray prayers that cannot be articulated because they’re too deep and too full of emotion. But they sound a little bit like: “Forgive me.” And, like a small child crying for her daddy, they sound a bit like: “Abba.”