I am only smiling at you
because my cheeks are locked
in this habit of baring my teeth,
and it would take more energy
than I possess to drop the wall
that’s holding me together.
Behind the smile I am an absence:
Not darkness, just an absence of light.
Darkness can be fought;
Absence doesn’t even exist.
Trying to find the edges
is a dull and desperate terror.
Don’t come here and tell me
“what works for you when you’re feeling blue” –
that pressure is crushing, paralyzing, deadly.
Each little word of encouragement
is a condemnation and a sentence,
mocking me with “just keep trying.”
I pray that I would hear you speak.
Bring sound into my silent heart
and quiet to my racing mind,
like music in the discord.
I pray to hear you despite this art
I have of hearing everything
yet listening to nothing.
I pray that you would speak
into my moments of deepest inattention
and remind me to be still.
I pray for your words and your ways
to diffuse into my being
and bring light to darkness,
healing to pain,
redemption to rebellion,
order into chaos,
and a hunger for you
into my exhausted apathy.
I believe – Lord help my unbelief.
Bring your hands nearer – I’m blind and go by feel.
The things I see are fleeting, only you are real.
Uphold me and walk with me, you are my deepest peace.
Let my spirit calm, my trust in you increase.
Bring your face closer so I can see your eyes.
I need to see your love and be reminded of the prize.
My years slide by as water, but you’re age to age the same.
I cannot help but wonder why you call me by my name.
Bring your arms around me and keep me in the light.
For me it’s far too easy to sink into the night.
Bear me up beside you and never let me go;
let my one consuming need be to know you here below.
Bring your cross to go before me and remind me of my sin:
It’s the only way my hardened heart will let your mercy in.
Break this pride within me that leads me far from you
and let me be a child whose heart is soft and new.
We’re alone when we walk in the evening,
we’re alone when we take to our beds.
We’ve paid our dues to rest easy,
to hide what goes on in our heads.
We smile and think nothing of it,
exchanging our words as cash,
as if we’re the wealthy and famous
paying never to clash.
Layers are building between us,
protecting our private silence
which lies beneath our banter
waiting for our defiance.
While it waits, peace remains:
Our hearts stay safe and sound.
As long as we keep paying it out
our lies will never be found.
Safer to keep our distance,
safer to have no debts.
Safer to keep our own balance
than rely on anyone else.
We’re alone when we wake in the morning,
we’re alone when we rise to the day.
We’ve guarded our fears and failures
and have all the right words to say.
If we all consent to be lonely,
it won’t matter what is lost.
This way we know to be easier –
but God, think of the cost.
There are a few moments burning
behind my eyes, set as anchors
between the muddle of everyday memories.
Most blur into each other and meld
into this impression of life
as I lived it, but a few moments remain,
hooking me back to their time.
I laid my baby in his crib.
His forehead was pressed into my chest,
one hand between my arm and ribs,
the other in the hair at the back of my neck.
It was dark but light from the hallway
lit his room in a long rectangle.
I heard his determined breaths in their sleep rhythm
over the heater and humidifier. He gets so
warm right when he falls asleep –
a sudden spike in temperature
right as he turns boneless in my arms.
His foot twitched against my hip.
I laid him in his crib and knew
deeply that surge of heartbreak that comes
every night, my last glimpse of him
in this day’s light. Tomorrow he is a new baby:
one more tooth, new consonants, one more step
closer to crawling and walking. While he sleeps,
my heart misses the baby he was.
He lived his years as one of us,
skin reddened by sun,
hands full of splinters,
footsore with strength spun
out and worn away by work.
He knew colds and aches,
cuts and sprains, wore hunger daily
and felt wrenching heartbreaks.
Fatigue, sleepless nights, itching
and sweat were his to share
with those he joined on Earth.
grown into a cracking voice
then a man who angered all
who did not know him well.
A man who pressed into his call
regardless of the cost, and still
he lost his very life.
What reward, to die in pain –
to die bearing all the strife
he never caused, hearing
mocking voices calling for his death.
He who formed mankind from dust
was slain, and his mortal breath
committed his spirit to God.
Yet that damning loss
was how he claimed us:
our instrument of death, the cross,
his instrument of life.
Those hours of suffering
were when he named us
each as his, offering
us life to live abundantly.
This his greatest act of love:
While men were killing God below,
he reigned supreme above.
Extending to us freedom
as we stripped life away,
he triumphed over sin and rose,
and death is held at bay.