“and the point is, to live everything” (you know you’re living when you’re learning)

Dear Rachel,

What have you learned about yourself this year? You have learned so many things, some of it new, some of it simply restated and reiterated in different ways. You have learned so much that when someone recently asked you, “How is life?” you replied, “Life? Life is a learning experience.” And you meant it. Because to say that you are doing well would be inaccurate. To say that you are doing poorly would be also inaccurate. Because you are not simply a state of being, you are a person in the process of transformation. Life is a learning experience. It is all about the learning.

More than anything else, God is teaching you this year what it means to love people. You have never before realized how deep and ambiguous a thing it is to love. Sometimes, loving someone means reaching out to them, writing them a letter, holding them while they cry. Sometimes, loving someone means not reaching out to them, not writing them a letter, not holding them while they cry; but instead, stepping back, and letting Jesus meet them in their pain. Letting him be the one to reach out for them, and speak words of love to them, and hold them in their pain. Sometimes, Rachel, if you try too hard to care for another person, you can get in the way of them meeting with Christ. And that, that is the most important thing. That is the reason for it all. If they do not meet Christ in their pain because they are too busy meeting you, then you are not loving them well.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you know that much of the time, your desire to care for someone else is not truly entirely out of love for the other person – it is also out of love for yourself. God is teaching you about the extent of your own selfishness, and how that selfishness invades every part of your interactions with other people. You want to feel useful. You want to feel needed. You who have lived so long with loneliness and the pervading belief that you are meaningless, want to feel that you have meaning. And you find that in bringing comfort to other people. Wanting to care for someone is not wrong, Rachel. There is great beauty in that, and God has used you. Trust that He has used you. But there is a selfish and a godly motive behind everything that we do, and it would be foolish to be blind to the selfish part of your motives.

You are learning that your loneliness is behind much of your sin. You are learning that you often try to use friendship to fulfill that part of you that feels lonely and empty. You are learning that friendship cannot stand when it is used for something, used to accomplish something, or used to not feel a certain emotion. You are learning that when you do anything out of your loneliness, it becomes unhealthy. It can turn friendship unhealthy faster than you can blink. It can lead you to depend on other people, to ask them to be something for you that they were never meant to be and are not capable of being. Only Jesus can love you with the intimacy that you are searching for. Friendship is beautiful and it can be deeply meaningful – you know that, you’ve experienced it – but it was never meant to fill you.

And you are learning that it is the place of emptiness inside of you, this place that try as hard as you have, you cannot fill – it is in this place that you find Jesus. Like Frederick Buechner writes, you find Christ most clearly in your missing of him. And he comes. He fills. Not with great, soaring wings like the psalms speak of, but with a quiet presence that can easily be mistaken for your own solitude. He speaks – not with loud, heralding words, but in the gentleness of verses you have memorized long ago. Indeed, you find that Christ’s presence in your life can almost always be mistaken for something humanely explainable – your own memory, or the solitude you created. But just because it’s you does not mean that it is not also him. Jesus meets us in the space that we create for Him. That means that even though the space bears your fingerprints, that does not mean it does not also bear his.

Life is transformation, and change is slow. You do not want to interact with people in unhealthy ways, but sometimes you do. You do not want to use friendship to fulfill your loneliness, but sometimes you do. You do not want to live out of selfishness, but it is, to an extent, inevitable. And the slowness of change can be agonizing – because you see the person that you want to be, but you feel so far from being it. You see the pattern of sin, but you’re helpless to break the cycle. And yet, Rachel, you are learning that change is slow, but it is beautiful. If it were a quick process, you would not have the beauty. And the point of it all is not about the result of the transformation, but the process of transformation itself. You are not just on a journey, you are a journey. And you already know the end. The end is Christ. The end is the Jesus in you finally overwhelming the you that is in you. The end is the Kingdom coming down not just to earth but to your own heart. You know the end – the end is not the point. The point is to grow, to transform, and to allow yourself to be molded into someone else.

It is slow. Growth is minimal. Sometimes, it is simply one small thing you did in 24 hours that was not for your own selfish motive. Sometimes, it is a small prayer for somebody else. That’s okay. Because in order to become like someone, you have to look at them. And if you were to become like Jesus in a day, you would stop looking at him as soon as you were done growing. But because growth is so slow, you have to keep looking at Christ. Again and again. Day by day. Minute by minute. Look to Christ. Keep looking to him, keep looking at him. And one day He will return, and looking at him will finally mean looking like Him. Let the beauty of that thought move you. One day, you will look like Christ. That is the Gospel. He came so that you could look at him. And he will come again so that you can look like him.

“Persian Letters” by Solmaz Sharif

“Dear Aleph,

Like Ovid: I’ll have no last words.
This is what it means to die among barbarians. Bar bar bar
was how the Greeks heard our speech —
sheep, beasts — and so we became
barbarians. We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name. David,
they tell me, is the one
one should aspire to, but ever since
I first heard them say Philistine
I’ve known I am Goliath
if I am anything.”

Confessions (“at least i’ve found the longing”)

“And my heart burns for You…
It burns for You.” 

Perhaps it is one of the ironies of the Christian faith that love for Jesus often looks like everything but what we imagine love for him ought to look like. Surely it should look grander, more majestic – less of a watercolor and more of an oil painting.

Here is my confession: My love often looks a lot like loneliness. It looks a lot like quiet nights and a painful, insistent ache. Sometimes my love is the loneliness and the ache – and that’s okay. Sometimes my love for him is just a few lyrics sung over and over and over (and over) again in an attempt to be rendered believable for my skeptic soul.

“Sometimes You’re further than the moon.
Sometimes You’re closer than my skin.”

The ambiguity of my own heart forces me to my knees. There are places inside of me that I cannot find even if I spend every hour of my life searching for them. I am too close. I am too far. I am both sin and saint, Hell and Heaven, and both halves of me are too great for my own understanding. I want to understand. Believe me – I want to understand. I want so badly to be able to tell you why. And the next why. And the why underneath that one. I want to be able to give you the parts of me that would help us both to see a little clearer. But I can’t. I’m human. I cannot see all of myself. And I am not called to. But I am called to rest. To rest and to long and to let the yearning carve out a home in me.

“You surround me like a winter fog.
You come and burn me like a kiss.” 

I believe in a God who runs. I believe in a God who runs after. “Surely goodness and mercy shall chase me all the days of my life.” Jesus chases. He pursues. For him, (and isn’t this astounding?), there is no ambiguity in me. He sees – all of it. All of me. Every piece of shame and beauty, every moment of tears and laughter, every instance of destruction and love – He sees it. And He still pursues. This is the Gospel. It gets sweeter over time. It ripens, the soft fullness of it.

“You wrap around me like a winter coat.
You come and free me like a bird.” 

Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes the sadness steals the breath from my lungs. These days I live with a continual ache inside my chest, a pang of loneliness and isolation that is reminiscent of my high school days. In those moments, I sing the words until I can breathe again. I sing them like prayer, like confession. Like a promise. Because this, too, is the longing. This, too, is a part of the love. The speaking of it is is half the truth; the confession is as much the means as it is the end. Sometimes your body has to lead your heart, PJ used to say.

“And my heart burns for You…
It burns for You.” 

Whatever it looks like, Father. Whatever it is supposed to look like. There is love here. There is a longing so deep it threatens to displace me. The ache is first and foremost an ache for Jesus. My heart, ambiguous and sinful and broken, wants the unambiguous and holy and perfect God. My loneliness longs for Your presence. There is a hunger that hurts, Father. There is a hurt that hungers.

Run to Him (“God Himself, scraped and torn”)

“You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away -
(Only you and I, understand.)

You have played
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and -
Just tired.
So am I.”

-e.e. cummings

I know.

Listen to me. I know. I know. 

You want to run until the breath curls up inside your body like a question mark sick of its own asking. You want to run until your chest splinters from exertion rather than emotion, run far past anything familiar, anything that can trigger memories (or sadness) or fear (or sadness) or nightmares (or sadness). I know. You want to run until you can retrieve every piece of communion love you’ve ever handed out. “Eat and remember”; you want to grab it all back because you didn’t realize remembering might mean forgetting first, leaving first, but you also want to run hard from that very sentiment, run because you know it is not true, because you know that you a better person for the giving. And yet you still want to run. You want to run from the claustrophobia of emotion choking your heart, from the hemorrhaging of thoughts bleeding out from your mind. You want to run, run, run – away from everything, away from people, away from friends, away from family, away from (and toward) hope, away from (and toward) the words, away from (and toward) the places inside of you burning a hole through your skin.

You want to run from him. Because he’s too bright, and your eyes are watering from the pain, and his bright illuminates your shadow. Because in his bright you can see your own tired. Too clearly, you see it. All the stitches from your scars. All the bruises from the times you’ve thrown the first stone at yourself. All the rope burns on your hands from clinging so tightly, so desperately. You see it all and it is too close and so you want to run from him. (I know. Trust me, I know.) You want to run from him.

Run toward him.

Right now. Run. Scars and stitches all, watering eyes, bruises and rope burns, your splintering chest, your hemorrhaging thoughts – run like the broken that you are. Run toward him because it is the very last thing you want to do. Run toward him because he is Gospel and Kingdom and this is Heaven being brought down to earth, this is faith and hope and obedience. It hurts like hell. It hurts like toxins, like forgiveness, like Christ. Run toward him because this is Kingdom inauguration. And inauguration can be found even here, even on this side.  When your fingers are slippery with hopelessness, you reach out and you grope blindly for the cloth of the Kingdom – soft and waterproof to all your stains – and you pull, pull with your hands, pull with your love, pull with your pain, even when your hands are raw and bleeding. Bring the Kingdom down, down, down to earth, down to here, to empty, to need, to longing; tear open the fissures of your world and let Heaven billow…and then settle…and then rest…and then resurrect. There you will find him and there he will match you – scar for scar, stitch for stich, bruise for bruise, burn for burn. It is an echo of love. You will not find it anywhere else. Run toward him.

If you do this, you will not have wasted your hurt. You will not have “squandered your hours of pain.” You will have used it well. You will have invested it. Those who reap in tears will sow in joy. It may be joy “with tears in its eyes,” but it will be joy because it will be Jesus. If you run the wrong way, he will become less real to you than he has in a long time. If you run toward him, you will find him bigger, and wilder, and deeper, and richer, than perhaps he ever was to you before.

 

“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song–all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.

We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.”

-Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son  

words, and weeping, and worship (i write this for (Y)(y)ou)

I am.

am.

am. 

Skin and bones. Tears and laughter. Arteries and bruised fingers, small hands and semi-consistent heartbeat. Prologue. Narration. Foreshadowing to which I am blind. Plot twist. Foil. An epilogue – sometime. A resolution – somehow. An author – somewhere.

I am. I am a person with a story. Some of that story I’ve told to others. Some of that story I haven’t. And some of that story I still don’t even understand myself. Part of what it means to be is to learn which parts of the story I need to cling to and which parts to let go. Which parts to ruminate on and which parts to hand over to the Author in broken surrender. The Gospel is tragedy, comedy and fairytale, writes Frederick Buechner, and if my story is patterned after the Gospel, that means it contains elements of each of those things as well. I am tragedy. I am comedy. I am fairytale. Not necessarily in that order – cut and dry, black and white. There is ambiguity. One day can carry hints of all three of those things. Perhaps even five minutes can. Learning to love Jesus and love myself means learning to trust that the tragedy, comedy, and fairytale all mingle and dance and kiss and life would not be as beautiful without their trinity.

 

Enough poetic subtlety for one post? Okay. Here’s my heart on a piece of paper:

I am tired. I am sad. I am so thankful my heart feels like it’s breaking. I am so broken my heart feels like it’s yearning. I am yearning so deeply my heart feels like it’s seeing Home, waving at a distance, counting down the days…

There was a time during the retreat this week where I sat and I cried. For a long time. It wasn’t exactly a crying for the present moment, though; it was more a cry of remembering, of letting myself feel, of realizing that certain wounds may not heal in the way that I want them to. Certain patterns of thinking may never go away. Certain temptations and desires – no matter how deeply I try, no matter how painfully I want them to – may never disappear. And part of what healing means is to accept that. To recognize that I don’t have control over that, and if I’m going to follow Jesus completely, I need to be able to accept that truth, terrifying as it is. But it is hard.

It is hard because of how deeply I believe in certain things. For example, I believe that Jesus is good. I believe it  – I would stake my life on it. Every moment I’ve ever experienced is caught in a net of His goodness, and “life itself is grace.” I have tasted enough of His beauty to be forever ruined for anything less. But I also feel this inkling in my heart that tells me I need to come to terms with the fact that some pains are not going to go away. I am going to have to keep feeling it, keep swallowing it, keep letting the tragedy bleed into the comedy and hope that the fairy tale is painting a watercolor out of it all. That the Artist is in the middle of a masterpiece. That the Poet is in the middle of the volta.

Sometimes you find an author who builds credibility with you. If they were to write another book, you would go to the store and buy it. If a certain scene or character feels weak or wrong, you would keep reading despite that because you trust them. Because they have proved to you in the past that they know how to write a good story. Because you have given them your time, your faith, and your self countless times, every time you open one of their books, and they have never failed you before. Because you know that they know far more about the art of writing than you.

“why?” “because he’s beautiful”

Every morning, I stand at a crossroad. I can choose life, or I can choose death. I can choose to to live selfishly, or I can choose to love people as well as I can. I can choose to live in Christ’s strength, or I can choose to dwell in my brokenness. I can choose to struggle on the side of hope, or I can give up trying. To be honest, it’s something I have to choose not just every morning but sometimes every hour. How am I going to live right now? 

I’m here because God wants me here. There are things I could do that would make myself feel “better.” There are easier ways of feeling okay, or of trying to make myself okay, or of dealing with memories, hurt, frustration. But I am not my own; I was bought at a price. And Jesus’s way is better. It may not feel like it. It may not provide instant results. It may take all of my strength (and then nearly all of his grace) to live in his way. But I believe it is better. That it is good – hard and painful and sometimes (seemingly) impossible, but good in a way that lifts up my soul. And there will be beauty that meets me in this path. Jesus is Beauty. Following him means getting the deepest taste of that beauty I can get on this side of life. And if there’s anything I know about myself, it is that I am addicted to beauty. Not the kind that society talks about, but the kind that makes your heart ache. The kind that defines the Gospel. The kind that you feel at the end of a good story. The kind you feel in friendship. My soul can feast on that kind of beauty. That’s why I follow Jesus.

I don’t have much to offer. I’m still tired, still weak, still broken. Loneliness seems to creep at me from every door. The memories are doing their best to haunt me. But Jesus is also still beautiful. And friends are still such a blessing. And prayer is still moving me in ways I could never move myself. I am both so close to the sadness and so far from it. For now, there is no black and white, no “yes” or “no” to questions like, “Are you okay?” There is balance, ambiguity, a taste of both light and darkness. But for now, that’s okay. Jesus is more beautiful than I am broken. And I will keep choosing life because he chose death so that I could even have this choice.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

 

what honesty looks like before we edit it (in other words, a poem)

A poem stemming from these words by Tennyson:

“Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom, make me wise.”
 -In Memoriam A.H.H.

 What falls from my lips is not a word. It is
not a song or a shout or a scream.
What falls is instead something slippery as truth, soap
that loses a piece of itself every time it becomes a piece of me -
ambiguity; hard-edged, soft-shelled,
fences that imprison as much as they protect.
They are fences, my wild and wandering cries.

And my wild and wandering cries are confusions
of a wasted youth – but that is not to call them wasted.
They are not wasted but washed,
carried on the waves of my weary,
worn thin by the sand and the salt and the tears.
On the shores of my heart the bard prophetic knew:
“Confusion now hath made its masterpiece.”

But to be wild and wandering can be a thing of beauty.
The heart is a lonely instrument, melodic
in its dissonance, wild and wandering and whispering -
whittling fear into forestry, falling leaves – a chlorophyll symphony.
My cries are crafting a chorus on six silver strings,
a fret made of fretting wood and singing trees. The heart is
a lonely instrument, no pick guard, an abyss of brokenness
for a sound hole, a tired bridge;
but at least it’s making music out of me.

“forgive these wild and wandering cries”

Excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s The Final Beast. (I have not read it yet; I came across this quote, however, and it moved me. It made me hope in hope.

“The worst thing isn’t the last thing about the world. It’s the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It’s the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring. Can you believe it? The last, best thing is the laughing deep in the hearts of the saints, sometimes our hearts even. Yes. You are terribly loved and forgiven. Yes. You are healed. All is well.”

 

Excerpts from Tennyson’s In Memoriam – which is brilliant and painful and beautiful and worship.

(Introduction) “We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.” 

(IV) “O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou should’st fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
‘What is it makes me beat so low?’

Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!”

(V) “In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.”

(XXV)“I know that this was Life,—the track
Whereon with equal feet we fared;
And then, as now, the day prepared
The daily burden for the back.

But this it was that made me move
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love:

Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
When mighty Love would cleave in twain
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to him.”

(LII) “I cannot love thee as I ought,
For love reflects the thing beloved;
My words are only words, and moved
Upon the topmost froth of thought.

‘Yet blame not thou thy plaintive song,’
The Spirit of true love replied;
`Thou canst not move me from thy side,
Nor human frailty do me wrong.'”

(LIV) Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

(CXXIV) That which we dare invoke to bless;
Our dearest faith; our ghastliest doubt;
He, They, One, All; within, without;
The Power in darkness whom we guess;

I found Him not in world or sun,
Or eagle’s wing, or insect’s eye;
Nor thro’ the questions men may try,
The petty cobwebs we have spun:

If e’er when faith had fall’n asleep,
I heard a voice `believe no more’
And heard an ever-breaking shore
That tumbled in the Godless deep;

A warmth within the breast would melt
The freezing reason’s colder part,
And like a man in wrath the heart
Stood up and answer’d `I have felt.’

No, like a child in doubt and fear:
But that blind clamour made me wise;
Then was I as a child that cries,
But, crying, knows his father near;

And what I am beheld again
What is, and no man understands;
And out of darkness came the hands
That reach thro’ nature, moulding men.”

a letter from God (to me, but maybe also to you)

“Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet 

***

See, Rachel?
See how I loved you enough to give you Rilke? That even though you have everything you need in Me, in My words, I gave you somebody else that you could cling to – somebody tangible, human, believable in a way that I can never be to you. (Though I am beside you, arms wrapped around your shoulder; though I became human for you; though I am belief.)

You are sick, Rachel.
That doesn’t mean you need to be afraid. It doesn’t make you a monster, as much as your heart fights these words even as you write them. It doesn’t make you any less human, any less brave. It doesn’t mean you are regressing. You walk with me. You walk with me. Your journey is defined by me, and I don’t step backwards. Reaching a valley that feels familiar is not the same thing as regressing. I am taking you places you’ve never been before – last night was proof of that, wasn’t it? The night before was proof of it, too. You’ve felt hurt and fear and the wild, falling, terrifying feeling of not being in control, felt it in ways you never have before. But haven’t you also experienced a depth of beauty that you’ve also never felt before? Beauty in friendships that takes your breath away? Beauty in brokenness – the kind you’ve gotten glimpses of in the past, but have never owned so personally before? I don’t just break you; I lift you up, too.

Don’t be afraid of me, Rachel. I am more gentle with you than you could ever be with yourself. It’s a bit of a paradox, Rachel, isn’t it? (I know that’s your favorite word.) You keep crying out to me, indirectly because you’re so afraid, “Don’t be angry. Don’t be mad. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t condemn me.” And all the while I am crying out to you, “Don’t be angry. Don’t be mad. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t condemn yourself.” I may be God, Rachel, but I have a heart, and it is a heart that breaks.

And Rachel, I know there are things that haunt you.
I know there are memories that imprison you; I know that you’re choking on pain you thought you already swallowed. But pain isn’t digested, Rachel – it is painted. It is sculpted. It is cultivated in poetry, in language, in the sunlight outside. You know that. It’s why you’re an artist. It’s why you write. Pain is like energy, Rachel; it cannot be created nor destroyed, only translated from one form to another. Find your pain, Rachel, which will itself be a painful act. But find it. Mold it into something. Write me a poem. Keep writing me letters. Write them poems, write them letters. Write because you need to, because it keeps you human, because it keeps you true, because it keeps you sane. (Actually, I keep you human and true and sane, but the writing is how you know me, so keep writing.)

I know you love the words. They were a good idea, weren’t they? I love them too.
Want to know some of the words that I love?
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
“Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” 
You know what other words I love? I love the words I’m using to write your story. You can’t read it yet – how would you ever make it to the end, if you did? My stories are not easy. They’re not easy to read, they’re not easy to live – trust me, they’re not always easy to write. But they are good. And you’ve tasted a little bit of that in other people. You see the beauty in their stories, and they see some of the beauty in yours. Keep trusting me. I don’t write stories that aren’t good. So keep writing, Rachel. I’ll keep writing too. Maybe one day, if we’re both very careful, we will even find out that we are writing the same story.

I love you. It’s okay if your heart doesn’t believe it yet. They’ll keep believing it for you, for now. (And you can keep believing it for them.) But I do love you. And you belong to me. And I know that right now, your heart is yearning for me to hold you, yearning for me to still your shaking, yearning for me to wipe away your tears. And I am, though you don’t feel it and that kills me. But one day I will. It’s coming. I’m coming. You’re coming home.

a letter to myself

This was a way that she seemed to understand herself, the way that words felt their meaning, the way that they communicated to her her pain, her struggle, without destroying her, without taking it away from her and making it part of themselves – without taking her self away from her self. She found that she was always trying, never really understanding what it meant to really learn who she was, that she found giving away easier than receiving, that promises were hard to keep when they were not written. She was afraid but then again she had always been afraid, and that fear had saved her as many times as it had destroyed her, had given to her as much as it had taken away, and she did not know what to do without the fear. It was as much a part of her as her hands, her feet, her heartbeat, and the ones who wanted to take it away did not understand that to take away her fear was to take away most of who she was. So she stopped. She tried. She cried and she wondered. She prayed but only in small pieces, as if God could not handle her if she offered everything up at once; as if she could not handle it if she lost all of herself at once. She tried but she never really knew. She hoped but she never really understood.

But she heard it said once: “You can love completely without complete understanding.” And those words never really left her, even when she didn’t know if she agreed or understood, even when she didn’t want to remember them. Because the possibility that one could love something else – completely, wholeheartedly, without fear of self or hurt or death – without understanding the object of that love was deeply beautiful to her, more beautiful than anything she had ever heard before. It saved her, in the moments when it seemed like nothing could. It made her human when the world tried its hardest to dehumanize her. It made her okay despite not being okay – okay despite everything that would never be.