I sat on the hotel room floor, my finger tracing the circular pattern in the carpet.
The words were carefully spoken, with conviction and care tenderly laced through them.
But they hurt. It forced me to stand nose to nose with my pain.
A pain I’ve lived with, carried in my heart
and tried to allow it to become a foundational stepping stone to the rest of life.
I’m deeply grateful for God walking me through losing my dad,
and more recent, and more painful still, my best friend and brother.
But while I see the value the sting, the salt, the throb still lives there, deep in my heart.
This pain is part of who I am. And it is not all bad.
“I can’t shake the feeling that tonight you girls need to share your story.”
He spoke so lovingly, but I hated the words.
I didn’t want to go there, to this sacred chamber of my heart,
in front of a bunch of men that I had never met.
Here, in the throws of a beautiful week of prison ministry,
we’d been singing in correctional facilities, and I loved it.
I loved watching the men connect with the message of our songs.
I loved being part of this ministry.
But suddenly I felt naked and exposed, like the blurry pattern in the carpet.
My sister just to the right, was responding the same way I was.
Silence punctuated with tears. This is so deeply personal. So painful.
Why does God have to keep slapping us in the face with it,
jolting our hearts with the breathtaking loss?
I wanted to die. I hate speaking in public.
I had getting emotional in front of strangers.
It took me a while after we were married till I could even cry in front of Daniel.
But I did. That night I pulled the microphone close.
I looked into the faces, tired from a days work, tired from being watched all the time,
tired from the consequences of their bad choices.
Faltering, I began, unsure of anything but that I needed to step out and do this.
And the tears came.
My words halted, and I fought to regain composure.
To grasp with desperate fingers some form of air above this bottomless sea of emotion, pain and tears.
There from the back row came a deep African voice, “Take yo’ time.”
I smiled. I clung to his acceptance.
His voice was the lifesaver I needed. And I held onto it.
I made it through.
My “performance” was less than professional.
But really, when it was all said and done, I knew I was loved.
Accepted. That the words that I got out mattered.
Like this little group of men in tan jumpsuits connected.
Like we really did have something in common after all.
And they did the unthinkable.
They came from their seats,
and they crowded close to the small stage and they lifted their hands and prayed.
For healing. For hope. For God to do his perfect work.
In ME. In my sisters.
My heart’s cry of having that wall between us and the inmates torn down,
was answered. By the end of the evening, no matter where we went to bed that night,
either on a worn prison cot or on a plush hotel feather down bed, we were one.
All in the same holey, needy shoes.
Needy of God’s touch.
And oddly, it was a very comforting place to be.
Strange how the tears that hours ago felt so salty and bitter
now mingled with those men’s prayers and were oil to my heart.
Oil of healing and hope.