We sat under the canopy of the pear tree. Fall cool nipped at us. A small flock of geese settled onto the lake with splashy landings. We turned our attention to the geese and then to the cry of the northern flicker in the Aspen tree behind us. Our yard bunny nibbled on something in the middle of the wildflowers. All the while, we talked about goodness and herbs and health and wholeness and watched the rain clouds change the afternoon sky.
Earlier that day, I had stared at the mirror and felt a heaviness of spirit wash over me so plain and tangible it greyed the reflection. Tears stung my eyes, but I quickly wiped away any trace. Because company was coming, and I had things to do. I went about my chores, unloading the dishwasher and choking down the fears, wiping the kitchen counters and pressing back sobs that crept up through my chest. Stupid emotions. The bane of my existence for as long as I could remember. Always in the way of growth and soundness.
When my friend arrived, I hugged her and just told her straight away that I was weird that day, and I apologized for myself ahead of time. She said she would be weird with me. She told me that it was okay that she had come on a day when I wasn’t good company. Without speaking, she whispered to the deep places that tried to hide, “Grace, mercy, and peace be with you.” But I didn’t know how to receive these gifts, any of them. Not from her or from myself, or from the Christ who extended them first.
We took our coffee outside and visited. She told me how she was doing in light of some recent upheavals in her own story. She said she was learning to give dignity to her emotions. Her words worked into my systems like the herbal tinctures she knew how to make. I pondered the idea of being kind to myself, of giving dignity to my own emotions, something I’d read about recently and have often encouraged others to do. As I listened to her and saw the image of God in her, I wondered how long I had punished myself for not being holy enough or spiritually mature enough because my emotions were bad and wrong and difficult. This woman, her red henna hair like autumn maple leaves, sat with me under the pear tree, and we were just people. Broken, sad, learning, hopeful, doubtful, fearful, growing, lovely, thinking and feeling humans entering the narratives of one another.
I watched her becoming free–like the wildflowers and the geese, who don’t try to be wildflowers or geese, they just are. Watery burning eyes at the thought, the mystery of a gift people ache for and yet so often refuse. Grace, mercy, and peace. She offered it, and I could receive it. Even when I was messy and sad and needy and raw. Would I toss her presence aside and be so proud? I could learn as she learned, to stop pretending and stop saying the right things that make me look together and strong. Because I wasn’t. My emotions twisted around inside, conflicted over the yearning for a freedom I have known and the too much straining to achieve it on my own.
While the wind blew and the blue-grey and white mingled overhead, I fought with myself, wondering if I could internalize that which I profess to believe about the love of God–a lavish grace, a sustainable mercy, a knowable peace. Words easily spoken and spilled. It would be a terrible shame to waste them.