“Do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through?” - Chris Tomlin - Is He Worthy.
Often times the hardship you’ve walked away from will be the very place God calls you to shine in again.
Sitting across from a woman I do not know, she exhales anxious breaths of frustration and shakes her head, “I hate it here.” She speaks to me with exhaustion and sarcasm mixed and I can tell this isn’t her first go around.
I knew ahead of time I’d meet some of the most hurting people in this waiting area. I came prepared in my own heart to see the brokenness as part of me and part of my story, a chance to bring light for only a moment if opportunity was given. My job was to be torch holder, which often translates as hand holder so I positioned myself to become listening ear and joyful responder in everything.
Her story isn’t a rare one, there’s court cases like ours every hour, every day. America has an abundance of beaten and battered homes, bitter mothers, reckless fathers and shattered young hearts.
We wait together sharing the name and age of the child affected by someone from years gone by. I try and deflect the hardened words of her relationship failed and those who failed her with a nod and a simple response, “I understand, it can be hard.” I remind myself, light shines it doesn’t throw punches, be the light.
After a few minutes of sharing we communicate enough to make a connection that surprises even my “prepared” heart. Our stories collide so closely my jaw hangs open and I realize we’re both there for more than just the same reason. We’re there because of the very same person. Our common tie lies deep within our foolish youth. I listen to her story and hear my own in it. I understand, though feel untouched by so much of what seems to pain and embitter her.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
A Jesus healing always changes your story.
Earlier that morning I sat in my chair with bible limply opened over my legs praying I’d have the words to bring life to whomever God placed in my path. I sensed deeply there would be a work done, though I didn’t expect it to be as personal as this meeting.
Our time expires when an armed guard walks steadily down the green carpeted hallway, “Baxter vs. _______”.
I rise and slip one hand into Andy’s grip and give it a squeeze, he knows how nervous I am and winks an ease only he can into my heart. Almost forgetting, I lean my head back into the waiting room, “it was nice to meet you”, I whisper. She sends luck to me as we follow the officer through two locked doors into the courtroom.
God sends flames into the darkness, but I’ll admit I didn’t fully want to be the flame that day. It seemed to me a step backward into the shadows, a step I would have gladly run from like Jonah, only to be swallowed up by the jaws of a giant. My life has rocked a rhythm into me that’s hard to step out of. My home and surroundings have stamped their brand deeply into my skin and I make every effort to keep within these healing walls and corners called home.
The one with the red tin roof enclosed by fields of goldenrod in the summer and boundless hills of snow in winter, the corner yard with the crisscrossed triangular cedar posts acting as backdrop for my rose bush and sunflower garden, the place I stand and speak up toward the heavens in faith. The pines that each spring hold dangerously low robin nests built by the inexperience of first time Mama birds, the apple trees and the sapsuckers that battle against them every year, the babbling brook where children squeal and return to me wet and laughing, the handmade table of my desire where meals and school are spread daily, the peace and comfort I feel without much effort, the gentle stories read aloud by candlelight, the tea brewed, prayers spoken, hands held tightly and small frames rocked into the afternoon sun.
My life; so filled with the grace and order only God can give, it’s no wonder my heart would pull away from the broken parts of this world, it’s no surprise I’d want to stay right within the boundaries of my peace, my home, my comfortable space of existence. And when you’ve tasted the darkened hard spots of this world you recognize the light and cling tightly to it never wanting to return to those dull gray days of uncertainty.
“Take a seat on the left,” I’m told.
There’s talk between Lawyer and Magistrate as I open my file of required documents readying myself to speak when asked.
“Do you have any questions Mrs. Baxter?”
“No questions, I’m here to forgive what’s owed to me and close my case.”
There’s a look of compassion from the Judge that I love. We talk back and forth effortlessly only a few minutes before she dismisses me and we’re escorted back to the entrance.
I've only had to attend a few of these meetings and each time I imagine myself in the hot seat, owing what I cannot pay back because of my cracked and broken ways. Then I see Jesus stepping into my brokenness without hesitation running toward the ruins, pulling off the rubble, reaching down to scoop me up and breath the forgiving air of the Holy Spirit into my sin scarred lungs. Leaving me able to breath deeply, freely forever.
Finding a way to skip this meeting crossed my mind, but to refuse the opportunity to hold high the torch He lit in my heart, to miss out on a God sized encounter and withhold the lifting of a weight within my power to remove, would be my own loss.
“Never get wrapped up in the dark parts of your story because that’s not the end.” -Big Daddy Weave
"My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass." Psalm 102:11