Where Do I Lay It Down?
As I said in my last post, I had considered writing a series of posts on a single subject, but would not have chosen my current one. I find myself so tempted to move on, to live into old narratives of who I am, (another post yet to be written) and to focus on my definition of better, more beautiful things; and yet, as my friend, one of those four counselors I mentioned, has said, “You must respect what you have been through. It is profoundly important in your life.”
If that is so, then my prayer is that though I may still be a hot mess on the other side of this; may I be a more-transformed, more-like-Christ, more-compassionate mess than I was on the morning of January 6th.
For the outpouring of love - messages, emails, texts, comments on social media - however you found me, my friends and readers, thank you. Truly Christ dwells in us, for I have have seen and heard him in you these past two weeks. At the time I wrote the first post, titled Missing Some Words, I couldn’t quite bring myself to describe what happened, but now I have found those words.
I was out walking on Saturday afternoon in the same neighborhood I have lived and walked for 22 years. I had passed children playing and riding bicycles, neighbors walking dogs and joggers running off their holiday meals. I had just turned a corner and was about four houses beyond a group of children playing near the street sign when I heard footsteps behind me. I assumed it was a jogger, so I moved to the right of the sidewalk for him to pass on my left. When I saw the shadow over my right side and felt him touching me, I spun around yelling, "What are you doing?" I did not think about doing this. It simply happened. I felt myself fighting and saw man in a black hoodie and heard myself screaming, “Get away from me.” I did not know that sound could come from me. He looked straight at me, then he glanced down at the jack end of a now-shredded earbud wire in his hand, and ran toward a car. At the same time I could hear a neighbor yelling, “We’ve got your tag number” and a man in the car saying “Get in the car. We gotta get out of here.” It happened in seconds. When people say it all happens so fast they can’t remember, they are telling the truth. I guess that is why the tape keeps replaying in your mind for a few weeks. You are trying to pause, rewind, find the details, and figure out what actually happened. The witness who saw it said the man got out of the passenger’s side of a car that had just passed me, then ran up on me from behind. Though I don’t remember hitting the ground, the sand and grass on my pants and the soreness in my knee tell me I went down on my right knee. Shortly after the incident I began telling my family and friends that the top of my ear was hurting. Maybe he shoved or hit me there. I cannot remember that part, only the pain afterward.
I’m not sure what he wanted - my phone, my rings or me... he never said a word. I still have all three. Had he just snatched or demanded my property, it would have been only robbery. Bodily contact makes it assault. Attempted assault - I choose to say...because I think I won. It's still hard to write it without wondering if it gives him any power, and yet it some way the power seems to shift back to me as I tell the story. I remember the sound my voice made, the fight I found in myself and the three men (or embodied angels) who came running from three directions to help me.
It’s traumatic and profound even as I realize how much worse it could have been. I’m looking over my shoulder constantly, jumping at the least startling noise. Peace, trust, and the freedom to move about…all that is lost to me temporarily. I am moving through this; however, and I know God is healing me. The following is a prayer from my journal that I wrote about a week after the incident:
I awoke to the orange glow on the white wall outside the open bedroom door. I crawled out of bed, walked to the doorway and turned my head to the left. Across the room and through the window, I could see the orange ball of fire rising over the lake. It is my gift - this sight at daybreak. The light and the water, its beauty dazzles me - even at this hour, especially at this hour.
A friend sent me a song that says, lay it all down at the feet of Jesus. I want to do that, but I don’t seem to know how in the way I lay down a heavy box or logs on a hearth. Where is this “it” in me- this burden I need to lay down? How do I do that? Where do I put it? Where are your feet in this world, Jesus?
I had a nightmare that two men were smothering me with jackets, carrying me away and I could not scream. I awoke thrashing and my heart racing. Thank you for my husband, his bodily presence in our bed, that he enfolded me and told me I was OK.
Is that where you are? In his embrace? Are you in the tulips my neighbor left on the kitchen island or the chicken parmesan they fed me for supper? Are you in her daughter tracking us on “Find My Phone” and calling us when we missed a turn on a dark highway coming back to the lake from Atlanta? Are those your feet? Are these words on a page? Are these the places I lay it down? The burden of memory and the emotions of fear and anger.
I sense that I need to be alone. I am pulling energy from everyone near me. I need them, their normalcy, their rhythm, the steady ways in the world. And yet, I need rest and solitude. I need to cry and I need to listen for You. Is that how I lay it down? Letting the grief and frustration and fear pour out as tears? Sit in the silence and listen for your whisper?
Will there come a day that I do not fear and am not angry? When I can tell the story with a purpose and an ending - a good one, a redemptive one? When you’re in something, it feels permanent, even though your mind knows and believes that it is not. It seems important to notice the difference. The body and the soul need convincing. What is their language? What persuades them that all will be well?
I know that I am your beloved. I saw your sunrise. Just as you promised, the morning light found me. Your decrees are everlasting, O God. The sun that finds me does so at your command. It is sparkling on the water because you said so. The pine trees stayed green and tall against the bare winter sky because you declared that they should. The sweet gums let all their leaves go to the nourish the earth beneath them. Those leaves will die and decay into the dark ground and emerge again giving life and greening something new when Spring comes.
You, O Living Word, will warm the earth soon. You will call forth that green . You’ll send the rain and the lake will rise. You will restore. You make all things new.
If I couldn’t read or write a single word, your pines and sweet gums in South Alabama speak your truth to me. The heavens and the earth declare. We are without excuse. Your love, manifest in such exquisite beauty, is all around me. And even in pain, fear, anger, and loss, I can see that love and light are stronger.
The earth cannot hold that fallen leaf. Death and decay are certain but not forever. Life keeps winning. Green keeps coming. Light dispels dark. Stones roll away, and out you walk.
All things. All things are under your feet. I can lay it down anywhere. Light is finding me and Love is winning.