This morning the sky is cotton pulled thin. Rows of diaphanous white mute the sun. But the outline of the moon sits silver on this stringy bed, reminding me that day and night are one—time flows out and then back into itself.
I pray as I run. This is what I do. No reverent recitations, just quiet conversation. The sound of my quickening heartbeat a fitting accompaniment to our love talk.
I call Him by name.
Once, I believed this was the only proper name to call Him. I mouthed it at night, into my pillow…swallowed it’s consonants with salty tears.
He held me.
I used to think He held me as a Father holds a child. But even then, at the intuitive age of twelve, I knew it was more.
He breathed hot breath on my cheek, kissed away tears, covered me with His hand. I see now.
He held me like a lover.
…God can be fairly alluring in the same come-hither way, and we can be rather dim or callous about our approach, much like the Song of Songs lover when he thrusts his hand through the latch…(L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard)
Being loved that way leaves a mark on a woman. These years later, I put palm to face, trace the outline of my cheek with the cup of my hand, touch lips with trembling finger. I breathe deeply, searching for the aroma of love…
Where is my lover now?
He has morphed into this kindly father figure, the Giver of Good Things, the One Who Sees but never touches. Does He?
Another holds me now, loves this body, wipes tears away. Have I closed myself to the Great Lover’s beckoning?
My prayers–so alive, so intimate–as a young woman, have become quiet conversations.
It’s not all bad. I wear Him like a glove.
But then I think on this:
This is what we long to be in prayer: one who is utterly given, stretching out beyond the immediate to the absolute reality of God…The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God. What will God do? He will take possession of us. (Sister Wendy Beckett, quoted by L.L. Barkat in God in the Yard)
Framing spiritual disciplines in the language of art, grace, or sex does not make me nervous. It makes me long for that sweet invitation to be held that I once knew. I have protected myself from the world and in doing so I have hidden from Him. I have covered my nakedness with respectability, responsibility, and all the shoulds a good Christian girl must be.
I miss the hot breath of God, the dewy softness of melting into Him, of leaning on fire and not fearing the burn.
How do I open up to Him again?
…In the end, there was no product that would make me vulnerable and open to God. There was nothing to help me see God as my alluring Beloved…(L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard)
There is nothing left to do but go back to the beginning. I lay myself out before Him—bare, raw, naked. We remember. I lament.
See? This is who I am.
How can you love me?
He holds me once again. Close. Stills my heaving, catches my tears.
This is who I am.
I cannot leave You behind anymore. Without You, I diminish. I become mist—a ghost of love.
So you whisper into my skin, Remember…remember…remember.
And I do.
**This was written in response to Week six of L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us. Join me?