Week Ten: The Bridge

I struggle against myself. Can’t shake this feeling that I should be something more, do something more…The things that I love are not enough.

I love…

Bagels with sundried tomato and caramelized onion.
The smell of lavender.
Reading the Psalms out loud.
Holding hands while taking a walk. No where particular. Just being together.
Sun-warmed skin. Freckled.
Watching the birds through the kitchen window while slowly sipping morning coffee.
Pesto. I love pesto.
The smell of roasting garlic and baking bread.
Trips to the bookstore.
Driving with the windows down.
Long, slow kisses from the one I love that go nowhere but deeper and deeper.
A story that makes me cry. And laugh. A good story. Fact or fiction.
A free day to write. Looking out the window and seeing the ocean. Or mountains. Trees and sky.
Collecting seashells.
A long run before dawn and watching the sun rise through it.

But do I love myself?

She asks it in the back—in the discussion or reflection questions. It’s number 2:

Do you think you love yourself? If not or if so, how might this affect your relationship to God and others? (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

**********

He sits in a chair at the head of our circle—this small gathering of encouragement. It is he that I came to see. I met his wife a few weeks before…was moved by her words about their ministry.

Sometimes, he says—his thick Nigerian accent giving song to the words. Sometimes I think we need to tune up our spirits the way we tune up our cars.

His smile. It dazzles.

He nods to my friend. She knows.

That’s when the singing starts.

I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, oh, my soul rejoice…

Other voices join hers and we sing it together, over and over until the words begin to take form…embodied.

When we waver, his voice booms louder, until we feel the words too…believe.

Take joy, my King, in what you hear…may it be a sweet sweet sound in your ears.

The Bible on his lap becomes a drum and he throws his head back and closes his eyes. I can see that his legs want to move. When our voices trail off again he urges us on…

Keep singing, keep singing, he says. And then he says, In Africa…in Africa when we sing…We rock!

We all laugh, and it is his joy that is contagious.

And then he speaks to us about what it means to be a child of God.

Have you ever seen the president walk? He asks, lilting voice.

He demonstrates a little…preens, walks cocky. 

He knows who he is.

He leans forward—closer into our eyes.

We should know who we are.

I sit up straighter. But really, I am stunned.

I’ve heard this line of talk before.

I am a daughter of the King.

Yes, this I know. But does my heart?

I hear this from a middle-aged Nigerian man who must fight for his faith in ways I will never never face and I am stunned.

He knows the joy.

The joy of being a child of God.

It is written all over him. He knows that he is loved. He knows that he is special.

And he is free to love himself.

Why am I not?

Middle child. Quiet one. Well-behaved and overlooked. Loving self was considered selfishness.

But she gives these words and my palms start to sweat:

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on the earth to offer others. (Parker Palmer quoted by L.L. Barkat in God in the Yard).

If I am the bridge that everyone walks over, how will I ever get to the other side?

This morning as I run I feel the footprints all over me. My fingers itch to let go…toes curl under the strain of the holding.

How does one stop this bit of craziness? This bridging between, making everything okay for everyone else?

I know all the answers. But I like hers better:

…I also recommend a year outdoors, dangerous poetry, and Psalm 139. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).

Dangerous?

love
is more than
sun-dried tomatoes,
shriveled skin soothed
by oil. it is a ripple
from that womb-
knitting, that unhidden
frame-maker who
knows. love is the
long kiss and the sun-
glow clasped gently
in the guiding hand;
the hand that pries
loose fingers and
toes—the bridge
dangles freely.the
hand that slides
gently around the
curves of body
and heart. searching
me. searching me.
search me.
please.

This was written in response to week ten of L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us. Join me?

Photo of Bridge painting, water color and gauche, by Laura

Comments

  1. says

    Oh my friend, did this hit a chord in me today… I am struggling with self care too – especially during this time of trial and sadness, and mourning….

    I don’t know how to do this, but this self care thing is so hard when you don’t really like yourself or see yourself as God sees you.

    Thank you for putting this into words and sharing your heart.
    Love you,
    Heather

  2. says

    I think this concept (or reality) of self-care is so over-looked and dismissed by Christians as “selfish.” I have fallen into this trap myself. Thanks for this lovely post.

  3. says

    Little tears, for all the big things you have said here. I pray you will be freed from always being the bridge. I pray the speckled and the striped grasses for you, on the side of the creek in your painting. I pray the creek for you, so azure and alive.

    Oh, Laura. Sigh.

  4. says

    My how God has blessed you with artistic and literary talents! Do take care to throw yourself onto those posies and eat of their beauty–I do whenever I come here.

    Contagious joy. I like the sounds of that affliction.

    Blessings.

  5. says

    Laura.

    sometimes I imagine our lives playing out so differently.

    and sometimes I imagine them so very much the same.

    sometimes I imagine running beside you , quietly watching the sun rise on new .

  6. gretchen says

    Without bridges, the course of life for others could be so much different. It truely is a balance of sacrifices.

  7. says

    how did i not see this post? i needed it, so, for i don’t think i love myself, and how i want to. thank you. your words were prophecy tonight, and i’m humbled and shaken and sore from the angst of it all. love to you, sweet poet-friend.

  8. says

    Read through your list of loves … we share all of them!

    Beautiful post, Laura! Love L.L.Barket’s response. Wish I could say it as beautifully!

    Always blessed by your gift!

    Love,
    Cheri

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