“Because I Could Not Stop” and One Good Thing

Really, this blog is only updated once in a blue moon. I make it all kinds of sweet nothing promises, but blue moon it is. Though perhaps this year has had better reason than most. A lot of its real estate has been taken up with house hunting (see what I did there?), and at long last we are a week away from closing. Little man says “neeew house!” with a particularly high noted staccato at the end; he likes the little canoe-windmill that sits atop one of the fence poles, so I’ve lovingly named it “the house at little canoe” (though Cody says he will just call it “house,” which is a little boring to me, but to each their own).


We have had Covid for a week now, and so have been cut off from all thing pretty entirely, though the boy and I did escape to our yard one day last week. A two-year-old must run. Little man was especially pent up after so many days inside with very little to do. So, he was a little wild. By which I mean, he was running everywhere with little regard to what I was saying or asking. (Which mattered especially that day because he’d accidentally thrown me off balance the day prior, bruising my tailbone that I’d broken years before. I was, er, pretty tender in the rear.)


While I was still some feet behind, he rushed the gate that led to the front yard, where I did not want him to go, and got the latch open - even though I said his name in the most you-best-walk-on-eggshells kinda way – and was off lickity split into the front yard. My friend and upstairs neighbor was just coming out to her front porch at that moment. It was unfortunate, to say the least. I was grabbing at little man’s hood, trying desperately not to bend very much and so send that blessed knife-pain up my backside, but mainly concerned that he not get near her. I got hold of his hood in time and he cried to beat the band. Freedom lost! And when he was so close to climbing the porch, too.


I sent up a weary look at my friend, whereupon she informed me that I’d dropped my phone in the scramble. Blast. The boy was still crying and playing caught-fish-on-the-line, flopping himself for dear life in my arms, so we had to have one of those heart-to-hearts right there on the sidewalk. The friend had gone inside, so I thought we were alone. I was saying, exasperatedly, “there is just no need for this. No more of this – no more!” as if that was the final note on everything. Finishing this, I turned the boy and me around to go back inside (thinking grouchily of what a horrible idea it was to go outside with a bum backside) when I saw my other neighbor on her front porch. (The whole world is always available to see our “moments,” ya know?)


Well, we were beyond ceremonious chat at that point, so I got straight to the point, the boy running ahead and playing in the bushes: “Helen, I think we have Covid so I won’t stay to talk.”


“I know, honey,” she intoned behind her mask; and then, as I slung my boy under my arm, “run, run, run!”


There’s been a discomfort that’s sat in my heart since February. KJ Ramsey is the first person (I think) to put into words for me the essence of bodily trust and the way it either conflicts or converges with the narratives we tell ourselves mentally. She writes, “Noticing our distress rather than dismissing or ignoring it is the first way we can respond to God’s invitation into the canyon of wholeness” (This Too Shall Last, 110-111). And then later, “Walk into the barren, empty places of your pain, because this is where God will fill you with himself. This liminal space is where we hate to go but where God is always leading us. Don’t run from what does not make sense or try to explain it away. Dissonance is the birthplace of all abiding Christian hope. Embrace mystery as the place God dwells. Embrace your suffering as the paradoxical place where you will be made whole” (115).


We are internally divided creatures, much of the time – the mind making its beliefs and the body scripting its. A few years ago, I stood in front of my college class and confidently shoved aside my mental fear. I was teaching the class with a classmate and we were, eh, twenty minutes in, when my hearing sort of went hollow, like I had a tin can held up to it. And then my vision telescoped and started screwing shut, and I could hear myself saying – stoically, like Plato before an assembly - that I was going to pass out. The class jolted and got that classic look of horror you see on scary movie posters; most of them jumped up together to help, which was very nice and humiliating at once. One girl helped lower me to the ground before I fell there.


The body knows the truth, sometimes before we do. It’s a friend - a dang honest one.


Well, when there was talk of bringing in the National Guard back in February, something in my body changed. Maybe you can resonate. It wasn’t even the near panic attack that made me feel like Darth Vader was lifting me off my feet by my throat, crushing vital things with invisible force. My fear of death came forward. I have through the years very forcefully put it off in my mind. Swept the crumbs off the table. And here the crumbs have made a very sorry cake and I’ve been sustained of it this year.


Hebrews says God’s children have been set free from the fear of death. I love that. I wrestle it to the ground for blessing, like Jacob did in the wilderness. I beg it, “bless me! Enter my body and give me rest!” It seems a process. I’m not even sure it always means what I think it does. Life sure wants to stick.


It’s all like Emily Dickinson’s poem - and I’m going to quote the whole thing like the fangirl I am.


“Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality. We slowly drove, he knew no haste, And I had put away My labor, and my leisure too, For his civility. We passed the school where children played, Their lessons scarcely done; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun. We paused before a house that seemed A swelling of the ground; The roof was scarcely visible, The cornice but a mound. Since then 'tis centuries; but each Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses' heads Were toward eternity.”


A carriage won’t hold a tempest of fear, but it will hold the hand of a friend in good faith. A true friend is Rest, whenever it comes, to the one who is already resting in God. Doesn’t seem so frightening this way. Can’t be, not entirely, though the body will still stiffen at the thought.



Now the one good thing, which was promised in the title. If you want a good read slipped into your inbox every once in a while, (and much more frequently than I write, myself) then hie you over to the Blind Mule blog, where Sarah Willard writes. You won’t be sorry. She writes on life and little and big things, but whatever she writes, she’ll lull you into that inner place of “home-ness” that we are always trying to get ourselves back into. I stop and read her writing every time I see it light upon my inbox, and I can’t say that about any other writer. Seriously, go straight there and subscribe. I don’t know her personally, but I always get such a feeling of faithfulness from her writing that I feel sure she is the faith-fullest of people.

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