"To cleave to the truth of our own lives,
to live and look beneath our own stories,
is to see glimmers at least of his life,
of his life struggling to come alive in our lives,
his story whispering like a song through
the babble and drone of ours."
~ Frederich Buechner, Secrets in the dark
I've been telling her for awhile now, and I find I need to tell her again, these details of my story of letting go and surrendering to change, of becoming and accepting me in this new skin. I tell her because, really, I need to tell myself. The more the words form in my writing, the more I find them forming on my lips, and I need to hear them spoken aloud for them to come full circle.
They are a poem, a struggle, a dance, a blind stagger, a bearing of wings, a daring to fall.
She listens as the words tumble out, faster and faster, sometimes on repeat. She is gracious, my sister, reaching out in her own way with fingers to trace the lines on my face, the curve of what is precious and familiar, when she cannot see, exactly, who is sitting right before her.
And it doesn't matter. She loves me. This, I feel more than any twinge of discomfort between us, any fear of differences, of unknowns, of judgment or not being seen or heard.
All our lives, we've lived parallel stories with trails that join and crisscross in that intimate way that only a sibling's can. And all our lives, we've known how different we are. Our stories have always looked different. But maybe never felt it so much as they seem to now.
At the end of it all, through the flood of words, I wade through and hold up what I most want to save from being carried away: No matter how different Jesus looks in each of us, I want to know that you can still see him here, in my story, even if the language and expression have changed drastically.
I am vulnerable, sitting there in exposed desire, all but pleading with her to see me as I am and still love me. The question dangles, unspoken, What do you see in my story, when all these words like leaves are stripped away to the root in the ground?
She is brave, too, oh, so brave, and offers honesty back to me. And it helps me to see, how hard it is not only to tell a new kind of story, but to hear it from someone you love. She holds out grace to me, as she always does, and I see, with a pang in my heart, how painfully easy it is to be the bull in a china shop when you're trying to tell your story with grace, too - and often fail.
We're figuring this out together, this telling of stories; this listening and holding a safe space for truth-telling, for growing and filling new skin, for fumbling around for words and sight. Our skin may look different, our stories told in different styles, and yet in the end, I wonder if the story being told isn't so very much the same.
At the end of time, I wonder if Jesus might gather up all these stories as chapters of the same book on the same gloriously inexhaustible subject. And as we hear them read and sung, over eternity perhaps, this Person of infinite dimension will emerge. This one whom we saw but flickers of in each other and didn't always know it was him we were seeing, as he shone beneath our skin - "struggling to come alive in our lives" - and yet here in his fullness, all we see is magnificent beauty. All we hear is this one story that goes on and on, an eternity of telling.
* * * * *
This week, I remained purposefully vague, for my intent was not to focus on particular differences, as I've done more of in this season I'm in of accepting my "new skin," as much as to embrace the sense I have that all these differences are trivial in light of the bigger story being told. I'm still figuring out how to tell my little slice of story well, with the enormity of grace I've received. I'm learning how to speak of differences without creating divides. I hope, however your story is expressed and how it might vary from mine, this will be a safe space where you can be you and I can be me and we can learn from each other.
Thank you, friends. I'm so grateful you are here.