We hugged after not seeing each other for over six months, pouring tepid water over tea-bags at Panera, nothing fancy, and yet, incredibly sacred as we ignored the crumbs all over the unwashed booth we sat in.
I’ve gotten these past few months of a journey down pat in about a ten minute speech I’ve rehearsed and retold too many times to count lately, and yet, it felt fresh while looking into the eyes of a sister who has been walking for much longer than I, who has a bold tenderness and different seat to speak into my life than many of the others I have shared my deep longings with.
After listening and with tears in her eyes on my behalf, she shared her own past few months, with similar and yet different struggles, different monsters that threaten to burden her down from the path she is trying to at least maintain moving forward on, whether crawling or just scraping by.
I shared the beginning of my lenten sacrifice, the reasons behind it, and how I have seen idolatry run amok in my life without knowing it, under the guise of unacknowledged entitlement that rejects the human experience, as well as the result of my own choices: suffering.
She laughed. She began to tell me how the Spirit has spoken to her through the sacrament of the Word of God, through the life of Paul as faithfully preached Sunday after Sunday since October. There has been this underlying current of asking while her emotions ride an amusement park ride this question: who is my authority right now? She sees in Paul what she hopes to finally learn, maybe this time, she prays, that she would count it all loss, that even if she were to have a long list of qualifiers for who she is, she could see the circumstances in her life as a gift that has brought her low so she may actually look up.
There is no punch line here, no perfect ending with the two of us conquering all of our issues and walking out with glittering smiles.
There is only the bearing of one another’s burdens, the gift of exposing darkness to light in hands that will not only love but also rebuke, the gratitude in living in the tension together of the work is already and not yet finished.
I’ve wrestled for what feels longer than a couple hours in the midst of night, and it is for certain that I have grieved over the thorn that I always feel dig into my side, but there will be no more running from the suffering. This is the place of resurrection, rebirth, new life. What a glorious thought in the midst of Lent, that I might bear this cross for a while longer.