The line of women stretched long and with meaning, people who wanted to talk with me. I had just finished speaking for 90 minutes, followed by a brief Q & A, and yet they welcomed more of me.
This is my heart's honor.
There were three groups of women, interspersed among each other.
There was the group of friends: old friends. Girls from high scool or college. Youth ministry or marching band. Camp staff or kindergarten. People who have long known me, who wrapped me in a gracious hug of knowing.
My first grade teacher was there. She said she always knew I would be a writer. I thanked her for teaching me how.
There was the second group of friends: new friends. Blog readers, members of the invisible community who have coffee with me every morning. People who say, "I know we haven't met, but we are friends. I promise you, we are." I matched faces with screen names, laughter with comments. They wrapped me in a gracious hug of meeting someone you've known a long time.
And there was a third group of friends: the fellow broken hearts. They waited to talk to me, their tissues close and their tears spilling.
"My husband died three years ago."
"My husband died six weeks ago."
"I have two children, one with a chromosomal disorder, and one with cancer."
"I've lost a baby."
"My husband suffered a brain injury that has changed him entirely. He's not the man I married."
"My winter is still here. There is no sign of spring."
"My life has shattered, but I can't tell you how. I can't say it out loud yet."
You let me come near you, you with the broken hearts. Your wounds are fresh, tender, and exposed with road rash. I tread carefully beside you, knowing that a quick movement will send you flitting away like a frightened butterfly.
Your courage astounds me. When my grief burned hottest, I didn't let anyone in. I didn't want to be in a room with anyone else who was hurting, because I couldn't imagine the space could hold us both. Sunshine violated me, and hope burned.
You choose another path. You let me come beside you.
Thank you for believing me to be a credible witness to your heart's deepest sadness.
* * *
"Only someone who has been there, who has drunk the dregs of our cup of pain, who has experienced the existential loneliness and alienation of the human condition, dares whisper the name of the Holy to our unspeakable distress. Only that witness is credible; only that love is believable."
~ Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trest