Christmas morning dawned in partial darkness as the skies alternated between rain and fog. Before Harper even got out of bed, she heard the text alert and grabbed her phone off the nightstand. Rather than copy it all into a text, Blaise sent her a reminder to read the Christmas story out of Luke and enjoy a happy Christmas day, remembering that “Jesus would have come just for you.” He was on his way north to spend Christmas with his mom in the home, but he took the time to connect. His second text said, “Don’t be embarrassed.” She smiled at that since her first waking thoughts were to feel somewhat embarrassed—okay, really embarrassed! I mean after all: What was she, five—to be dancing in the snow like a crazy person? She reminded herself that no one saw them except maybe a few ducks—and even they, if wise, had sheltered somewhere out of the storm. She smiled at the way Blaise seemed to read her mind so well. Or was that her heart?
The third text said, “Let nothing steal the joy! Take each step as it comes.”
For so long, she had lived under a choking shroud of gloom. It was like she had been holding her breath and finally could breathe again. Not all her questions were answered by a long shot, and not all of her pain had magically disappeared, but she had released in tears and singing and dance some of the bindings that had kept her frozen and helpless. For years, there were times as she drifted off to sleep that she would have a recurring dream. She would imagine herself as a strong and graceful dove, sitting on a cold, marble ledge, viewing a wide beautiful world beyond. But she could only look and long because both wings were bound up with string that wound around her body. She was alive, but hindered. Powerless. And then she would wake suddenly with a feeling of desperation, her heart racing. This morning as she woke, she imagined that the dove of her dreams had at least partially been set free—perhaps one wing unfurled. In that pure moment on the hill, she had begun to feel real hope again. Like there could be life in this life she was living.
The room was chilly, so she turned up the heat. After warming some food in the microwave for Clutch, she took her Bible and notebook off the shelf and with a steaming cup of coffee sat down to have “devotions.” This had been a habit in years past, before Graham’s death, but she couldn’t remember the last time she had even tried to mimic some sort of daily devotion. It had begun to feel fake—and she didn’t do fake. So, she had resigned herself to pretending to have a quasi-relationship with a deity that she wasn’t really on speaking terms with. Bible reading and study got shoved aside, though the coffee and contemplation had remained.
She read over the first two chapters of Luke. It was so familiar to her that she could have recited large portions of it from memory. As a child, when Bible was still allowed in public school, she had memorized the story in Luke for a Christmas presentation. All those neurons were obviously still firing because the words popped into her mind before her eyes read them on the page. Her mind quoted the King James Version while she read the English Standard Version. “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant.’” Harper stared at the droplets running down the window pane for a minute then back at the text. “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”
She whispered, “Lord of Mary, Lord of Christmas, Lord of all things I have known and read all my life, how do I honestly magnify You? How do I rejoice and get past the pain? I do want to, but I don’t know how—to be real, to be honest. How can I get over the past so you can be fully embraced as Lord of a present, where my doubts and misgivings are supplanted by genuine praise?” Her words stalled, and she continued to stare out the window. She re-read portions of the text again, but what she imagined a healthy devotional time was coming up a bit short. Finally, she grabbed her notebook and disposable fountain pen and began to write.
And write she did.
It began slow. Methodical. But suddenly the words poured out of her: thought to pen to paper, and tears mingled with ink as she paper-prayed.
God, I am sorry I left You behind. I
didn’t understand don’t understand You or Your ways. If everything is as You specifically plan, then how can I ever accept that You would hurt me in some grand design—and not just me. Is it in Your will that children die, that some get murdered or raped? Are wars what You want? How do I figure it all out? It seems so random. I want to accept that You have everything in control Okay, I have to be honest here. You already know my heart, so You must know that I am having a hard time believing You are in control. Because if You are, then what kind of a God are You? What does love mean to You? I believe and have always believed You are all powerful, so You could stop all of this if You wanted, if You loved the way I understand love, so why don’t You? Why don’t You want to? I am human and limited, but shouldn’t even a weak human understand some of the reasons for all this suffering? All this pain?
She paused briefly. The rain was coming down harder, beating against the window pane.
Someone who would love me so much to come to this earth for me would, in my thinking, love me enough to protect me from harm. My own father, with his big hands and tender heart would have done anything to keep me safe. Once when I was in trouble at college
because of some stupid friends okay, granted, I made some really poor decisions and judgment calls, and it was in part my fault, but rather than condemn me, my father wept with me on the phone, and only wished he was close by to walk me through the thing I faced. His love was not just theoretical. It was big and real and tangible. And useful in my real-life situation! How can I truly love You trust that You, God, have my best interest at heart when You did not save my baby or my parents . . . or Graham? When You should could have. My own earthly father would have died for me rather than see me hurt in those horrible ways . . .
Her pen froze on the page, and she re-read what she had just written. “Oh, my God.” And she wept into her hands.