Christmas day passed quietly. The rain was the only steady patter to disrupt the silence. She turned the gas fire log on for some extra heat, and Clutch decided that was just the perfect place to sprawl for his all-day nap. Harper did some reading and puttering—and a lot of thinking.
She had always heard that some people had a hard time relating to God as father if they did not have a healthy relationship with an earthly father. She could understand that. She had had a friend in high school whose father verbally abused her constantly. So, her friend never thought she was any good and went through relationship after relationship, trying to prove she was special and able to be loved. But that was not Harper’s experience. It was easy to think of Abba as a magnification of the loving qualities that her own father had demonstrated. He was her biggest fan! And that image had served her well for a big portion of her life. But when she came up against the brick wall of how an all-powerful God would not, or could not, intervene when it would seem a no-brainer to her, then her confidence in the God she thought she “knew” was shaken. Even she surely knew what true love would look like in certain situations where there was pain and suffering. So where was God in all of it? That was the haunting question.
Harper pulled out her notebook again and re-read: My own earthly father would have died for me rather than see me hurt in those horrible ways. Next to those words in all caps, she penned: AND YOU DID—YOU DIED FOR ME!
Bits and pieces of Sunday School, Bible study, and sermons came to her mind. She had heard it all a million times, but why now did it seem more real. Blaise had said that if she had been the only one in the world, Christ would still have died for her. It was a great line. She had even used it herself in years past when talking to an unbeliever or someone in need of encouragement. But today, it felt true. Really true. Harper now felt like truth and relationship with God had been mere glimmers that came and went. They seemed big and bold and sure at the time, and she could act big, bold, and cocksure in front of any doubter. But life had taken the air out of her belief system, and there were times she didn’t even know if she believed that any of it was real. Though not a parting of the Red Sea or anything, these last few days had cracked open the hardness of her heart. There were still some whys, but a deep peace had begun to settle in her mind and body. And she dared to hope again. To really believe again.
It was Christmas, so Harper made a batch of her cranberry walnut sauce. She didn’t really have anything to put it on, like a lentil loaf or fake turkey. But that was okay. She made a big pot of vegetable soup and had a large helping of cranberry sauce on the side. She also splurged and used the last five apples in her stash to make a turnover kind of thing, using some filo dough that had gotten buried in her freezer. It was a culinary experiment, but it turned out pretty good, especially topped with vegan ice cream. You can never go wrong with apples and cinnamon, and so it all seemed rather festive even in its simplicity.
Harper lit some of her emergency candles and placed them around the living room. With the glow in the fireplace, the candlelight, and the patter of rain at the window, the room took on the appearance of a sanctuary. Typically, being quiet and alone on any day, especially Christmas, would underscore the pain that overshadowed so much of her thought life, but she did not feel alone today. She felt warm, encompassed, and strangely alive.
She had not pulled out her guitar for months—maybe years—but she went to the closet and opened the case. After tuning its dead strings, she placed it on her lap. Harper was surprised that for some reason there was some muscle memory left in her fingers. She touched the strings and sang into the flickering light:
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
our spirits by Thine advent here;
Dispel the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to Thee, O Israel.
She had no sheet music—at least if she did, she had no idea where it might be buried—but she sang as many Christmas songs as she could remember; and when she forgot a line or two . . . or three, she just sang her own words to the music whether they rhymed or not. When her tender fingertips could not take yet another song, she put her guitar back in its case and sat in the soft light.
She heard her text notification ring from the other room. Rising gingerly so as not to disturb Clutch, she got her phone and read:
Thinking of you and praying for you on this Christmas day. May the Lord’s peace surround you. I’ll be driving back tomorrow.
Thank you, Bl. It has been a lovely day, and I have indeed felt His peace. Drive safe.
One by one, she extinguished the candles, turned off the fire log, and headed to bed. She drifted off and slept soundly as rain continued to fall.