Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Place Called Matters of the Heart

I fell asleep asking God for a glimpse of his love, and woke in a place called Matters of the Heart.

In a playground drenched golden in morning light, sun's rays breaking through in misty burn a wall of aged trees standing guard, and washing warm the yellowed bricks of a building where four generations of family members had walked the halls, singing songs, making friends, learning the three R's and facing opposition that comes against all things good...there I looked and felt connection.

Lonely swings hung idly from rusted chains.  I grabbed one and let it fly crooked as I crossed the grass onto damp asphalt, still dark with 9 o'clock shadow. I had the sense I had just come from within the school, but as I passed its twin wood and glass doors, I saw no life.  I was tempted to test them, and reached for the warn metal bar that crossed, wondering at my purpose for being here.

But another voice hung still--the one I know by heart--and beckoned me to follow.  It was the sound of The Teacher.

I shifted a bag of books to my right shoulder, and started walking familiar steps through town, up to where I lived as a girl.  Instantly my feet were in the dirt at the bottom of our hill.  Our house sat at the top, with the road leading up twisting under heavy branches draped beautiful, a white canopy in the winter.  Today the air was warm and dry.

I didn't recognize the father and daughter who joined me at its foot--he with a full beard wanting to take a picture, and she mentioning this is where her brother came to listen to the Counsel of the Lord.  I didn't find it strange that I couldn't see her face or how she implied our hill was a holy place, or that her brother was no longer with her.  I liked the sound of her words, and I told her so. 

I didn't find it strange that as I began the ascent, father and daughter disappeared.

At the top of the climb, instead of finding the house where my sisters and I grew up, I entered a cool, dim, rocky cave.  Another woman sat without a face on a long slab of stone, watching and waiting. She greeted me happily and said how Our Teacher had just passed this way, and how he was looking really fine, all dressed in his best suit, shirt and tie.  I thought about the meaning of his names, how his first was Gaelic for kingly--high like the hill--and how his surname came from a long line of horsemen, the best of those who served.  I imagined him smiling handsome in navy, with crisp white linen and a blood-red stripe down the front.  Even the dream of him was beauty to behold.  My heart warmed within.

I dropped my books on the bench and took a breath, then noticed the pretty stream across the path.  Its bubbling drew me with its sounds--like the tinkling of china. Picking up my bag of books, I crossed over and leaned into its mist, refreshing--like the minty chap-stick that fell from my pocket and landed, rolling, tumbling with the water.  

I was not happy.  This might sound crazy, but after many years of trying different balms, I had finally discovered one that soothed my dry-lipped skin perfectly without making them peel.  I had just purchased this new tube a few days before, and I wasn't about to let it go so easily.

Without any recollection of removing socks and shoes, I hung my bag on a lone tree that found its roots along the banks and waded, mud squeezing between my toes, to where the waters ran crystal clean and pure.  And I began the search for healing.

The water was moving fast over feet and toes I couldn't see for foam.  Kneeling in cold wet, exhilarated, I discovered not one or two, but three blue tubes of mint chap-stick, just like the one I had lost.  As I reached for each I remembered the two extra tubes at home, and wondered if somehow I had brought them all along.  But only one of these hadn't yet been opened--one was still fairly new, and the other, almost gone.  There must be a lesson in this.  I thought about the ten virgins and their oil, and about The One who was and is and is to come.  I would have to ask The Teacher.

While I knelt, soggy, splashed and pondering, looking all dirty and smudged, I heard rough voices burble on the waters and settle at the rear of me.  Afraid, I sunk lower, crept bare under the branches where I had hung my bag, and hoped I wouldn't be seen.

A man walked beside me, barefoot, stopping in the mud next to the tree.  I couldn't see above his ankle, or to where his other foot rested, but I gaped in awe at the beauty of his skin, so smooth and white--pristine.  I wondered at his identity.

The voices got louder, angry, guttural stones catapulting over me, "Go ahead!  Drive the stake.  Then we'll all be free!"  And they laughed, mocking.

My eyes were opened to see an old railroad spike lying on the large rock under the trickles beyond the tree.  Adrenaline rushed and I sweat cold as fear wrapped an icy grip around my spine.  Surely I wouldn't be discovered, hiding like a little rabbit all trembles, scared of what might be.  My eyes were drawn again to the beauty of this manly foot resting innocently, and wept tears that ran one with the water.  Not understanding what was wanted of me, I waited paralyzed, unable to speak, weeping.  How could one commit such an atrocity?

I didn't see it.  They took him away and did it themselves, I suppose.

All I know is that I was back in the school-yard, pockets full of balm and still carrying my bag now brimming with seed to sow--I had left a trail behind.  It must have happened at the tree--a holy exchange--my books of learning and experience replaced with seeds for growing life--a gift from The Man who gave his there.  I felt gratitude and hope rising like the sun.

The wood and glass doors opened easily, and I smelled smells I hadn't in years--old encyclopedias, No. 2 pencils, thick white paste that we used to taste and chalk dust.  Around the corner were stairs that led up to where I spent 6th grade, and where I went from being just a girl to shouldering more serious matters.

The climb was effortless.  I was on a mission shooting for the moon, and wasn't expecting the black-caped figure that greeted me.  Somehow I knew, death was fleeing and couldn't get away fast enough.  I faced it head-on, laughing at its desperation to avoid me.

A chorus of laughter joined mine.

In the first room on the left, the one looking out over the playground, sat my family in desks, no longer frozen to their chairs like models-- somehow I had seen them there that way.  Now they were alive, vibrant in the shine through glass-paned windows.  The room's haunting dark and despair had morphed into the nurturing warmth of a greenhouse. 

I walked close and saw ice melting in their laps; the sun was uncovering gifts below the slush.  My Dad brushed away the wet of his and laughed again.  Underneath was a golden square framing a picture of our family, he and mom and the four of us when we were small, pasting paper smiles for the photographer.

The picture always looked sad to me.  On the outside we were the perfect family, going to church, wearing skirts, reading our Bibles, working together in the house and the yard.  But underneath lying dormant were secrets and shadows that kept us hidden and lonely, angry and longing for love. I used to wonder, did anyone care to know who we really were, or to see the pain of 6 wounded souls all trying to be seen?  And was there really a Savior who could heal generations of religious abuse and sin, the stealing away of loved ones and destinies and identities?  And would God really send His Son and the angels to help us survive the trials that came to break us apart?  To destroy us?

Dad held the picture over his head like a trophy and smiled, his brown eyes liquid in the light of the sun, and said, "See, it didn't take long at all."  I looked again at our faces, and saw radiance.  And the answers to my questions dropped sweet like honey.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!!!  I was there.  I am here.  I will be with you till the end. 

And Dad brushed my hair with his fingers and marveled at the soft.  And said it must be the oil from the tree by the stream at the top of the hill where The Teacher walks in fine clothes and The Brother goes to listen to the counsel of the Lord.  And I thought of the Oily Balm I found there in the cleansing waters, and the foot of The Holy Man who stood there in the dirt and gave his life.  There where my sisters and I and our parents fought to save ours.

And we laughed with Dad, all of us, healed and free to plant more trees, in this place called Matters of the Heart.

With tears and loving gratitude for One who loves and gives all for His family, and for my own precious family, healed and loved and seen,


Sharing with Emily and other writers of Imperfect Prose.

Photo Credit: flickr - my3sons_nh


  1. Oh, my.I was holding my breath the entire time, Melissa. Breathless. This leaves me. What a gift.

  2. Melissa..
    I know that I can't skim this.
    so I'll thank you for visiting me, and leaving sincere comments.
    I will absolutely be back.

  3. wow melissa...
    it reminds me of tolkien and c.s. lewis.
    i loved the bit about the chapstick falling into the water... added such humanity...

    brilliant write. thank you, friend. xo

  4. I loved the gentle, natural way you described healing. It's not always so easy -- it's often painful and hurtful -- but healing is what we all long for

  5. wow..i have little words to describe this beautiful scene of healing and discovery! just beautiful and amazing!

  6. I am humbled by your comments. Thank you. The scene actually came to me in a dream. Sometimes God speaks to us like this to get our attention. In this case, I had been complaining to God how long it was taking for His healing and salvation in real life issues.

    Like David said above, healing is not always easy--it is painful and often comes in one layer after another, sometimes taking years to bring completion.

    In the dream, I was carrying the balm and the seed for life--I am thinking, many times we have been waiting on God to bring healing to others, when He has been waiting on us. The problem is, we often get stuck in our own woundedness, and never get to a place where we reach out. We become satisfied in anesthetizing ourselves with material things, food, fame, fortune--all the drugs of the world.

    God help us to reach past our own hurts to see His kingdom come.



I welcome and appreciate your kind words and comments.