I hold the smallest one in my arms as she lifts her little shirt to find her small tummy button again. She doesn’t seem to lose the wonder over this discovery and she is determined to find the same wonder in my eyes as well.
I repeat it over and over again, as often as she wants until the dog catches her attention,
Where’s your button, Zee? Where’s Zee-Zee’s button?
She giggles hard and pulls back the cloth and points triumphantly, pride at having caught the hidden again.
Her laughter stands in contrast to my grief.
I think back to that moment when I tried to grip the dark to snuff out my shame – tuck the edges in neat so that the choices I had made would suffocate and rot into forgetfulness.
I wish I could take back the moment and rip back the dark so that His Light could have purified what shame had poisoned.
Instead, I waited. For years I waited for it all to decay into ash so that the winds of time would somehow blow it all away into oblivion and I could breathe deeply again.
There is Grace I don’t understand and Mercy that surrounded my days, even as I walked with the stench of death permeating everything I did.
I want to take back all those years, all those joy-filled years that were touched with the putrid, and redo them all.
I want to point to the festering wound that marked me and say, Here! Here it is!! Here I am, here is what I have done. Forgive me.
The peeling back came, but not triumphantly. There was no joy in those moments.
Or was there?
He sits with me on a park bench under a shade tree this morning around 10. His arm surrounded me and we’ve just come through a weekend marked with the wounds of two people fighting for their marriage – our words clashed strong against each other first before we dropped verbal weapons and our against you stance to stand shoulder to shoulder and protect the other.
I have not been a safe place for his heart these last several weeks – and I see that clearly now. In peeling back what all I had hidden, in those places that felt vulnerable and weak, I started to build walls. Seeing his hurt and knowing that it was me who carved those wounds there was too much. I had set about safe-guarding my soul with those stupid walls while I tried to figure out how to pay him back for all the years I had hidden the truth from him. Once that was accomplished, I’d take down the walls.
So this morning, as I sat in the circle of his arms, walls down and desperate to be a safe place for his words, he brought his face close to mine and spoke into the hurt,
You can’t pay it back. You can’t undo what you have done. There is nothing you can do to balance out the scales. But Kimberley, what you can do? You can trust that you are forgiven. You can believe that I forgive and love you. You can believe that Jesus Christ sees you as forgiven and loved and move forward on from this with me.
In the early hours of this morning, before the park bench with him, I unfolded the pages of Galatians and held that hot coffee in my hands and before the words of my husband ever reached my ears, the Truth of my Father softened the walls I had tried to build between Him and me as well.
These believers were facing men who were teaching them that in order to be truly saved, they had to be circumcised. These believers knew the truth of the gospel – Paul had preached it clear: Christ paid the penalty in full, they just had to accept it by faith. From that moment on it would be their hearts that bore the marks of Jesus – not their bodies. But sometimes, we, definitely I, feel the need to do more. To prove that I am worthy and so willing to make up for all the sin that has been done.
But clinging to the law, to the outward actions that I am convinced make me more genuine actually sever me from the grace of Christ. The very Grace that carried me while I was dying inside holds me close to Him when I offer Him nothing else than a life of faith that works out the beauty of love.
And I saw that most clearly in the love of this husband of mine. This husband I wounded. This man who holds fast to the same Jesus we both love and who is being made more and more into the image of Christ – The Ultimate Bridegroom Who chooses to love a Bride marked with grime and failings and secrets hidden and shameful.
As we left to pick up our four, he mentioned that we should take the car through the car wash for our son who loves nothing more than watching the scrubbing and whirring machines, him all smiling at the thought of Elias’ joy.
But I stopped first to snap a picture before it was washed away – the message he had written into dust and mud weeks ago for me to see as I followed him home…