In a fallen world, we trip and break our hearts.
Shalom comes to me with her’s cut directly out of paper.
When you’re five, you can do this, take a pair of scissors — if you can find a pair of scissors in a house where glue sticks seem to always stick themselves to invisible places and scissors seem to cut themselves a hole in the atmosphere and disappear (poof!) into thin air — but if you’re five, and you can find yourself a pair of scissors, and the paper, you can cut your heart neatly out of a square, white 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of white paper.
This is what she brings to me.
A white paper heart, like a paper doll turned right inside out to everything on the inside, a white paper heart, this pressed out, bleached bits of tree.
She does have tape.
“Will you do it, Mama? I can’t make it work.” She holds out a roll of mangled scotch tape.
I am helping her brother with a spelling lesson. Decoding the letters of this world.
“What are you trying to do, sweet?” I try to read Shalom. She wants the heart taped in half? Taped to the wall? Taped up?
“I just want the heart taped to me. Just right here.” She staccotos her finger off her chest.
Her brother’s erasing his paper too hard, wearing a hole right through everything. “How do you spell receive? Is it the ‘i’ first or the ‘e’?”
“E,” I murmur, trying to tear off a bit of tape.
It’s not the rule about the “C” that makes me remember, but this: You can’t ever get receive right if the ‘I’ goes first. We always must let go of the ‘I’ if we are to receive anything at all.
“Just tape it right here.” She says. She’s pointing just above her own thrumming beat.
“And why are we doing this exactly?” I’m on my knees in front of her, half smiling, looking up into her clear through, my thumb smoothing along the tape line of this exposed heart.
I mean, I ask the question, but we did just talk this morning over breakfast bowls and tears already, about how we need to give love to others, and I’m pretty sure I know her answer and I think this visual mnemonic is rather bold and brilliant, a walking sign she is.
I’m usually the one to cup her face in my hands, but she has me here, knelt in front of her, so she takes the moment into her hands, takes my face into her hands, and she bends so I can feel her breath all warm.
“Because Mama…” she strokes my cheek.
“So we always know — His love’s around us everywhere.”
She wants to wear a heart right across her so she never forgets.
She holds my face in her hands and I can feel it, how we are held, and will she cut a heart out for me too? Will she cut out my heart of stone so I can receive a heart of flesh?
Will she lend me her sign to decode all the world, because that’s what I always need to let go to receive, the love of a God in a universe that knows no end and yet what heavens can contain Him, the God birthing stars into being over my black, Who pulls on skin to help me fit into mine, who makes the Holy Invisible into the shape of letters I can read , the God who renovates this fallen world with nails driven right through His hands. I can’t make anything work either, but this, it makes everything work. I can hear my own thrumming.
Will she remember that we can’t give the love to others, until we know the love we’ve been given?
That it’s only when we know we have extravagantly received grace that we can extravagantly reach out in grace. Knowing His love-grace everywhere, is the only love-grace we can give.
She smooths out her heart, white and around her large, wearing God’s heart right there on her shirt, and it tears, right down at the center and she looks down at this broken heart.
I don’t know what to say.
Is it her heart or His that’s broken open, and maybe it’s both, hearts fused, and I need the mnemonic, that in a cracked world, skies break wide to water the earth and kernels break open to nourish with bread and earth breaks open to be a womb for a seed, and why be afraid of the broken things? Of being a broken thing?
It’s over the face of the deep and the hearts split deeper that God hovers close, the broken-hearted He binds up, swaddles near, and it’s a life broken like a jar that anoint Him with alabaster worship for His love that ultimately heals.
Will she understand this? I wait for her words….
“It’s okay. Even when a heart’s broken”... she gently touches it’s raw edge, “His love’s still around me everywhere. And maybe the love get’s in easier here where it’s tore?”
All day she sings it and I listen to her wandering, “I can sing of your love forever,” her song a broken-hearted hallelujah rising on healing wings.
Text and photos by Ann Voskamp@ Holy Experience
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