I have a friend who keeps a safe house in Africa for converted Muslim women. She often texts to ask how I am feeling these days. She wants to see pictures. My heart is continually stung by the loss those women have known. Most of them were given little to no chance, even from childhood, of a happy healthy marriage or of children.
They look into me as a story they want to hear again. This kind of tender heart opens my own, more than anything, to the reality that I do not belong to myself. My existence is a gift to others. And a hurting heart that can truly marvel at the beauty of someone else’s life and appreciate the good another person has, is perhaps the highest evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work of grace in this fallen world. I do not have this heart in me, not yet, but perhaps I will be taught.
It is tempting for me to downplay the mercy to these women, to share with them all the difficulty and heartbreak too, so they will not envy me. But then I remember this child— this child they mostly care about— I did not create him or her. It is not my right to lessen his glory. Those beautiful little lips peaking out from the mystery, they belong to the God who keeps these women in a similar way: safe, tucked in, held close, seen and known only intimately, by those who love.
Like my child, these women are small. They are hidden away, like a treasure in a field. But this can be a hard place for humans. The passing of time can feel like a waste and our safe-house like a grave. It is easy to wonder what we are for, when others seem to be for so much. But when I see this baby on the screen, even in the strangeness of his fragile, jerky skeleton, I can better understand how God sees us and that he would freely give the son he had enjoyed so long to us who did not even have the hearts to love him, is a story I will forever want to hear again.
My friend Annie has gone on a road trip out west. She’s been sending me pictures of canyons and rivers and mountains I will likely never see myself. But for three days now I have not heard from her. She is somewhere in Texas, which feels like a distant star. I remember a time when I was worried about Annie. I thought she might be deceived by something and I talked to my sister about it. Oh don’t worry about Annie, she said, She’s got more sense than ten of the rest of us. This is true. It is also true that Annie has that tender heart that the angels gather around, like the crowds peering down through the clouds into the Grand Canyon. She is safe. She is somewhere in Texas enjoying the God who enjoys her.
“Lift the rock and I am there; cleave the wood and I am there; call for me and I will listen…”
From Brian Doyle’s One Long River Of Song