To the forgotten one

I do not often pretend to have His words, but – This is for you.

I am the light you cannot see, searching, piercing – not the mild sunlight of a summer day or the glimmer of candle and firelight, but the unescapable blaze of a streetlight on a deserted parking lot when all around is darkness.

I love you.

I saw the look on your face when it happened again, the thing you feared. It was only there for a second before you hid it, but I saw. You were not alone.

When you look around, you see the smiling Others whose lives seem to work – their bodies, their faces, their families. They seem to skip over the hard bits, or laugh them off, or overcome them. They seem so on top of things, and in the darkness you wonder why you are the odd one out.

I know the grief you carry, the tightening of your heart when the subject comes up, the dread of insensitive questions and curious glances. I know how you cry when people move in to care, and cry when they do not.

I know you worry that it will be too much for you, that this thing will make you crack if you face it, that the price is too high. I know exhaustion. I see it in your eyes. I know what you have sacrificed, and though you wonder, I am the one who knows it is not in vain. It will never be in vain.

I see you.

I know you.

You are not the only one.

I know the things you hold close to the chest, the horrors you cannot share lest your world cave in around you. In scores of stripes across my bleeding back I carried them for you. I carry you still.

In your loneliness I am there. When the night closes in, you are held in my light. When everyone else has someone, when the silence of the people who matter the most screams at you, when you’ve forgotten how to be the person you were, when the radiant ship sails without you, I am there.

I know what lies beneath your frustration and your turmoil, I know the palpable midnight of your fear. I am there when it yawns beneath you, when frantically you flail your way to solid ground, panting, shrieking.

Darling, you could fall all the way down and I would be there.

You are mine.


Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff

Confession: I recently broke my year-long Walmart fast. On purpose.

I woke up one morning and said “Today is the day.” I got on my shoes and my courage, drove to Walmart, and bought these items:

  • Two pairs of black dress pants
  • Two Oxford shirts
  • Three leather belts
  • Two votive candles

I made this purchase for two reasons. First, because I needed the items. And I’d come to realize I could not buy them affordably in my town unless I shopped at Walmart. Secondly, because I was afraid to do it.

I am not afraid of very many physical things—snakes, tornadoes, bad men. But when I began dreaming about shopping at Walmart, dreaming of being found there by my church people, I realized I was afraid—and I knew that had to change. I don’t believe in coddling fears. Physical fears, I mean! Relational fears, I just wrap them up snug and sing them a lullaby and hang a big sign around their necks “DO NOT DISTURB.” But physical fears I like to shake up.

I was afraid of two things. I thought it hard to publicly shun Walmart for a year and then be caught there. So I was afraid of public opinion. And I was afraid because as the consumer, I felt myself to be the apex of a triangle, with all the blood of the oppressed weighing on my shoulders. I was afraid of private guilt.

The truth is that I miss shopping at Walmart. The American department store is a modern day wonder. It’s easy and fun; in one amazing place I can find nearly everything my family needs. No bundling kids in and out of car seats; no chain of unsuccessful stops. I like comfort and simplicity, and I was afraid I’d stop caring about that lady in China whose face I cannot see, and start caring only about what was easy for the Zooks.

So I checked out with an elevated heart rate and shaking hands. (Stop laughing. I’m being kind of serious here.) I recognized my cashier. She’s worked this Walmart for 15 years. “Are you allowed to accept a tip?” I asked her. No, she was not. Compliments yes, tips no.

Got home safely. Whew. Big sigh.

And then I realized I’d bought the wrong sizes. Two belts and a pair of pants would have to be exchanged.

Only one place that’s happening, babe.

I feel God pushing on me. Can you do this thing and shake your fear? Good. Go back again. I want to make sure.

I don’t want to root my choices in fear for long* — even the most moral choices, larger than this one. Fear paralyzes: fear of man, fear of culpability, fear of contamination. Fear was designed as a powerful short-term motivator. It’s not a safe guide for long-term decisions.

*Except, you will say, fear of God. That is true. But His is a fear that empowers.

Walmart is easy to target because it’s big–the culprit that throws its weight around. But it’s not a single-handed antichrist; it’s a reflection of the world in which we live. It’s Yertle the Turtle perched atop a stack of other turtles, but none of them want to return to the pond. Ninety percent are clawing their way to the top on the backs of others.

yertle the turtle

Are the other places I shop better? Do I have the power of choice I’m imagining?


So. What’s the long-term idea? I’ll tell you tomorrow, if I discover it in time. (Big if.)