The moment her arms circled around me, I knew.
It was something in the weight of her body, the strength of her embrace, the unsteady measure of her breath that spoke in a way words could not.
Any doubt vanished when I heard her voice crack as her muffled words fell into my chest, “Mom, I prayed for you tonight. You know, because you’ve been missing Pop Pop?”
I gently pulled her face up to mine as I quietly answered back, “Oh, sister, that means everything to me, especially because I know how much you miss him too.”
Our words hung there for a beat and then the swirl of the church crowd swallowed our sadness as quickly as it had come upon us…
It had been seven months since my sweet Daddy had met Jesus. It had been seven months of scraping and clawing and hiccupping through waves like these. It had been seven months of learning how to help my babies process their sadness as I was clumsily dealing with my own.
And as much as I wanted to believe I knew what to do and give and say…when her tears came, I felt totally helpless.
It happened when I wiped them away, one by one. It happened when I heard her sniffles fill the van on the ride home. And it happened when I held her as she screamed out later that night, “Why?!?!?”
I found myself lost and reeling, with nothing to give except my embrace.
One that would not let go even as she flailed and screamed and pounded the breath out of me. The more she flailed, the stronger I held. The stronger I held, the more she screamed until finally she drew a deep breath and I sensed it was time to let go.
“I need to be alone now,” she said quietly.
And even though my heart broke a little, I gave her one last squeeze and turned and walked away. I went downstairs to my other littles and threw myself into the routine of the hour. Diapers and dinner and dishes and whatever else could keep me from falling apart.
An hour had passed when she finally came downstairs. She threw her arms around me, kissed me goodnight and that was that. Or so I thought.
But not a few seconds later, she was back at my side with her arms around me once again, saying, “Thanks…”
“For what?” I asked.
“For holding me close and not letting go even when my nose was running EVERYWHERE.”
It was with barely a breath that I answered back with another hug, “Oh honey, that’s just what love does.” And even as I heard her pad back up the stairs, it was in the echo of those words that my tears began to fall.
How many times in the last seven months had I come to my Jesus with my nose running everywhere? How many times had I screamed a desperate why as I flailed and fledged in my grief? And how many times had He held me closer and closer and closer until I knew I was so deeply loved that I could not do anything but believe it was true?
I know very little when it comes to the “whys” behind the tough stuff of life. But of this I am absolutely certain…
He is near to the weary, the worn, the overwhelmed, the grief-stricken and the beat-up. He is salve to the crushed in spirit. He will bind up your wounds and hold you close as you bend towards Him in your brokenness.
No matter how far you’ve wandered. No matter how loud you scream. No matter how forcefully you pound.
He will draw you closer and closer and closer until you can finally hear Him say, “This, dear one. This is what love does.”