The window is open. They've been open all day, to let in the cool air that has finally arrived with autumn. I sit on the carpet, leaning my arms on the windowsill. Outside, there is a restless energy. I hear the revving of an engine on the darkened roads, a snatch of radio caught as another car passes.
"Is it Friday night?" I ask Jesus, idly wondering.
All around me, people are getting ready to leave their houses and head out in the pursuit of something- some bright, dazzling adventure, some wordless hunger.
I remember the glittering bulk of an airport at night, pools of yellowed light and moving sound roaring over head and lanes of light and streams of people. I think of myself waiting there, in line for Japanese Air ticket counter, or already in Japan and ready to go out, uncomfortable in my too-tight clothing, confused by the foreign chatter of the radio- always rushing away, being lost and found in airport terminals and pushing my life away until tomorrow so I wouldn't have to come to terms with it.
"It is Friday night and the world is restless," I tell Jesus, my eyes as much on my memories as they are on the back yard.
But not you, He replies, His voice gentle.
Reminded, I become aware of the solidity of the house around me, the peace of the lamp lit bedroom with the sleigh bed and battered, comfortable pillows and the dried palm branch tucked into the mirror.
"No, not me," I agree. "Because I have You." Our joy in this is mutual and full of delight.
Earlier in the evening, there had been a cloud tumbling higher and higher into the eastern sky, scalloped curves golden with the sun setting behind me. White and gold, cut crisp against the saturated blue, it towered over the trees and the stop light.
For you, Jesus had said, with almost playful generosity, as if He had whipped that cloud up to such sweet heights simply for the pleasure of giving it away like a meringue.
"Thank you, I love it," I reply promptly, happy to join in this particular game. "I love my cloud gift. It's a beautiful cloud."
Now the evening has mellowed and the light has left the sky. I wash the rest of the dishes and wander upstairs, thinking I might read, but I can't read. I can only rest there, the book beside me, the room filled with the presence of Jesus. Our conversations come and go with no regularity.
I am thinking of the book, The Little Notebook, by Nicole Gausseron, a French woman who had a relationship with Jesus much like mine. I have ordered the books, three of them. Her description of Jesus has filled me with joy and delight in Him all over again.
Do you see how the love I give one person causes others to be drawn to Me, so they come to Me anew and with deeper longing? Jesus asks. I also do that through you.
"Yes, I can see that," I acknowledge, because Jesus has been telling me this a long time, ever since I first started writing about Him.
Do I light a lamp just to put it under a basket? He has asked me, reasonably.
I am sitting on the bed and my hand is itching. Ever since I fell by the pool two years ago, the skin there sometimes bothers me. I wish that I could remove something from it, as if it were a splinter, but it's not a splinter and it never seems completely to heal and it's frustrating.
It's not your hand that really bothers you, Jesus points out in the quietness between us. It is as though He is turning my face gently toward something I don't want to see. What you really long to do is to draw out of you all the brokenness and pain from your childhood.
I sit there, motionless. Of course He is right. The rightness of what He is saying is opening up layers of my heart, and I can see right down through. This fills me a resigned, childlike grief, heavy and simple, because there is nothing I can do. I cannot pull those memories out once and for all. I cannot make it so it didn't happen.
"Yes," I admit, sadly. "But I can't."
Jesus is filled with grief with me, so much that my grief is not only my own, but also His. I have been speaking to Him with no particular sense of where He is in the room, but now I see Him enter the room and come to me swiftly and bend down over me and gather me up in His arms. He presses His cheek tenderly to mine as He holds me in His arms.
But I bear them with you, He whispers, and the love and the grief in His voice are strong and mingled.
Jesus is so present that it seems almost inevitable that at any moment, He will actually come around the corner of the open door and walk toward me. I find that I'm holding my breath, waiting in the stillness for the physical sound of His footsteps on the carpet.
I am not the only one waiting on the edge of that moment. Do you need even that? Jesus asks, quietly into my heart.
For a moment, I'm torn between several layers of motives, longings and doubts, until I am released into the simplicity of the best answer. I remember the kind of faith that delights Him.
"No, because I already know You are right here with me," I confess, giving myself completely over to this knowledge by faith.
This does delight Jesus. Joy flares up through Him and kindles my spirit; we are luminous with joy and love.
You are My heart, He says.
I think about this, what that might mean. I think about how His love for us makes Him vulnerable to pain and suffering through us. It shocks me, when I grasp it.
"How much You must suffer!" I tell Jesus, in amazement.
You also will suffer this, He says quietly.
And I think of Merissa, how right now she is small and safe in the house. But she will grow and go out into the rest of the world, the whole time as though she is my unprotected heart, freely walking around, bumping up against the world and getting sometimes bruised, disappointed, rejected and growing up through it all and I will suffer it all with her, because no matter where she goes or what she does, my love is a living connection to her.
But for Jesus, this is multiplied to such a degree that I can't grasp it. I am moved to pity, to compassion. I throw my arms around Jesus and it is as though our hearts are beating in time to this pain of loving- His love vast, incomprehensible, full of grief and hope and sure and certain faith like a bedrock beneath, and mine small but still beating in time with His.
"We will suffer together," I whisper to Jesus, because my love for Him is fierce, even if it is only human, and because I can't manage it without Him.
I could see His face close to mine in the hush of the room. I could see the scars from the thorns. Those scars always draw me in. The story of love they tell me is personal, because I never knew they existed until I began to see His face.
The scars seem to open and I'm not seeing them, but I'm seeing Jesus bound and bloodied under a hot sun, in a crowd of hate and noise. This has happened before, so I am not taken unaware. Sometimes I see slivers of His Passion and whenever I do, Jesus hides His agony from me. Often, I do not know what He is feeling; He won't let me share it with Him.
This time He does, I see the crown of thorns violently shoved over His head, scraping the skin clean open and I hear Him cry out and then I am shut away from that scene, the inner and the outer pain and I see again the closed scars at His forehead. His face is gentle and kind, full of peace, His eyes are warm with love.
That crown was meant to mock Him; a crown of pain, of dead and dried vines twisted into an instrument of cruelty, but Jesus humbly accepted it and wore it out of incomprehensible love, love so vast we can hardly understand it, and just like any of His scars, the scars left by those long thorns only serve to make Him that much more beautiful.
Look at me. Look at my face. I know that the road is rocky. Do not look down at your feet. I am a companion. I walk ahead of you, but I slow down in order to walk with you. Follow me. I am the road.
-Believe That I Am Here: The Notebooks of Nicole Gausseron, Book One, January 30