“God not only says, ‘You are My Beloved.’ God also asks: ‘Do you love Me?’ and offers us countless chances to say, ‘Yes’. That is the spiritual life: the chance to say ‘yes’ to our inner truth.” – Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
“Do you love Me?”
“Yes!” I gladly and thankfully exclaim, and You lean in to whisper with a wink,
But then immediately that guilt creeps in, faster than a spider skitters across a shadowed floor, “And what a lousy lover I am afterall.”
All the playfulness drains from Your face, replaced by a slump in Your shoulders, and a pleading in Your eyes as You try to find mine, now firmly planted on an uninteresting patch of floor. “Who has said this to you?” You ask calmly and sadly, metered with importance, as you grasp my shoulders with sincerity –and give a squeeze to say You mean it.
But I don’t have an answer for you. My shoulders attempt a shrug under the weight of Your grasp — my stare is stayed.
I expect You to put Your finger under my chin and turn it to Your gaze. I expect You to pull me in and put a stop to the ticker-tape that’s worn with condemnation and plays evermore into my heart’s ears.
You don’t do these things. Your hands drop to Your sides, and with a sigh You take a step back, away from me. My shoulder immediately long for your grasp again, and my heart drops even further. This it it, here’s where it happens, where He finally decides I’m a lost cause, not worth the effort. What a worthless child who cannot accept the love of a Father.
“Do you want to be healed?” His voice breaks the silence and immediately tangles up the tape with a parade of questions and confusion. My eyes shoot up to His with indignation, and I can feel a slight warm anger rising in my chest.
“Of course, Lord. Why would you ask that?” I spurt out, with furrowed brow, and a surprising amount of snob-ish-ness in my tone.
“Then love my lambs.” Ah, I can see where He is going with this now. But it hurts a bit. He knows that is a point of constant condemnation in my mind–a doubt of my own love and affection for those most dear to my heart. My eyes roll to lose the tears at the edges, and find their familiar place on the floor. But the spot is no longer empty. A girl sits there, small and frail, hugging her knees to her chest. At the fall of my eyes upon her, she lifts her face to me and I can see her cheeks still soaked with tears. But her eyes — the pools of life and eternity in them — catch my breath. The red, puffy skin around the edges has only drawn contrast to the new life they hold, each tear threatening to pull that world over the lids and down her face to puddle on the floor and pull me in. I feel like I stand a mile above her; she seems nearly like a doll on the concrete floor. But where I expected to see insecurity and fear in her once she knew she was seen, I watch her chest swell, and fire fill those pools of seagreen eyes.
“You did this,” she says clearly and well-pronounced so I can hear every ounce of accusation. My jaw drops and stands ajar, eyes popping nearly out my skull at the shock.
“I-I..” stammering, “do I know you? Why do you say this to me?” Suddenly she’s nearer, still on the floor, but no longer a mile below. I see her skin, her bones protruding, straight hair in mats under the combed top-layer. She’s real alright, and her eyes still bore through me. There’s something familiar about them, and she scares me.
“You know. You know I have to explain everything to everyone. I shouldn’t have to explain anything to you.” I blink rapidly as I look away, knowing what I already know, and searching for a way to not have to say it. Finally, with bated breath I ease onto my knees in front of her, terrified of the fireball of a girl before me, but knowing no other way out of this.
Lacing my fingers in and out of each other as I avoid the piercing eyes before me, “you’re me, aren’t you?” I breathe out. She doesn’t answer, so I look up, making contact with the girl now on my level. Some of the fire in her eyes has gone out; the smokey tendrils now playing at the edges of her lashes as the embers dance below. And despite the heat of her anger, the trails of tears still make wet sidewalks down the edges of her face. Her beautiful, freckled, ivory face–I can see it now. My eyes roam around it, taking it in, not finding the imperfections I’d seen before.
“I’m not you as a kid, you know,” she says, and I’m lost in the melody of her voice before I catch the meaning of her words.
My brow has now re-furrowed itself, “You’re-you’re not?”
“Nope. I’m you now.” And now my brow’s furrow is completely locked. My stomach tightens some. I’m not sure I like this answer. I didn’t see this coming. What does this mean? I’m not a girl. Not like this anyway. I don’t like where this is going. I quickly stand up and turn, ready to remove myself from whatever this is and go back to my conversation with You, or back to normal life in general. It’s time for dinner, the family’s home, I really don’t have time to sort this out.
“You could set me free, you know,” she says cooly, with a surprising lack of condemnation and sarcasm.
I don’t turn around to face her, but I stop walking away. “What would it look like, for me to free you?” I ask, testing the waters. If this isn’t just a figment of my imagination, she’ll have an answer that I can’t grasp on my own. If she doesn’t, then I know she has nothing worthwhile to show me.
“Well, for starters, you could see me,” again, with no harshness in her tone, just–pleading, no, wait–hope. I turn and for a moment I see myself the way I typically do; a mirror image of the passive, easy-to-please, tired, smoothed-out, woman. The image flickers and is replaced again by the girl, sitting cross-legged on the floor, elbows propped on her knees, fingers laced casually.
“It is you.. I mean, me. You’re me.”
“Yes, and you’re not.”
I can hear your thoughts, too, you know.
Stuttering and stammering, I finally get out, “Then uh, what am I?”
“A distortion. A perversion. The shattered-glass refraction of a beautiful life. You carry within you scars that were meant to heal you, and lies you were meant to leave. You grapple for the purpose you once tasted and you choke on the crumbs of what you once feasted,” she’s standing now, my height and looking me directly in the eyes, though none of her posture is as attacking as the words pouring out of her mouth, “You’re a lie, a fraud, a protection and a poison. You’re lonely and alone because you belong to your father, the father of lies who’s every word you have hung on until he has spit you out of his mouth to shatter on the floor and cower in fear. You’ve lied to life and death both, and now they are calling your debts, and you have no hold on me any more.”
I fall back a step and blink, but when I open my eyes, I’m no longer where I stood. Standing instead where the girl had been, I see before me a writhing pool of a thing, black and oozing, expanding and contracting, laboring over every breath in agonizing pain.
You have to deal the final blow. The girl’s voice is inside me now, and as I look down at my hands I can see that they are hers as well. And though I can’t see them, I can feel I have her eyes as well. Eyes that pour forth fire and life, truth ablaze. You have to finish him off now, I’ve laid before you all the truth you need to take up freedom. Now choose.
As if he could hear her voice in my head, the black oozing form quickly turns his face to me with eyes of searing flame. I’ve seen these eyes before, boring through my wandering thoughts in the dark hollows of my mind, in the deep recesses of the night, he comes. Echoing off my voice and reverberating his own tune, he has poisoned every story of my heart, turned everything to blackened, evil, stone. And now I can see his eyes, his voice, his hands has had grips on every other hour of my days, deepening my depression, giving volume to the lies and dreams I had let die, resurrecting their spirits from the grave to torment my remaining weak and limping life. He’s been there, this whole time; hiding under rock and shadow, tainting all the light and good in me. And at his worst, his deepest blow, he has taken up my reflection as his final mask, parading within me as my own being, causing me to fear every shadowy pool within myself and despising the life I once tasted.
“Ahh, now you ssssee me, don’t you?” His squeaky, shrieky, syrupy tone fills the chasm of this chamber, and without an echo, pierces straight into the forefront of my thoughts. “Now what, dearie? Think you can actually do me in?” And he lets out a cackling laugh that ripples through him in chortles.
“I do.” It comes out of my mouth without any hesitation or pause, without any fear or compromise, without any pondering or insecurity. “I could take you down right here right now, without another word.” His eyes are wide, wide enough to see the only white space he possess. I smile spreads across my face. A calm, sweet smile. Confident and glowing, and I can feel the sun rising over the land in my eyes. “But I don’t have to, because I already have. Because you have no more say or place. Because you are weak and your hold on me is lost. And because I am loved, I’ve already done the worst thing I could do to you. I’ve taken your voice.” I raise my right arm so he can see my grip is around the cords that give power to his voice box, it dangling life-less and limp. As I hold it before me, a strong wind of fresh breeze catches it, and it turns to dust. He grasps for his throat to find a hollow hole, and turns to flee, running headlong into You.
You stare down at him and he cowers. A smile tugs at your cheek as You speak, “It appears you have no more power here, old fiend. Go off to where you came, I know you won’t dare come around here anymore.” And off he slinks, limping and lurching, and I know he won’t make it much more. Demons have no more life once they have no voice.
You calmly stride toward me, face aglow, eyes alight. You put your palm up to my face and I lean into it, eyes closed, feeling the warm-roughness of your skin. I look up to you to catch Your beaming smile, which infectiously pours out of me as well.
“There you are, Kyra! There you are.”