Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Things We Carry

I read a book over the summer that was titled The Things They Carried. It was written by Tim O’Brien and it’s not like a regular novel—like with a clear beginning, middle and end, an obvious protagonist and antagonist. It’s a collection of mini-stories as part of a bigger story, and it’s all about a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. I was sitting at my desk this morning, mulling over something my husband said to me last night that hurt my feelings, and for whatever reason, I started thinking about that book. It occurred to me that we all have things that we carry with us…some good things, some not-so-good things, some things that keep us going when the roads we travel are fraught with darkness and misery. Some of the things we carry are physical in nature—maybe a St. Christopher medallion for a safe journey, a piece of jewelry or a lucky penny. Some of the things we carry are more emotional—a kind word from a stranger, a hurtful comment from a loved one, a glowing memory that we cling to, in the hopes that someday we’ll feel that good again. And all those things—the things we carry—make us who we are.

I carry a lot of things with me—memories, both good and bad, old hurts (see my earlier post on the trouble I have with forgiving people), hopes for the future. All of those things affect who I am and I really believe that I’m okay with that. And yet, every now and then, there’s something that sticks with me, something that just won’t let go.

It started with a comment from my husband—not the one from last night, but from a long while ago—and it was something on the order of, “Your knees are always bruised.” And they are. I swear, my knees are forever black and blue or that funny brownish-yellow color that bruises become when they’re healing. My knees are always bruised. At the time, I laughed it off, but the words did sting. Why? Because he had no idea why my knees were bruised. He had no way to understand how the bruises got there or what they meant to me. At that time, he was working a job with crazy hours, which meant I was the one who always got the short end of the stick when it came to daily chores and responsibilities. Simply put, I was the one on my knees giving baths, on my knees cleaning up the floor from dinner, on my knees scrubbing barf out of the carpet when the baby didn’t like dinner, on my knees pulling toys from under the refrigerator and the couch, on my knees, on my knees, on my knees.

And during that same time, I was on my knees in church, praying to God to help me find the strength that I knew I had somewhere deep inside of myself to keep managing an unfortunate series of events that tainted the joy of my baby’s birth and was ultimately a very sad, very dark time in my life. What kept me going was the time I spent in prayer—the hours on my knees brought me back from what was the closest I had ever been to the “edge” as it’s called when someone feels like if one more thing goes wrong, the only option is to run away screaming.

I spent a long time carrying a heavy heart and a mind full of things that I would rather have forgotten. I spent even more time carrying around the agony of wondering what might have been, what could have been, what should have been, what will never be the same ever again…

Fortunately, I spent the most time carrying the knowledge that God wasn’t going to give me more than I could handle—and even if my knees were bruised from the crushing pressure of my world when I was balanced on them in prayer, they were still supporting me. God was still supporting me.

Looking back on it, I tell myself that the bruises on my knees are nothing more than God’s fingerprints. Like “Footprints in the Sand” when the man looked down and saw only one set of footprints and realized that God had been carrying him, I see my bruises as proof that God was (and is) cradling my knees in His hands. The bruises are proof that He’s leaving His mark.

I saw a sign a few weeks ago that I’ve modified into a prayer. I think God appreciates a little humor every now and then.

Lord, I pray that I always remember when things are not going as I would like, I remember that while You may not get in touch with me through e-mail, You always hear me when I send up a message via knee-mail. Amen.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

You are my sister and I love you more than words can say.