Monday, May 2, 2016

Cemetery or Sanctuary?

Today, I leave this place.
When I walked through the door three years ago with only my clothes and shoes in tow, I never imagined it would become anything like home.
My first night portended otherwise and is permanently seared into my conscience.  Courage gave way to uncertainty as I sat on the floor in a room that, despite the St. Louis heat, was decidedly cold and lifeless...devoid of memories.  Until that moment, I hadn't understood the power of Place and Memory.
For the first time in 18 years, my sons were laying their heads on pillows in a place where I was not.  That was the single haunting reality I could neither justify nor escape.  I wept for them.  I wept for me.  I wept for all the previous and ensuing sorrow.  There was more than enough sorrow to go around in those days.
Because I didn't want to disrupt their world even more, and because the external emptiness reflected my internal reality, I refused my sons' offers to take furniture from their house.  About a month in, they got real: "Mom, this place feels sad. Seeing you in an empty space and eating dinner on a blanket makes it hard to come here."
That rebuke snapped me out of my grief-induced lethargy.  My sons still needed a place that felt like home.  Maybe not The Home, but A Home.  I immediately set out to make it inviting.
For 3 years now we've been making memories here...lots of them.  Meals.  Formative conversations.  Games.  Friends.  Holidays.  My dearest friends have come too - we've shared food, wine, stories, joys, and sorrows here.  I've actually grown quite fond of the place.
It's a bit of graveyard though.  I showed up dragging a lot of already-dead things - my reputation, my dignity, my vision of who I was and what my life would look like.  I had to mourn these losses, lay them down, bury them one by one and walk away so I could live my sons could live.
I carried other baggage too.  Things that needed to die: pride, old wounds, new wounds, anger, severed relationships, and loads and loads of shame.  There was  more than enough of that to go around in those days too.
Some of these things died a painfully slow, stubborn death, and not without oceans of tears and desperate pleas to God. 

Where are you?! What do you want from me?! Don't let me go. 

I'm exhausted from crying!  I'm wasting away! Don't let me go! 

Open my eyes.  Heal me!  Cleanse me!  Please don't let me go!! 

Teach me to forgive.  Soften my heart.  DON'T LET ME GO!
In that way, this cemetery also became a sanctuary because here, in this place, the Lord heard my cries.  He made himself known.  He rescued me.  He set my feet on a rock.  And he didn't let me go.  He's still healing, cleansing, teaching, and turning this heart of stone more and more into a heart of flesh. 
So here I am...moving again.  In this new place, my sons will once again lay their heads on pillows where I am.  This is a great mercy that brings unimaginable comfort.
I expect that in this new home there will be other burials and more resurrections.  We'll build new memories here and it too will become a cemetery-sanctuary.  I don't know exactly what that will look like, but there is one thing I DO know: HE WON'T LET US GO.