by Mary Ayers
There’s all sorts of silence in this world. There’s that dark, brooding silence—the kind that gathers in people’s eyes like black clouds waiting to explode in a shower of hate. There’s an awkward, ridiculous silence that twitches and hitches up on people’s lips right before they burst out laughing at the likes of us. There’s a lonely silence, too. A quiet that lurks in dark shadows. It stares at you long and hard, hour after unbearable hour, until you feel the weight of that stare press in on your chest and slowly crush out all your hope and spirit and life.
And then there’s the silence that’s
us. A peaceful silence, like a lake misting over at moonrise. A yearning
silence like the cold earth when it holds its breath the moment before
it feels the warm touch of dawn. A silence that rises up from a secret
place deep inside. A wellspring that refreshes us, filling us both with
a love beyond words, beyond sound. A love born of silence.
The nuns said that Christ’s hands were pierced for our sins. That he had to be ridiculed and hated before he could rise above it all and live forever.
I wondered about that a lot at the mission school. Before you came, His hands were about the only thing in this crazy world I could kind of understand. I’d look up at those hands nailed to the cross—broken and bleeding, hanging useless and awkward. They couldn’t reach out and heal anyone or even stop a passer-by to beg for help. All they could do was support the body of a dying man so skinny you could count all his bones; so alone, all he could do was open his mouth part way—like he wanted to say something, but gave up trying because he knew no one would listen.
For a long time, my hands were just as broken as His. My palms, pierced clean through by the jeers of my classmates. My wrists, bound and bruised by heavy chains of guilt and shame—the sorry inheritance my family left me when they died and I somehow survived.
My hands were so weak from despair that I didn’t bother to use them to fight back or try to explain myself. Mostly, I just let them hang useless and awkward, like Christ’s hands on the cross, silently waiting for redemption.
The nuns told us that Christ rose from the dead in 3 days’ time. His redemption came quick. But for me, 3 days might as well have been 3 thousand years. I’d been hanging on my cross so long, I knew every bone in my body by heart; every pain I’d ever probed pulsing through my useless hands. Christ might have done it inside of a week, but I was sure I’d never rise again.
Then, all of a sudden, you were there standing before me. You didn’t look away. You saw beyond the bruises and scars. You touched my hands.
And that’s when the miracle happened.
Tenderly, you held my hands in
your own. Gently, you showed them their usefulness. You taught them to
speak—to move with purpose and meaning and hope again. You directed each
new word, carefully guiding my clumsy fingers through each strange sensation.
You taught me how to feel words beyond "pain," and "hate," and "loss".
You taught me to say "life," and "love," and "friend". And with each
word, my hands gained strength and confidence. The scars began to heal.
I had a new voice. A voice like a spirit that rose up above all the pain
and heartache, beyond all the confusion and hate. A voice that grabbed
at my heart and lifted it higher and higher until this old world seemed
just like a speck of dust in the distance and I knew that I would live
forever in the dazzling light of your love.
Last night I dreamed it was the end of the world. Mountains crumbled, oceans heaved and screamed out in storms that raged across the earth. Fire gnashed its teeth, snapping giant pines like twigs. And there you were, at the center of it all. Flames licked at your heels, whirlwinds raced past you like a herd of wild horses, kicking up lightening bolts in their wake. Thunder cracked over you like a gunshot and then groaned under the weight of every pain, every heartache, every lonely cry that the earth had ever known.
But even as the world toppled to pieces all around, you stayed safe. A calmness, like a bright white light, held you in its arms, protecting you from the storm. The light seemed to pulse from every point of your body, filling you with a strength and courage that made my mouth drop open in wonder. You laughed when the flood gushed past. You raised your eyes to meet the blinding flashes of light. You stood tall against the driving rain.
And then you looked at me.
Our eyes locked and my whole body trembled. My heart raced up into my throat. Where did your strength come from? Where did you find a courage so powerful it could stare down pain and disaster and death?
As if you could read my thoughts, you smiled and stretched out your hand. I felt your fingers touch mine through the surging storm and suddenly I was with you, surrounded by that glowing white light.
You pulled me in close and slowly
your lips found mine. Gently, persistently, you answered all my questions.
You touched me and the light around us grew brighter. I looked into
your eyes and then I knew. That light was your love for me—a love that
only grew stronger when we shared it; a love with courage enough to overcome
a lifetime of pain and heartache; a love with the power to shake down a
storm; a love so strong, it could even outlive the end of the world.
You told me once that you’ve got what’s called a guardian spirit—some kind of animal that gives you power and strength and the will to go on no matter how bad life’s treating you.
You say you can’t tell me what it is because it’s bad luck. But that don’t matter because I already know what it is. That time we were sitting out on top of Marcus canyon, you probably don’t know it but I heard you call to it.
"Watch over me," you whispered, staring up at the eagle’s outstretched wings as he hovered in the sky. Your eyes shown like the bird’s—dark and knowing, glistening with courage. When his cry echoed across the prairie and up to heaven, your lips curled into a smile so wide, your mouth fell open, silently waiting to be filled up with his strength and freedom.
Your medicine is the eagle. But what is mine? What power of nature—bird or beast—guides my steps and fills me with its spirit and power?
I lie down by your side at night and I hear a lonely coyote howl to the moon—trying hard to get its attention. He hopes the silver light in the sky will be his guiding spirit. He don’t call to me. He’s not my medicine.
I listen to a prairie dog scratch out a new door to his den. His feet are fast and furious. He’s got no time to mentor me. He’s not my spirit guide.
And then I hear your voice in the dark calling out my name soft and low and a little unsure—like a prayer. "Ike," you say, and I feel you move closer. "Ike," you whisper again and I reach for your hand, feeling your warm fingers as they intertwine with mine. I lean over and stroke your cheek, brushing away every tear that falls; wiping away the pain and hurt of a lifetime of hate. . . for a while, at least.
I rest my hand on your heart and feel its rhythm calling out to me—every beat pouring strength into my body through my fingertips. You squeeze my hand and I know that just by being here I’ve helped you. And the thought makes me feel free. . .like your eagle soaring through the sky.
Loving you is my strength. Touching
you is my freedom. I let my lips hover over yours. My mouth is open—waiting
to be filled by your spirit.
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