Stay With Us

One of our boys has bedtime anxiety.  It’s his thing.  We do our usual “bedtime routine,” which ends with lights out after the obligatory last sip of water and final kiss goodnight.  Brother A is then dead asleep in about 30 seconds flat.  But Brother B?  Oh man, Brother B.  Brother B spends the next half hour or more trying and failing to fall asleep.  He tosses and turns and asks repeatedly “Are you still there, Mama?” and “Are you going to be here the whole night?”

If we sneak downstairs to, heaven forbid, make some tea or grab the phone charger, we know that we are causing him all manner of angst and concern and that it’s better if one of us stays upstairs so that he feels safe.  He calls out to us, on average, probably about 5-10 times every night.

It’s totally sad but also a little maddening.  Because just when we think he’s finally drifted off, we’ll hear him whimpering in his bed again. Sometimes he’ll even casually call out to ask if we enjoyed the tv show that we just finished.  It ebbs and flows and a few weeks ago, during a difficult spell, I asked him if he could name his feelings.  What, exactly, are you afraid of?  What is it that you fear?

“I’m afraid that you won’t be there
when I call to you.
It’s dark and I’m afraid
and what if you aren’t there?”

Lectio Divina

A couple months ago, our community group was doing Lectio Divina from a section of Luke 24.  Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading” and it’s a traditional Benedictine practice of reading Scripture, meditating and praying.  When practicing lectio divina, you focus on the Scripture less as a text to be studied and more as something that is living and active.  In our community group, it typically breaks into four parts:

Step One: Someone reads the text.  We close our eyes and listen for a particular word or phrase to stand out.

Step Two: Read the passage again, focusing on the word/phrase that stood out to you during the first reading.

Step Three: Read the passage one final time and ask God if the word/phrase that bubbled to the surface is a nudge toward some sort of action or further contemplation.

Step Four: Tell the group what stood out to you from the passage and what you heard/felt/sensed, if anything, from God

When our group read through Luke 24 together, the most common phrase that stood out to folks was stay with us.  A couple of Jesus’ closest friends are walking along the road to Emmaus feeling bereaved, confused, disillusioned, afraid.   Jesus had been dead a few days, having died a violent and horrific death; some of the women from their group had visited his tomb and couldn’t find his body; their once close-knit group now found themselves living a fractured and fearful existence.

But then suddenly, unbelievably, Jesus is there walking beside them.  They don’t recognize him right away but he continues on with them, discussing and explaining the events of the past several days.  When they get to Emmaus, he turns to go but the two men beg him, “Stay with us.”

Stay with us.  Don’t leave us.


Unbearable Feelings

I heard on a podcast once that writers are in the business of unbearable feelings. It was intended as an encouragement for when the critics get you down.  You’re in the business of unbearable feelings so don’t be surprised when someone’s feathers get ruffled by what you’ve written.  While I understand the sentiment (and appreciate the encouragement), I’m not sure that I agree.  I think that just being human means you are in the business of unbearable feelings.

A man hiding in a bathroom texting his mom before being shot to death.  That’s unbearable.

A woman being dragged behind a dumpster and sexually assaulted.  That’s unbearable.

A 7-year-old dying of cancer.  That’s unbearable.

Losing your job, your lover, your child, your health.  Life is about being in the business of unbearable feelings.

Stay with Us

In the midst of all the unbearable feelings this week, the only prayer I can muster is stay with us.  Stay with us, God.  Please.  It’s dark and I’m afraid and what if you aren’t there?

There are people dying on the floor in a space– for some the only space– intended for safety and camaraderie and joviality.
Stay with us.

There are toddlers washing up on the shores of Turkey.
Stay with us.

There are children drinking lead in Michigan.
Stay with us.

There’s a boy down the street
who accidentally shot himself.
Stay with us.

My dad is sick.
Stay with us.

My son can’t fall asleep.

Stay with us.
Stay with us.
Stay with us.