Please welcome Briana Meade to the Words that Changed My World series. I first came across Briana’s writing online and loved her vulnerability and insight. We became Twitter friends shortly afterwards, and I’m thrilled to have her guest posting here today.
The words that changed my life were not so much a single sentence, or a phrase, but a multitude of phrases strung together. My mother’s words. The ones she spoke when we were floundering out in a forsaken village in Thailand, when we suffered through onslaughts of disease and rudimentary living conditions.
I can still hear her voice in my mind, beckoning me to come, telling me what to do. I hear her voice in my own intonations, as I wrestle my children into car-seats and break down in frustration over their noncompliance.
My husband has been working late and the children and I have adjusted, though just barely, to life without a second parent a few days per week. Yesterday, we dashed through puddles to the safe haven of the Target warmth. We spent more than an hour driving our cart down aisles of salsa and orange juice trying to wait out the rain.
When we left, Zoe whispered, “it’s wet” as I gripped her hand. Her spindly legs dragged through the puddles. My voice rose in frustration and anger as the rain continued to pour down. I screeched, “hurry up, please, please run!” to my toddling two-year old. I dropped my credit card in the street. Kaiden slumped in the crook of my arm, and the skies pored down fury. Babies and all.
This morning, the same clouds hovered and the ever-present rain kept beating down. I’m not sure it ever took a break. I looked out at the window at the black pavement that was a frozen lake.
We left the house. We grappled with the wet again, Kaiden’s face damp as if with tears, Zoe wailing that she hates the rain as I gritted my teeth with determination. We will get out of the house. We have to.
This past week I was reading The Longing For Home by Frederich Buechner and this took my breath away: “Like everybody else, what we furnished home with was ourselves.” Buechner says that home is made up of two sides of who we are. “We furnished it with the best that we knew and the best that we were, and we furnished it also with everything that we were not wise enough to know and the shadow side of who we were…”
We furnish our homes with both good and bad, with our human frailty, as well as our strength.
My mother’s words furnished our house with her presence. Her words are dropped throughout my memories like pennies in the couch.
I remember my mother, the look of determination on her face set like a stone. The way she mixed cookie dough with a vigor that I now understand was restrained. That energy balled up into tension. It leveled into patience over the years that she was buckled over scrubbing countertops, but for a long time, it was gritty anxiety.
My mother’s fingers would curl around my head as she pushed the hairbrush through my hair. I screamed because it hurt. She claimed she was trying to be gentle. Now, I brush Zoe’s hair and she screams with the same indignation and I whisper, it doesn’t hurt even though I remember that it does. It has to be done. The same words my mother said to me.
This is my shadow side: the anger that swells inside of me when it is raining as if God has enraged the heavens just for us. I want to blame someone, anyone, for the struggle to the car with my children. He let the storm rage and the water envelop the boat. The disciples mouths choked with water even while they asked one another, why is he sleeping? How could he?
Fingers were pointed, resentment at the offense. Whispers of betrayal.
Here we are, trying to keep ourselves alive. Here we are, manning the boat while he is resting his eyes. We followed him for this. This desperate place, this cold and wet place where we are not safe. Like the disciples in the boat, I’m shaking at Jesus, pointing fingers at something as intangible as the wind. Your eyes are closed. I tell Jesus. How can you see what I see when you are sleeping?
Jesus described himself as a stumbling block. He never said we would find life with him easy or convenient or safe. Even in the most minor of offenses—the life-giving rain—I find the side of myself rearing up declaring mutiny. I remember my mother, apologizing and lying with me in my bed, loving and holding while her insides were churning with trying to understand God. She tells me that raising little ones were the hardest years of her life, the years that broke them. Those years were the ones they had to “recover their faith.”
Her words, these childhood mantras that seep into my dreams, when I am afraid I will trust in you. He is good, Briana, he loves you. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I can hear her voice in my head, the lilting sound of someone who was both dark and light, and in whom I’ve seen my own muddy self—the words that are rote memorization. I’m unsure and uncertain as to how I know what I know about God.
My hand tightens around Zoe’s a little too strongly, and even as my statements are meant to calm I am thrusting her forward: “you’re okay, the rain will stop soon. Keep going.” I struggle with the car door, and I’m yelling at her now: “move!”
Zoe stands stark-still, wide-eyed and as small as a pebble in my hand.
I repeat my mother’s words: both what was said and what was unsaid.
Briana Meade is a twenty-six year old writer and blogger. She writes about faith, motherhood, and millennial culture at brianameade.com and has been published at The Christian Post and Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. When Briana initially met her husband in college, they bonded over a quantum physics documentary on their first date–an embarrassing and truly geeky detail. You can find her on Twitter @BrianaMeade.