Awake and Asleep: Joy and Discovery

car emerging from tunnel
Photo by Martin Fisch, flickr’s creative commons

You arrange to meet for coffee, to come over and watch a movie, to play games. You are invited to the party and you have a few threads for the person next to you, a few yarns for the whole group, a few revelations to give and receive. You go to the dinner party and you pinch the dumplings closed before shoveling them into your mouth, laughing with three friends across the table, three good friends from across the world.

You page through your journal and realize that these memories are underrepresented, that more painful ones take top billing, that you’ve written about the same hard things over and over again. It was something you needed to do, you admit, but your life this January, this February, holds more than that.

Don’t forget today, you tell yourself. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, but you are high on life and you don’t care. Somehow, you don’t think you’ll regret lying on your back, holding your brand-new memories lightly, because they are light. There is nothing rough mixed in, no desperation to clutch every word as if it were the last of its kind.

And it’s not just today.

You eat ice cream on what was then the coldest night of the year, wearing pajamas you borrowed from your friend. You prop up your head with your hand, flattening the pillow under your arm, and talk until the snowplows scrape down Genesee Street.

You are leaving campus when you see a friend of yours sitting at a table. You stop and say hello, and before you know it you are in a coffee shop sipping a chai latte, lingering until closing time, and not just to avoid the wind. You didn’t realize until now how much the two of you have in common.

You stop by the office for a moment and stay almost two hours, until you absolutely have to leave. You pick up the threads of a conversation that started months ago, your favorite sort of conversation, comparing notes and reminiscing about the children’s stories that no one else here knows, the questions that have answers and those that do not.

You drive on two-lane roads to what must surely be the center of the state, two hours there and two hours back, but even though it’s a cold, rainy night, you are in no rush to be home again. You can’t remember the last time you talked this freely for this long without knowing in your bones that it couldn’t last, that it was too good to be true. “I could talk to you about anything,” she says. You believe her, and you agree.

It’s 4 o’clock now. You plug in your headphones and play the old Mozart piece “Rondo Alla Turca” on your new digital piano before finally drifting off to sleep.

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We are Witnesses


We are all witnesses.

We must take this responsibility seriously, even when the distance threatens to numb and slow and stifle.

Witnesses testify to the truth. The truth is never nice, because “nice” is a nothing word. For better or for worse, the truth opens your eyes, sets you free, gives you purpose.

I am a witness.

From my perch, I seek to capture truths of the human experience so you can understand with your heart, not just know with your mind.

But I’m limited.

I can capture bits of joy, love, faith, and even sadness, deep insecurity, and doubt. But I don’t know how to capture pain. Not really. Not the kind of pain that cuts to the bone.

Pain is everywhere. Sometimes it slaps you in the face like yesterday’s school shooting did. Sometimes it tugs at your leg like the faces you see on the news of starving, impoverished people on the other side of the world. And sometimes it passes you by on the street and you don’t even recognize it.

Pain is always there. Because this world is broken and we’re broken.

Pain is real, but love is real too.

The greatest thing God does for us is love us. Out of His love, we are saved from ourselves, saved from the permanence of pain. Because He loves, we can love. And so the greatest thing we can do is love God and love others. And loving others means rubbing shoulders with their pain.

Get close enough to see the path the tears take down her face, to hear his screams that stop the birdsongs, to feel the cold that isn’t just on the outside. Get close enough to feel.

And then testify to the truth of the pain and the truth of the love, with your words and with your life.

We are all witnesses.

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