I pulled into the apartment complex, and felt the uneasy settling of emptiness;
I looked straight ahead, and felt my eyes begin to blur.
An old Julie Roberts country song played in my head ..
.."I'd sure hate to break down here,
nothin' up ahead or in the rearview mirror.."
We feel so strong - until we realize our strength was just a rush of adrenalin: Only to make us realize all the more, just how weak we really are.
I parked the car and quickly grabbed my bag and the rest of what I had taken home from the church. [I felt like the walk from the car to #6 was a million miles away.]
"Oh, Lord. Just get me in that door."
It's all I could whisper.
My heart felt weakened.
I thought about being back in grade school when the counselor would post up that "faces of feelings" sign; an assortment of nearly 50 different faces all expressing a different emotion, helping you to identify which one you felt closest to.
I often wondered what it would be like to actually have to sit and share those things with someone; I wasn't up for facing my current ...'face.'
Yet I knew, the importance of speaking the truth is nothing less than imperative; especially when it hurts. In fact, it's life or death.
There's an enemy against us all that creeps around with the intension of us to keep hidden the truth within.
Cover up, cover up, cover up;
Because in covering, there can never be truth .. and the covering only grows darker.
Jesus has trampled this enemy, and chosen to covers us with His marvelous light.
So, there would be no covering this sad, weakened, human heart.
All I prayed was that the moment wouldn't come from this point to my front door, that I would have to uncover to anyone at all, the hurt I felt. My prayer echoed:
"Oh, Lord. Just get me to that door."
I began to walk, simultaneously fighting back tears.
I walked steadily, and...
I made it up the stairs.
And then, I heard it.
A little voice bellowing something fierce.
It was one of those screams that stops you dead in your tracks. Agony from nothing but deep, deep hurt.
"GET BACK HERE"
She screamed, and sobbed. Her voice echoed through the air.
Chills ran up and down my spine; I stood without moving.
I knew it was Layla, yet my heart couldn't believe her little 5 year old voice could sound so violent and shaky.
I saw her big sister ride quickly past just below on her scooter, with a small grin on her face.
It felt out of character to want to keep walking - but I did.
To want to walk into my apartment, shut the door behind me, and pull the covers up and over my head.What I wanted came and went.
"Jaime... Is that your sister screaming like that?"
Jaime looked up at me - the grin wiped completely off of her face.
"But Miss Mia! Layla told me she wanted to poke my eyes out!"
I began to make my way down the stairs, as screams and bellows still echoed down the apartment corridor.
The screams were frightening.
I made my way to Jaime, and tears began to well in her eyes.
"Why is your sister crying like this?"
"I don't know! But she said she was going to poke my eyes out!"
"Jaime, you have no idea, why your sister is screaming like this? None at all?"
"No!" And the crying really started.
Oh, the fickle, covering, human heart.
"Well, let's go find out. Leave your scooter, come with me."
We grabbed hands and began walking towards Layla, her head up against the concrete wall - just about paralyzed by whatever had most literally overtaken her.
My heart flashed to the truth of what was going on in their lives - knowing that no matter what kind of pain her big sister may have just caused her - it most likely stemmed greatly from the pain of having a mother addicted, and gone. I remembered them telling me their sadness at dinnertime, because everyone eats alone.
I bent down next to Layla and she continued to scream.
...."I HATE HER."
She looked at her sister, as she tilted her head downwards and glared through squinted eyes. Her tension drove her body stiff, and that same tension was cutting my heart something awful. She felt like she hated her sister, and I felt like I hated it even more.
We all need truth poured into our little hearts; I knew right now they had little.
My heart remembered : Seventy times seven times.
Yes, this was how much we should forgive our brother.
"Layla." I tried to pull her chin up with my fingers.
"Look at me Layla."
Her little head was stronger than my grasp.
She pulled her chin down, and I was unable to move it.
"Ok girls," I said.
"Up to my apartment we go. I can't let one more second go by without you two coming to an agreement.
Jaime followed suit, and began riding towards my apartment, Layla - no budging.
She was holding on tightly. I knew how she felt.
I knew how hard it would be for her to forgive her sister - I didn't even know what the specifics were, but I didn't need to. It was written all over her bellowing voice and stiffened body.
"Layla, you must come with me. Give me your hand, you cannot stay here."
"No." She stated. She huffed and cried, and looked at her sister with a face of vengeance.
"I'm so sorry you're hurting Layla.
Look at Miss Mia - I KNOW what you feel. Trust me."
She wasn't having it.
And then, it was too late.
Tears welled in my own eyes seeing this baby filled with such ugliness.
I bent down again when she refused to walk forward with me, and she saw the tears in my eyes.
"Please Layla, it hurts my heart to see you like this. I don't want to have to walk you to your grandma, so let's get through this together. Let's go."
After moments of reluctancy I called for Jaime to come grab her sisters scooter, and Layla began to walk forward.
[Again, #6 felt no nearer than a million miles away.]
We all walked together back up the stairs, 2 little girls both enveloped in sadness.
Well, make that 3.
We got to the door, and I read the words as I do each time I walk in and out: "Praise the Lord. Let your light shine before men .."
"Layla, you sit here."
I pointed to the head chair at the table, and directed Jaime to the other.
The "faces of feelings" poster popped into my head once more as I placed my fist to my cheek and said quietly:
"Girls, what happened today?"
Layla still sat stiff, physically unable to move her head as a result of what was happening within her.
I then asked Jaime to tell me how she was feeling, she replied -"I feel sad."
Why do you feel sad?
Because I hurt my baby sister.
I looked at Layla who still sat with her face down.
Layla, how are you feeling?
- - - - - -
Layla, I know you don't want to talk, but you need to talk.
We can't get up from this table until you both understand a little bit more about what it means to forgive and move forward.
I proceeded to ask Layla if she heard what her sister said about hurting her feelings.
- - - - - -
"Jaime, is there anything else you would like to say to Layla?"
"I'm sorry, Layla."
"What are you sorry for Jaime?
"Layla, I'm sorry for leaving you and riding away so that you couldn't catch up, and thinking it was funny."
Layla said nothing.
A tear rolled down Jaime's cheek.
I began to explain what hurt looks like inside of us when we don't talk about it, and refuse to let it go. I got a cup of clean water and asked the girls if they would drink it. Layla still had her head to her chest, but Jaime shook her head "yes."
I then asked if they would drink it if I decided to pour some dirt and mud into it.
As expected, a response was given on both ends with 2 little headshakes - from left to right.
No, they wouldn't.
I explained that when we won't forgive, our Spirit is thirsty, but we keep feeding it muddy water. Putting yucky stuff where beautiful stuff was meant to be.
As time went on I told these girls something familar that my mom had once passed along. I remember her telling my sister and I that someday we would feel the importance of our relationship to one another. She said that no one will understand our family the way our siblings do. She also went on to talk about someday my dad and her no longer being on this earth, and how it would be each other who would understand that loss the most.
Granted, we don’t know what tomorrow brings, and I know my mom didn’t either; all I know now is that she wanted so deeply for my sister and I to love each other.
That was all.
I then think about my dad’s recent words of strength, and the ache of a parent:
“Mia, you are strong.
And I’m going to tell you something else-
I just can’t take it when your heart breaks.”
"God is our Good Father, girls - He longs for you make peace."
My heart felt pierced by this day, and as Layla continued in silence I felt it even deeper. Her complete inability to even lift her head became hard to believe. Yet, I understood.
I told them it was time to go back down to their grandma.
With heavy hearts and hanging heads we took the scooters and walked in silence down the stairs. As we neared their door I stopped, knelt, and asked Layla if she was OK. She walked over to me, grasped her little hands around my neck, and dug her little face into my neck. Jaime looked over and I waved for her to join us; she came over and threw her hands around us both. I could hear little tears streaming from Layla’s eyes as both of their heads rested behind my shoulders.
The tension in her body was finally at ease.
And then, I heard it.
And this time- I heard something very different.
With both girls hugging me, and facing one another behind my back I heard Layla’s little voice:
“I forgive you.”
My heart skipped.
Jaime quickly pulled her head up from behind and exclaimed with utter joy “Miss Mia! Layla just said she forgives me!!”
“Layla, is there anything else you want to say to your big sister?”
She smiled and looked down.
And as if the words couldn’t come fast enough they both clasped their arms around me once more, with their heads behind my shoulders.
“Will you forgive me?”
Layla asked her sister.
“I forgive you.”
They let go - and immediately came back around and embraced each other in a hug.
And didn’t let go.
It is for freedom that Christ set us free.
When we picture captivity we sometimes picture bars and chains; I see a 5 year old girl screaming words of hate to her only sister, her body constricted for hours with anger.
When we picture freedom, maybe it's a scene of high waving arms and flags;
I see 2 little girls hugging, literally embracing forgiveness.
And suddenly, the injustice I had felt; the weight of sadness that laid heavy upon me, had lifted.
..and I considered the ravens.
...Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?..."
In the times you want to pull the covers high, and put the walls sturdy in their place, just remember - He has such greater for you, than this.
And so, forgive.
*names have been changed :)