" . . . when love was not enough . . . and man was forced to die. This God, He sent the flood, to kill the race despised. The children swept away . . . I hear a mother's cry: Mercy, Lord have mercy! Mercy on me! Every soul is searching for You. Won't you save us? Grant us peace?"
Just listen to it. It won't take long. These guys don't mess around - it's good music. And it's a question we ask. We ask it again and again . . . if we're honest.
Yesterday it rained hard.
It flooded and some trees came down.
Somewhere downtown there was somebody who couldn't find anyplace to take cover because they don't have a house.
Somewhere I've got family members mourning the sudden loss of a mother, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a cousin.
Some of my students went home from school today afraid of what was waiting for them. Nobody will be helping them with their homework. Nobody will be cooking them dinner. And when they come through the doors tomorrow morning, the florescent lights in the hallway will be the first ray of hope they've seen in over 12 hours.
I was in the kitchen and Robbie told me I'd better get the camera and go outside.
So I ran out the door and found this beautiful thing - not just a double rainbow, but this dual existence of light and darkness. Such a vivid image.
I was speaking with a friend the other day about my birth "plan."
It's in quotation marks because nobody can really plan a birth. Not truly. I've never given birth and I'm already learning this.
My friend has had three C-section deliveries. It was never what she wanted. And it was traumatic. She's one of the most loving and creative people I know, and she works at motherhood the way that many people approach a dissertation - with intelligence and perseverance and drive.
And as we have talked off and on about birth plans and birth stories (I am due in about 3 weeks now), we've talked about the fact that mothers who experience emergency births need some space and permission to grieve.
It seems like a strange thing to say, right?
If mother and baby are both alive they should just be thankful and happy and move on, right?
No. I think that's wrong.
It's too simple.
We try to make certain things too simple.
Great, terrible storms are beautiful.
But they are terrible.
And they cause great damage.
They flood people's homes and that person downtown without a house is left cowering and praying that lightning won't strike them.
I can take a picture of the sun shining through it, but that doesn't mean that it didn't hurt somebody.
Death, grief, and loss are terrible things.
Traumatic experiences are terrible things.
Children who have nobody to support them at home? That's a terrible thing.
"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the Earth . . . never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life." - Genesis 9:13, 15
Like so many promises in the Bible, it's not a promise of an easy life. Or even a life with minimal conflict. It's a promise from God that no matter what happens between us, there won't be an intentional doling out of complete wrath and justice - not the way it was before.
It's not a promise of prosperity.
It's not a promise of perfection.
It's a promise to change the way that a relationship works. We've had so many changes in the God/human relationship, haven't we? Lost gardens, rainbows, sacrificial lambs, whales . . . Jesus.
Sometimes I don't have anything to say to the news that I hear.
There isn't anything clever to add to the conversation when someone has died or when you know that a child is suffering. The only thing left at that point is to be there. Have you ever heard anybody say that they are "holding space" for someone?
Holding Space is what hospice workers do. It's what friends do when that emergency birth takes place and the mother is simultaneously overjoyed and devastated.
It's the act of being present in a way void of judgement.
We don't bring the flood, friends. We just wait with our loved ones until the flood is over.
Holding Space is part of living on that beautiful line between the good stuff and the bad stuff.
There's nothing to be ashamed of in that.
Nothing at all.
In about 3 weeks my first child will come into this world - hopefully kicking and screaming. And as I've carried this child I've held some space for some people. And they've held space for me.
A number of special women have made blankets for this baby boy. But one blanket is very special. I don't actually have a picture of it yet - it's a green and white blanket.
Martha's children and grandchildren were holding space for her, and we were holding space for them while they waited on Martha. Martha was making her way out of this human life.
She was a clever, kind person. I used to catch a sarcastic twinkle in her eye as I looked over my music stand during Wednesday night choir rehearsals. She chuckled at things that other people missed.
And all that time that her family held space for her, she was holding space for me - and I didn't even know it.
Her daughter delivered the blanket to me wrapped in pretty paper. A blanket handmade by Martha. And Martha had been working on a blanket for my first child during that whole time of sickness. Quietly holding space for a human life that hadn't yet come into the world.
Living between the things that are joyful and the things that grieve us. Living there without judging ourselves and our loved ones.
The promises are all resting there in that "in the middle" space. Trust me. Jesus on a cross? That's not the pretty picture. That's someone holding space for the entire human race.
Holding space is better than pretty - it's beautiful. Terrible, great, beautiful - and never as simple as we want it to be.