The Valley of Baca

He tells me in his little office that I should think about reading the Psalms.

“There’s a lot in there,” he says slowly, “and it seems to me that David has a lot to say. He expresses his wishes, his hurts, his pain.” He pauses. “And God doesn’t strike him down.”

He says all this to me after I tell him I have a hard time asking God for things. Feeling as if it’s a question of His plan. I leave his office and as I drive home in rush hour traffic, tears stream down my face and I do. I let my heart pour out like David’s did.

Days later, I am still devouring the Psalms. I’m paying attention to the patterns, the words. David says some wild things, crazy things. But he says a lot of beautiful things, too.

 

There is a Psalm that talks about a place called the Valley of Baca. A place that as they walk through, turns into a place of springs and pools of rain water. This valley, some say, was part of the journey to get to Jerusalem or to one of the cities of refuge. Dry, treacherous, dangerous – this valley needed to be walked through in order to get to where the Israelites were going. Some translations call the Valley of Baca the Valley of Weeping – and I am struck by these verses – how the Israelites had to literally walk through the valley of weeping to get to a place of safety and refuge.

David talks about how that valley of weeping is redeemed. How those who rest in the refuge of God find the dry valley filled with springs of water.

To be honest there have been times since that night in his office that I tell God I can’t do it. I can’t walk through sadness, and I can’t walk through pain, and I long for it fixed and made right. But He whispers, to my tired, reluctant soul –

“The Valley of Weeping is meant to be walked through.”

I am always so quick to push away pain. To wipe away tears. Feeling as if, the sooner I get to the other side the better.

But yet – it’s meant to be walked through.

And I sigh deeply, tears brimming – knowing He redeems each valley –

filling them with springs

and pools of water –

because even this is not far from His redemptive touch.

Tears & Thankfulness.

Everything happens in the bathtub for me. Prayers. Weeping. Revelations. I seep into the bathwater, as hot as my body will allow it and I let the water absorb whatever it is that needs to be let go. I write my words as I stare at the shower tiles and I contemplate life and meaning as my body is washed clean.

Last night was no different. I sank into the water and let my tears mix with hot water and my breathing became shallow. Prayers were whispered into the silence. Shaking shoulders as sorrow entered out of me and into the empty air around me.

I’ve been making thankful lists lately. I’ve been finding joy, so long elusive, as I’ve practiced the discipline of thankfulness. It’s always easy to be thankful when things are going well. It’s easy to find gratitude in the beauty of two birds singing hello to you. It’s easy to find gratitude in a warm bed and a fluffy duvet.

But when tears are falling, not so much. But maybe it’s then that we need it the most.

And as tears fell into the bathwater, and life shifted and changed so that it looked a little differently than it did just an hour before, there was the question.

Would you find gratitude even in the midst of tears?

I stared at the white tiles, watching them reflect me back. Still the question remained.

Would you?

And I did. I bent over, letting tears flow into the bathwater even harder and the gratitude broke me even more. But maybe that’s what thankfulness does. Maybe that’s what broken hearts are for. Maybe the cracks let in the joy, and let in the light, if only we are willing to be broken in order to be healed. If only we are willing to whisper thanks even in the midst of tears.

Rain & Snow.

Rain.

I walked out of the door and into the soft drizzle. A melodic, spring-like rain in the middle of December. It should have been snow.

Snow.

Making everything new in its wild, beautiful way – but instead, it was rain. And it fell on my face and it mixed with my tears and I hated the way that in that moment, the world around me reflected the world inside of me.

I heard one thing on that drive home, as my hands mirrored the wiper blades and pushed away the unwanted tears. ‘Don’t be afraid of the darkness,’ the Rain said to me. ‘Don’t be afraid of the tears and afraid of the rain. Just walk into them. Let them do what they were meant to do.’

I let the tears run free.

I walked slowly in the rain to my door.

And sadness, when it’s felt, and it isn’t tiptoed around and avoided – somehow becomes a lot less scary.

Somehow it becomes a little more gray than black,

a tattered heard that not’s destroyed but in need of a mending.

And even though it’s rain in the middle of December, and there’s no snow to make things beautiful and whole again – somehow the rain does its job, the one it was always meant to do.

The girl who jumps.

You sit across the table from me, the tears fresh but the wound old. You tell me you didn’t expect to cry tears, but here we are, tucked in a corner of the restaurant, with your beautiful eyes filled to the brim.

“I wouldn’t move away for him,” you tell me, as you look at me but your eyes are only seeing him. “And because of that, he will always be the one that got away.”

“Can’t you go back?” I ask, helplessly. “Can’t you change your mind?”

“It’s been too long.” The time in between has built up a wall that you are sure cannot be climbed. Your story whispers to me: don’t be the one who is afraid to jump.

I write down words that stick with me, and my journal tends to be half others’ words, and the other half my own. “To this day, and I am still proud, that I was the girl who saw love and jumped.” They were the words in a horrible film, but the words stuck out, and I determined from that day on that I always wanted to be the girl who jumped.

I don’t know what that girl will look like, really. But I know that she knows that love will cost her, because in the end it’s not really about her. I know that she’ll be a mover and not a stayer; she’ll be the one who is willing to catch and get hurt in the process. She’ll be the one who breaks down because she lets walls fall in, but she will emerge stronger and braver because she knows the beauty that hides behind the walls. She’ll be the one who chases the big Dreams, the ones that are scary and seem silly to anyone that she dares to share them with. But she’ll chase them anyways, because she is the girl who jumps.

And how can you be a girl who is brave and bold and beautiful if you do not dare to jump? If you do not dare to take risks? If you do not dare to see what is on the other side? If you do not walk the paths that others are too fearful of?

I do not think that the girl who jumps is just one who is willing to let herself fall in love, but she is the one who is willing to love the unloveable. She is the one who jumps into the arms of a Saviour who created her for such a time as this, to be brave, to tell the hard stories and cry the salty tears. The girl who jumps does not see herself in a need of the superwoman cape because bravery doesn’t require anything but being willing to show up. To be true to who she knows herself to be, but not what others tell her she should be.

That’s the girl who jumps. And I have determined, scrawled across the pages of my journal: that is the girl I want to be when I grow up.

It’s Okay to Swim.

Today, nestled against the old wooden column, you felt the familiar heartache, the one you’ve felt since you were a little girl and you exchanged hurtful words with your hero. Tears threatened to fall, mixing with the peeling paint, as you leaned against it, sure you were in need of the support.

People keep disappointing you – and he will keep disappointing you. He will keep shattering your hopes because you keep expecting him to know what they are when he just doesn’t.

It doesn’t mean it’s not okay to be sad. You fear those tears because you’re afraid you’ll drown in them.

But my darling, sometimes you are so afraid of drowning that you forget it’s okay to swim.

Sometimes you so fear getting your heart broken that you forget it’s still good to fall in love.

Sometimes you fear people leaving so you hold your arms closed, but arms were never meant to be empty for long.

Life is meant to be this delicate, beautiful balance of extremes. Lots of times you’ll get it wrong. But so many times you’ll get it right, too.

Just don’t hold the broken pieces so close. I know it’s hard. I know it’s seemingly impossible. But life is not meant to be a series of safe, calculated risks. We don’t learn on the shore. We don’t grow when life is filled with shallow, meaningless friendships.

We learn and we grow when we cry. When we tell the ones who’ve hurt us that they’re letting us down. When you fall for the boy because his heart and his voice make your heart dance. When you open your arms and hold the broken even though in the process you’ll end up getting a little broken, too.

That’s how we grow.

So next time let the tears fall against the peeling paint of that column. Let it hold you.

You’ll find yourself standing, alone, a little stronger, in no time.