Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Puke Demon.

I was always a fearful child, caught up in the things I couldn't control- tornadoes, throwing up, angering the people around me, making mistakes, drowning, the toilet overflowing onto my shoes, spilled milk, embarrassment, disappointment. I was always afraid of something, and so I constructed clever safety nets to neatly tuck the world around me and if at all possible, to prevent my little heart from spiraling out of control in pain. I covered my mouth with both of my hands when I talked so that nobody would hear me if I said something wrong. I washed my hands up to the elbows like a surgeon until teachers at school began commenting on the raw skin on my knuckles. I played games with God and looked for His protection in a full moon, believing that if I glanced up through the skylight and realized His one great eye was sending a pale glow across my bedroom floor, that I wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night and find myself under the possession of the Puke Demon.

The Puke Demon gripped me a lot. I'd wake up in the dark, sit up in bed, and fully believe that if I went outside I wouldn't throw up. I thought I could trick the Puke Demon into thinking that I was healthy if I crossed my front door, went down the porch steps and wandered around my yard in the middle of the night. On more than a dozen occasions my mom would find me walking in circles on the driveway in my bare feet mumbling to Jesus. Then again I was too afraid to fully open my mouth, so she probably got the shock of her life at the sight of her ghostly daughter in a white nightgown circling the driveway and uttering what sounded like strange monotone pleas for God to "make me not throw up." It's humorous to me now that I was more afraid of throwing up than being attacked by a coyote, a "bad man," or the many shadows rustling in the dark woods.

I had forgotten all about this. It's so strange the things that disappear as we are whisked into adulthood. Those fears were such a profound part of my life that now I almost feel sacrilegious, as if I am disrespecting my child-self by laughing about it. Sometimes I believe that she still lives inside of me, and so I take great pains not to mock her, or dub her peculiar because of the irrational terror that gripped her small body so often. I understand now that there wasn’t one flaw in her, in fact fearing throwing up was perfectly rational, although not every single night, and not enough to wander through the trees in search of Jesus. Or maybe it was.

Recently, a friend dubbed me FEARLESS. She says I’m not afraid of anything. And when I heard this I almost laughed at her mistake. But I caught myself, and the child inside of me held up her hands and grinned. It would be easy to guess that I will always be what I’ve always been, but it would also be a tragedy, because I was born to wake up in the middle of the night and walk outside in my nightgown as if this were perfectly acceptable behavior. Truth is, I’ve been fearless all along, and not one soul could make me know it for sure. Not one soul, except for me.

Take that.

Puke Demon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Night water.

Last night I went out on a boat with some friends to see fireworks on the water. I've never been out on the lake at night, and the way the red lights reflected on the black water was so beautiful I thought I'd just come undone right there. We stopped out in the middle of the lake, surrounded by hundreds of other boats as more and more people gathered together in the darkness. The lights were otherworldly; Christmas lights strung across boat roofs and outer decks, headlights and searchlights, all reflected with pale ambiance on the roving top of the water. We were buoyed up and down in the wake, as everything from yachts and pontoon boats rumbled past, the people on their decks invisible except for the laughter that carried and faded into the softest lapping against the side of our boat. We waited, and all around was the rise and fall of the wake as we were lulled up and down, back and forth in the sheen of moving lights that glowed across the surface of the lake. It was beautiful. It was almost soundless. The wind picked up softly, and it seemed that we were completely exposed out on the open darkness, existing in some sense of danger as we were buoyed around by the wash of ever-changing currents. It didn't matter. Live or die, the lights were too spell-binding on the dark open water to think of what could go wrong. It was one of those moments that I became overcome with silence, as if with a fever. The sky was clouded over and just as I thought I might cry sitting there with my arm hanging over the ambulant darkness, the haze in the sky opened up directly above our boat and bathed in the reflection of a slivered moon, I saw the stars.

Wonder, like truth, is relative to the individual who can grasp it. I took turns watching the fireworks explode in the smoke studded haze and on the water, the reflection of their colors spilling out over the pitch of ever-moving black mirror on which we wove and dipped and lulled.

That black depth of ever-changing and accumulating, waking and resting, swelling and spilling out was my heart. In luminous, slow-moving diamond streams of light my wandering, surface-level and storm tossed heart was the roving of dark night water in the wake. And in those moments, as the breath was caught up in my chest for the total wonder of my wind-tossed being in the glow of the night, I asked God to forgive my wandering heart. I asked Him to show me, to remind me that one of the ways He stays the same is He gets better and better every day.

I will not always be drawn up in a cocoon of morning light. I won't always exist on the colorful fringe of another moment of excitement, but I can attempt to rise up with the comfort that as my world is shaken, He remains the same- the same goodness, the same personality, the same hope that reaches out and draws me back into the unexplored caves of strength in the darkness. He's wrought them all within me. And I might be ever-changing as the wake when it is tossed up and buoyed out, but He is the light that is reflected on the water.

Oh roving heart, tossed and spilled with every passing boat, look out over your midnight wake. He is the glow that bathes your thrashing darkness, and illuminates your fear with the never-changing light of truth. May you always have eyes to see, and may you cry sitting there in the shifting seas, for the wonder of it all.