My dad always wore a certain brand of shoes. Hush Puppies. He also used to bring us hush puppies from the Long John Silvers he managed. They were edible. And wonderful. But that may be an embellishment for a blog to come.
I always thought Hush Puppies was the perfect name for my dad’s shoes because he was such a quiet man. Not once did I hear him raise his voice; in rooms of people he was silent and in our home, he was either hushed or whispering scriptures and prayers.
I spent many hours with my dad in shushed spaces. Often, the only sounds were those of hoes and hammers. His feet were always lined up with mine as I learned to dig post holes, form a fence, build a barn, shingle a house, and, well, scoop poop. Quite honestly, the last skill is the only one I’ve needed since, but I’m sure in a pinch, I could help someone out with the others. These are the things I learned instead of the fine arts of homemaking, stretching barbed wire instead of sewing with a needle pulling thread. And these facts probably hold the most egregious explaining for my girl license delay.
I always saw his shoes, because we were most usually deep in dirt, strapped in stirrups, scaling a ladder or tightrope walking a roof. His feet were always up ahead or right beside. Except for the day they came upon me from behind.
It had been almost 365 days since the most devastating of days. This bridge between wasn’t tallied on paper, but scratched and scarred on the wall of my heart. Upon the barricade I’d been building each day since. That era lying behind was not as far as I needed it to be. The one not in which I gave something sweet in surrender, but treasure was taken, riding atop the choice I wasn’t permitted to make. Then came a choice made in my stead, that I could not quite reconcile as my own. This was an age I was too young for, too tender to traverse. Yet the road of it loomed before me.
Sometimes, another isn’t as much ignorant of your pain, as so present in their own that they will do anything to get out. Sometimes a heart flails and your story to tell falls from their lips, instead of your own. Such it was on the day I closed our gate as slowly as I could to deter my trip back inside and the accounting for the telling. I didn’t make it inside though. With back to the house and all that seemed hopelessly lost, I heard thunder roll. Gravel beneath my dad’s feet, coming towards my ground heart. The grit of it must have been in his wake, but not one stone did he throw.
I turned, halfway hopeful and completely broken–right into my dad’s arms. The force of his coming pressed me into the gate. I would have fallen completely had his arms not held me, his strength not engulfed me.
Words tumbled then from this man who rarely spoke. Tears spilled from eyes, ever dry.
There is nothing you have ever done, will ever do, that will change how much I love you, how I see you.
No greater an orator has there ever been on this earth. I take so many words to say so little. He offered so few to say so much.
The earth of us quaked as we shook and sobbed together. He released me, though not once did he ever let go. He gave me time to collect heart shards and thoughts scattered. And I fell. Knees to gravel, flesh breaking, blood staining.
This is how I know rocks cry out. Because of the moment they called to me. Knees bent, under redemption’s break, burden’s bathing.
Those joints that found my joining, held burrowed scars for some months. But my heart, not a blemish has borne since.
That day, I was released from the grip of other’s vices, though I would choose vices of my own. Sometimes we make a road longer than it need be. I lengthened mine, just until I learned that I couldn’t be anyone’s vice when I was already Someone’s vine.
We all have favorite scents and sounds. Those that time travel us to a spot before where we are now. Mine, the crunch of gravel. The groan of Heaven coming for me under Father’s feet. Soft soles, tender for me, willing to be pierced and punctured. Gravel cries out to me of feet rooted, as the foundation of a tree, ladder’s base, leading to rent ribs, holied hands and cascading crown, all things I can take hold of. That which keeps me clung to the One who never lets go.
What happens when you grow too big for a cage with invisible bars? You turn, halfway hopeful, completely broken. You re-turn to the place where every line is true. You let Him love you so. You humbly receive the responsibility He has taken for you. That which says His love for you is infinite and irrepressible.
You may not know on which day He stirred the incorruptible part of you. The place where the view of you, is a mirror of Him. But you come towards it as fiercely as He and Heaven come for you. What is stirred will erupt. Its day waits. Don’t worry. He won’t be singed by the lava of your land. He carried its fire to the cross already. From there He handed you cross’s branch, that you could bear torch and flame of altared fire.
This is Yom Kippur. Well, it’s what it means to me. It’s considering and commemoration rests only two sleeps away (this Sunday at sundown). Maybe in the moments between, you can find your gravel, your shouting stones, that help you remember He never forgets. And that He runs, like thunder. Grit in His wake, yet not one stone does He throw.