Irritation makes her bark and bristle, so I lean closer. I speak softer and I skirt raw spots as we trace her story. She lived a childhood unprotected, and has lived it over and over again. She’s not the only one who teeters on the edge of shouting or shaking. They are here, drowning in a welter of loss. Everyone seems to have lost. A husband, a childhood, peace of mind, safety. Gone where?

His polished smile and prepped answers draw me in. It’s a performance he’s perfected. He’s saying its all OK now, but is it? Does gut-tearing shame heal like changing the TV channel, or from reading inspiration in the Women’s Weekly? He almost convices me that it does. But when he speaks real, honest words, I can see he’s on the edge, too. Of tears. Of giving up. Of seeking real change.

This place of pain and of struggle and the wrestle between life and death. The mingling of despair and hope, where all I can add is my pittance that ‘it will be OK’. And this says nothing substantial, or solid, to cling to.

I can listen, too. Especially to the feelings and thoughts that we’re not supposed to have. Like being angry at your husband who just died, leaving you to mop up his life. Or that you wish you were dead because the hole you are in feels endless, and dark, and crushing.

So many rules about how we should feel, how we should act, how we should live. I think about religious men questioning why Jesus didn’t follow certain customs or rituals, and his answer I’m reading over and over. Puzzling how to absorb it and live it.

I desire mercy not sacrifice.
It’s not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.

What does it mean to live a merciful life, and then also know that I’m one of the sick, too? A merciful life, but not a proud one.

Remembering that I’m welcomed in the same way – embraced with my messy heart and unruly feelings – needing mercy too. Us and them just doesn’t work. It needs to be me among all of us. All of us sinners who need mercy. All of us lost, needing to be found. Everyone sick and needing a doctor.

(over the next few fridays, i plan to choose a post from the weekly imperfect prose link-up to highlight through a “guest post” …. this one is by kath at listening space; make sure you stop by her beautiful place, friends. love you.)