Kendall and Josie were baptized Sunday. They invited us to attend, and we sat with their parents and family members. Baptism is a good thing.
These baptisms exceeded good and personalized this ritual I have witnessed a thousand times. Taylor and the girls attended Summit, a church in Newcastle. The church facilitates community groups and worship, and I remember Taylor speaking fondly of each. She has notes in a notebook from her community and their time in bible study, and she often enjoyed Sunday mornings. However, baptism at Summit was a new experience for this almost half-a-century-old, raised-in-the-church girl. And it remains refreshing and powerful, today.
Each candidate for baptism read her story ,the story that led the candidate to decide to profess her faith publicly through baptism. Kendal and Josie's stories compelled the listener to look within their hearts, to see the pain, to hear what they were saying and what they couldn't yet find words to say. At the end of the girls' stories, one undeniable plea hung in the air as they left the microphone - a sincere desire to forge a personal relationship with Jesus, a confession that working toward any kind life on their own existed as a futile and painful experience.
Their stories, brutal and beautiful, (Melton's word again) tore at our hearts. Their lives without Taylor seem foreign, and they can't find answers to their questions. I am sure there are days when their professors are requiring assignments or their employers are asking for productivity or their friends are discussing the next party - that they are looking at the individual in front of them and the words - "Don't you know what this world is missing? How can you treat me like you treated me before she died?" - are running continuously across Kendal's and Josie's mind, silently. The other person stands oblivious to their thoughts; the girls would never burden another with the weight of their grief; they don't recognize the weakness to whom grief has introduced them; they pretend to listen and fake it, going on.
Summit's baptism allowed Kendal and Josie to lay it down, to claim the power that conquered the grave and leave the brutal face of grief and turn to the beautiful light of grace.
I cried as they read their stories. I cried at the pain they continue to feel and as I heard the hearts of girls behind me and around me breaking. I cried Sunday like I had cried every day preceding.
I don't know how I can know all of this and still feel so alone. I don't know how I can be surrounded by so much support and love and still feel completely abandoned. When I asked this question tonight - I remembered Job, Jacob, Joseph, forty years in the desert, Daniel, Ruth. I felt convicted. Why would we be spared this pain when so many others have also suffered? What would make us entitled? I remember running into the woman's house who kept Taylor the day the Murrah building blew up. I remember holding her and rocking her and shuddering at the thought. The bible is full of stories of hardship and of faithful servants who just turn back to God even in the face of tremendous loss. I can't tell you what it is like to hear a sweet friend ask me about Wade. I can't tell you how it hurts to not tell you about Taylor. I can't tell you how just taking it one day at a time just leads to having to take another day. I know the only power that can sustain us through this time comes from God. The lesson must come while being powerless and in this state of "I can't". In one way or another, it's what Josie and Kendal each said in their "brutiful" words - "I can't - but you can."
"Because she loves me, says the Lord "I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name." Psalm 91:14
God continues to provide moments to us, to me. I don't think he and I are done wrestling yet - but I am awfully grateful he refuses to let go.
Pray for my girl's sweet friends. They are so good to us, to love us so.