by Bobby Harrison
The woman held me. Her arms reached and wrapped like a mother welcoming her son back home. Hands squeezing, sliding and swishing back and forth like windshield wipers across my back. Words falling out of her mouth with tenderness and warmth, seeping into my spirit with permanence and precision. I only caught a bit of it. A word here. A phrase there. But this was one of those prayers that transcended language. It didn’t matter that it was in Spanish. It might as well have been Heaven’s Tongue.
Last summer, I was part of a group from our church that served for a week in Honduras. Medical Clinics. Playing with kids. Laying concrete floors. And it was that last one that elicited the above response. A grandmother had taken in her daughter and grandchildren. In a shack the size of an In-N-Out kitchen. Concrete floors provided much more than comfort and convenience for a family here. They brought health. Stability. Cleanliness. A firm foundation.
As our group finished that hot Honduras day, shoes caked and sweat sunk, the grandmother came home to a new floor. She couldn’t hold it in. Right then and there, she shot to me like a dart. And held. Fast and strong. Why me? I don’t know. But I just held right on back. And embraced the moment as much as she embraced me.
She began to pray in gratitude. And I began to fight the instinct to stop her, to tell her the blessing this was to us, not the other way around. Holding my tongue, I stood there and received. Took it all in. Let her give all she had. Turns out she had a lot. Like…a lot a lot.
For who knows how long, the two of us stood in some sort of timeless, cross-cultural, uni-lateral, mother-son embrace. My heart ballooned til it burst. And finally, I just let the tears come. Not as many as I would have hoped for. I’d spent too many years with too many of those just out of reach. But that little rainfall felt like a downpour to a parched heart.
I left quenched. Quiet. Content.
Soul struck. Stirred. And satisfied.
This morning my heart was heavy. Actually, that gives it too much credit.
This morning, my heart was hard. I’m not sure how it got there. But it built up over the past few days like rust on metal. My kids, in the midst of chaos and crazy, had also been cuddly and caring. Amy had been attentive. Giving. Loving. Amy-able. And yet somehow, someway, I just felt a closing. Perhaps it was stress — some swirl of all going on in all my worlds and my inability to hold all these orbits all in one motion, all together. Too many tracks uncovered, too many uncertainties still un-certained.
After a whirlwind morning, one of those where nothing goes quite right — a mockery at order and checked checklists — I finally made it to church. And worship. And teaching. And time to go home.
But as the prayer team assembled up front, each member standing there, willing to take one and all who came their way, I felt the call to rise. To push forth and be prayed for. It wasn’t my own will. My heart was too closed to open with such belief. But I trusted my feet. And they led me straight to Jeanette — a wise, beautiful soul. A leader of prayer and hospitality and warmth and acceptance and love.
A mother. And grandmother.
“My heart feels closed. I don’t get it. My wife is trying to connect. My kids are. I feel they’re open and available. But for the past few days, I’ve felt distant. Unavailable. And I don’t want that anymore.”
“Ok. Let me pray for you.”
She petitioned unto the Father for this son to feel loved and accepted. To know how pleased He is with me. To feel the warmth and wrap of his embrace.
She called out for my heart. My family. Schoolwork. Ministry. And after a good long, healthy while, there was an “amen”. And I began to walk away. But I stopped. Turned back. And gave her a hug.
These two women certainly haven’t met. They couldn’t pick one another out of a police lineup. They were rooted and raised in separate hemispheres. But as Jeanette held right back, I felt the same sort of timeless, cross-cultural, uni-lateral, mother-son embrace.
Her hands squeezing, sliding and swishing back and forth like windshield wipers across my back. Words falling out of her mouth in such tenderness and warmth, seeping into my spirit with permanence and precision. I only caught a bit of it. A word here. A phrase there. But this was one of those prayers that transcended language. It didn’t matter that it was in English. It might as well have been Heaven’s Tongue.
I stood there and received. Taking it all in. Letting her give all she had.
A heart, soul, mind, and strength shifting between Tegucigalpa and Pasadena. A day’s worth of worthy work and a morning filled with worthless wandering.
And these two women. Gifts from God. Gifts of God. God himself.
His arms of embrace. His words of Truth. His love for his son.
My heart ballooned til it burst. And finally, I just let the tears come. Not as many as I would have hoped for. I’d spent too many months with too many of those just out of reach. But that little rainfall felt like a downpour to a parched heart.
Quenched. Quiet. Content.
Soul struck. Stirred. And satisfied.
Sitting here in my living room. Sunday evening. A week removed from my Mom’s last trek out here. And short-term memory comes washing back in.
When I dropped her off at the airport last week, I lugged out the luggage. Got her set-up with curbside care. One big hug. And hopped back in the car.
But as I began to pull away, I looked back. And there she was.
A gift from God. A gift of God. God himself.
Smiling in the shape of my sweet mom.
I hopped back out. Avoided eye contact with power-hungry airport-parking-commando-guy. These baby blues wouldn’t do well in the slammer. My best move in most situations is just to act like I don’t know better. It works wonders.
I ran back over. Hugged mom once more.
And didn’t let go til I gave her all I got.
These arms of embrace. This love of a loved son.