Steam & Shadows

Steam rises from our tea cups placed on the table and the lit candle casts shadows on the wall but there is something in that room far more consuming. It is the only thing that has captured my attention. It is her voice as she tells me the story of what happened while I was in Memphis. The terrible, heavy, heartbreaking thing that happened while I was away.

steam and shadows

“I know the only reason you’re able to tell me all this so matter-of-factly is because God has already begun healing and carrying you . You’ve already had several months to deal with it,” I managed to say before my eyes began welling with tears and my voice started to crack, “but I haven’t. My heart is broken. I am so, so sorry.”

Love can look like so many things, but it’s perhaps never as beautiful and raw and fragile and important as when it shows itself through two friends hugging each other with sorrowful eyes. Songs and poems and stories have been written about love, but I wonder if all the words in all the books could compare with the passion that is found in the three simple words, “I’m so sorry” being whispered again and again into the ear of a broken sister. 

I held her hand and I cried. I told her how beautiful she is, how wildly thankful to God I am that He has pulled her back to Himself so quickly, how I couldn’t believe I was so far away when this had happened, how “I’m sorry if it’s weird but I just want to keep holding your hand for a while longer”.

There are many things to be felt when someone trusts you enough to allow you to carry their heavy things. As I was sitting on that couch, ignoring the steam and dancing shadows, I first felt sadness. And fear. And anger. My heart danced between feelings like a nervous ballerina.

But as I experienced a hundred different emotions, there was one that sat constant in the background.

Have you ever played apples to apples, or some kind of card game where you have cards rotating through your hand? There’s always one card that you can’t get rid of. In apples to apples, the other six cards are always rotating – they get drawn, discarded, and are then replaced with a new card. But there’s that one tricky card that never leaves your hand. That’s how this one feeling was for me. Only, the reason it never left was because it was good and beautiful – not because it was a stupid noun that didn’t fit any of the green cards.

All the while I felt overwhelmed with a sense of honor and privilege. Not just because she felt safe enough with me to share a gigantic burden, but because in that moment I was given an opportunity to participate actively in the gospel. I was being the love that Christ insisted was to exist in our communities. By the grace of God I was given a chance to tell someone that because they are in Christ they are a new creation.

“You are not what has happened to you. You are God’s and you are still whole.”

It is humbling and an honor like I have never experienced to get to look into someone’s eyes and speak to them on God’s behalf. And it is humbling and an honor to have others who have done the same for me.

Time doesn’t heal wounds. God heals our wounds. Sometimes by using others, sometimes by just showing up on His own. The times we get to be used as part of His healing is wondrous. And it isn’t because we are word-smiths or fantastically empathetic or incredible christians that God provides us these almost magical opportunities to love, but because this is how we get to be part of the gospel. Even with our filth, we get to love other people because we have been loved by God. He has poured us tea and held our hands a million lonely nights, saying “I will turn the darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them”. Like a child copying his parents, every act of love we ever make is only mimicking the love that we have seen from Him.


Sometimes being part of the gospel means sharing the name of Jesus to souls who have never heard of their savior. It can mean moving across the world for some, it should mean tending to the sick and the homeless for us all. There are also times, I have discovered, where it looks like not having anything to say except “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”. It looks like showing up and holding hands because nothing else seems right. It looks like allowing your heart to break simply because other hearts are broken. 


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