Holy Shit (by Melissa Howe Whaley)

This title will definitely get my mother’s attention. (You see, that is my first thought as a “good girl” raised in church!) Nonetheless, it is a truth that I came to terms with long ago after wrestling angels and limping away with the longed-for blessing. Shit can be holy, I bantered back with my friend earlier this evening as she danced and shouted for joy over the successes of a little girl who belongs to parents we have prayed over, cried with, and hoped with against all odds. I laughed at her impulsive joy, and now I sit crying. Because the truth is, shit can be holy. It’s not that it stinks any less. Babies are not supposed to be lying in ICUs hooked up to machines instead of nestled in their mama’s and daddy’s arms at home. And to get to me and my day — seven year olds are not supposed to have seizures that transform their sweet personalities into yelling and painful compulsions and inability to learn. Moms are not supposed to lose it and scream back or ask questions like “what is the matter with you?”, reinforcing struggles that children who are different already know they have. This mom is not supposed to cover my ears and fall apart in sobs as my spouse walks in the door from a long day at work, with children looking on, because the most recent scream has sent me over the proverbial edge. That is all shit. It stinks.

But the glory of this season of year is that Easter is coming no matter what shit there is in the meantime. Easter happens when babies that aren’t expected to make it defy all odds and begin doing things that have doctors shaking their heads. Easter happens when that same seven year old who was screaming and running crazy minutes before comes and nuzzles her head in her mommy’s arms and says “I love my mommy oh so much.” I wish I was that naturally forgiving. Easter is when the shit that happens on a daily basis in a creation that is far from perfect gets transformed and doesn’t get the final say. Make no mistake. It is still all shit. But somehow, in the gentle breeze of the Spirit of life who refuses to let darkness rule the day, shit gets made holy in those transformative moments. Shit becomes fodder for life to grow against all odds, for love and commitment to deepen, for thanksgiving to find root and blossom into beauty that defies its surroundings.

I am not trying to put a happy face on suffering. I have seen much in my days and nights of on-call at the hospital to know that Easter does not come in ways we want or even believe we most need. Easter most often does not come when we want it either. Easter comes when it comes, sometimes in such small ways we can miss it if we have not tuned our hearts and eyes to recognize it. That is when we pray for grace from God to open our eyes as we walk with the one we know not except he speak our name and make us take a second look.

In my day to day of trying to keep everything running, calling doctors’ offices, juggling the usual routine of homework, dinner, and bedtime, and wondering in between how I went from the dreams I had to where I am today, I have barely given thought to Lent this year…until tonight, that is. I jump as the Bible is slammed shut, I hear the creak of the door in the darkness, and I see the small light of the candle that reminds us that hope is no small thing for it is but a foreshadowing of the illumination to come. I peek in on my two precious gifts of God who are quiet and breathing evenly in their slumber, and I give thanks for what I could not know to expect when I had my plans all figured out. God is good. Holy shit…God is good. Yes, Corinne. You were just expressing your joy, but you helped me find my tears and joy tonight. So thank you, my friend, for speaking your truth.


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