Today i was reading a new fav book (Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg) and one sentence sent me whirling back to 1985ish:
“Many of the well-meaning but trite responses of friends and those in her faith community were more damaging than healing.”
Feinberg was writing about a friend, Sophia, who suffered a sudden and life-shattering loss at a young age. In the midst of her nightmare, she struggled to find hope. A professor she barely knew took an interest in her…he saw life in her, he would tell her later on down the road. He didn’t attempt to give her fixes or avoid her until the storm passed, he weathered it with her. Asking questions and pushing her…no coddling, no pandering.
As i read the account, my hands started shaking and i went back in time for a sec…back to the golden age of big bangs, scrunchies, mix tapes, and pastel polos a’plenty. And for me, some of the darkest valleys in my life. i felt like i was reading an account of MY world when i returned to school after i lost my dad in the summer of 1985. i was hopeless and damaged. i was surrounded by seemingly hollow words and tiptoeing, well-meaning family and friends. i felt lifeless.
i think back to my teachers…just like everyone else in my world, i suspect most of them had NO IDEA what to do with me. And, like we often do when we’re unsure of where to go next, they just avoided eye contact and seemed to hold their breath until i was out of their classroom and on to the next class. i dont blame them, honestly. i was wrecked…and there was no fix.
But then…Miss Crawford.
She was my English teacher Sophomore year. Here’s what i remember about her class:
It. Was. Hard.
She did NOT allow excuses or look the other way when i played the my-dad-just-killed-himself-and-i-should-get-a-pass card. She pushed me. She saw life in me…somewhere deep down underneath the anger and self-loathing and questioning and hurt. Funny…if i’m remembering right, i barely passed that class. (The Canterbury Tales almost did me in, guys.) But what she probably doesnt realize is that the way she looked me in the eyes and the way she pushed me, changed me.
In Wonderstruck, Feinberg goes on to tell the story of Ezekiel and the boneyard (Ezekiel 37). Its a crazy tale that requires more caffeine to tell adequately, but the jist is this: what Ezekiel saw as a hopeless boneyard of dead parts n pieces, God saw as opportunity to give life. It brought tears…because i lived that story. Miss Crawford saw life in me when all i felt was like parts n pieces in the boneyard.
i want to see life in the boneyard…who is in my path right now that God wants me to see as ‘life’? Something cool about that Ezekiel thing is that God used Ezekiel in the life-giving process…God doesnt need help to give life, but bc He loves us, He gives us a part to play. Miss Crawford helped give me back life…not with snippets of Scripture or encouraging “look on the bright side” Hallmark cards, but by looking me in the eye and weathering the storm with me.
Today i found some goofy website with her contact info (i’ve thought about/searched for her contact info for a few years) and i reached out. Who knows if i’ll get to sit across the table from her and talk life-from-boneyards or not. i hope i do. But in the meantime, i will follow her example…i will seek to see life in others.