It was song #17 in the red hymnal and I knew every word.  I would sing with my whole throat and my whole heart.   All eight years of pigtailed me, shouting about founts and sonnets and ebeneezers. Howling about mercy.

I couldn’t have possibly understood it all, but that didn’t keep the song from resonating in my ribs.  That pew and those words provided a home for my soul, surrounded by certainty and family.

Streams of mercy never ceasing.   I was a child wading in, splashing, safe.

The rapids were so far away I could not even hear their roar.

I sat cross legged on the rooftop of a Peruvian hostel, the breeze a perfect whisper and the sun diving into the waves for a nighttime swim, pools of navy and silver as it slipped beneath the surface.

I was alone and in the dark — and I was unafraid.

And that’s when I heard it, not a whisper and not a voice, but a knowing: marry me.  And I knew exactly what He meant. I had spent most of my life working to impress Him, working to be wanted by Him, to be named: chosen, included, worthy.  No more.  He didn’t want my doing or dignity, He wanted my devotion.

And I ran down the aisle, ocean whipped hair and whole, un-hurt heart.

Take and seal it.

On a Tuesday afternoon I fidgeted, anxious, in a room I cannot remember well enough to describe except for this: the day was turning dusk out the lone window and there was not a single box of tissues.  It was in those murky moments and tissue-less room that my marble trust became shrapnel at my feet.

The worst part wasn’t the initial impact hit — that damage was swept up through trusted conversations and quick forgiveness. What proved to be most painful were the small and jagged granules that lodged themselves in a previously sacred, protected space.  I know because every time pressure is applied to the tender area, it hurts like hell.

Each time a granule works its way out,  I put it in my pocket.  Every so often I roll them in my fingers, a reminder: trust slowly, believe cautiously.

He, to rescue me from danger.

Sitting near the back on Sunday, I felt the immediate tug, I watched as it started to unravel, the twisting and shredding. I held to the wisps of what remained as my palms burned.  I did not want to let go.  Please not now, please not again.

I studied the stripes on my hands, the fresh ones and the ones scarred beneath: red and desperate, pink and calloused.   The salt tickled and warmed my lips. It would hurt less if I would just let go, if I could give up, if I would stop pulling against it.

And the words came back, the red hymnal song: only this time I heard the ones about wandering hearts, strangers and leaving, a begging to be sealed.

Prone to wander.  Lord, I feel it.

Prone to leave the God I love.

It’s all I know to do now: hold my callous & wounded hands open, rid my pocket of bitter remnants, keep singing the hymn — even if now I do a bit less shouting and a lot more whispering:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above