In the waiting room, she reaches for my hand, lacing her long fingers through my own. She presses her palm flat against my palm until all the lines meet, intersecting for a stretch and then contradicting, all posts and crossbeams. Her moon eyes speak paragraphs over still lips, tightly drawn. They are imploring blue–those eyes, reaching for me with startling strength.
In the morning, she draped her arms across my shoulders. She said, “I’m so glad you’re going with me,” and at first I thought she meant here, to this waiting room, to this nervous hour, and so I queried. “Well, that, yes,” she agreed, “but what I meant was this weekend.” This weekend; a trip with no anxiety to anticipate, only laughing friends. She’ll hardly have need to acknowledge me. I thought it strange that she would mention this the morning of the dreaded appointment, just hours before the waiting room and those eyes saying, I wish I didn’t have to do this.
But just this morning I flipped open my Bible and read about the Israelites, how God said, “Just go. Go to the land I promised. Go on to that rich place. But I’m not going with you. (Exodus 33:1-4).” He even promised to make it easy for them, to clear out all the trouble. And I turned the crisp, thin page, thinking, “He’s telling them they can have it, the land. He’s not even sending them into the wilderness.” But the Israelites don’t seem to hear. They strip themselves bland and weep. They mourn as though love has died, because what is abundance apart from His Presence? And what is a wilderness if He’s there? Without Him, the best land becomes a wasteland, because richness is the fullness of Him. He is more than their desperation god.
“I’m nervous.” She says just that, laying it flatly across my lap, letting it rest in the valleys between our interlocked fingers.
“I’m going to pray now,” I say, letting her read in my eyes how I wish I could sit in that chair in her place. And right there in the waiting room, I ask God to protect her, to keep her from pain, to let her feel Him with her. I let the words move, quiet and low, over her swinging leg.
They loved Him. The Israelites. At least right then, on that page of history, they actually loved God. Because love is not just a needy transaction but a relationship that prizes with-ness over what another can do for me. And there is nothing more I can do for her right now, besides hold her hand and pray over her while we wait. But praying acknowledges the power of His Presence. Praying slips our hands into God’s hands, pressing them palm to palm, weaving the fingers, and that nearness is strength.
I look at Zoe and I hear what she actually said this morning, standing on the edge of something unavoidably difficult. She said, I love you. She said, Listen: It’s not just that I want you with me when I need you, but that I also want you with me when I won’t. She said, You being with me, that’s the richness.
Love abides when things are good and resides when things are gripping-hard. It rejoices with those who rejoice and mourns with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
And that’s the kind of Love that has changed the world—Love being with us to die; Love dying to be with us.