Do you ever try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, just to figure out how you might feel?

For some reason, I woke up thinking about the cross and the many accounts of Jesus’ journey to crucifixion cause I considered that many have similar journeys. I thought of those who stand back in witness, some in fear, some in prayer and others in mourning. Then I thought for a moment about those who’d stopped on their way to somewhere else after observing me struggle under the weight. Every glass of water handed to me was needed to renew my spirit. Every touch on my skin was required to restore my hope.

What makes you pause, stop in your steps, or turn around?

For me, it’s a word. More rarely, it can be a voice.

If you ask what my weakness is, I should not tell you, but still, I will. It is the human experience, and the words we use to carry it from day to day. But it isn’t necessary to have a weakness or a strength, because they are one and the same, yes?

The experiences we have the most difficult time putting into words are those that stay until the end, and sometimes I think, if we want to have peace, that the experience and the words must do more than shake an untrusting hand.

There have been, and still are, times it is clear that all of me is exposed yet also protected. What a flurry of emotion I’d become, attempting to cover myself as if I were the woman in red standing before an audience of priests and nuns.

If you were to ask why I continue allowing them to stare as my dress flies up, I should not tell you, but I will. It is the human experience, and the skin and bones we use to carry it from day to day. But it is sometimes necessary to reveal skin and bone because they are not the same, no?

It is naked before the congregation I stand because they struggle to avert their eyes while also wanting to stare. My eyes move over the crowd, and the children laugh as tears fall from my eyes, but it isn’t for me that I cry.

There is sudden bustling and attempts to approach and cover me as I bend down to pick up a gun and a white flag. Wordless, I hold both over my head as they walk backward and away in response. My eyes again move over the crowd, and the children cry as their parents cover their eyes, but it isn’t for me that they cry.

It isn’t the nakedness of the body that moves people, so much as the nakedness of being. To live in such a way that your pistol and your flag must be lifted is to engender a position of unwavering faith, because the crowd believes the pairing of nakedness with a firearm places them in a position of danger, but they do not realize it is my spirit that holds the white flag because they do not see it. For this reason, they can’t comprehend my absence of fear. Still, weakness and strength are the same.

My weakness is the voice behind me and the words still ahead, so it was there I’ve stopped, and I am not sorry for stopping. I do not fear the congregation, nor will I move in the direction of their comfort. I now stand purposefully naked to remind them of a nakedness they can’t see or touch, so they might seek to understand that genuine exposure is the water in the well, not the well.

Waking up in tears is my new way, but it might be that this is how the heart is cleansed, before beginning again. The gratitude and love I feel outweighs every burden and it has been worth carrying all of them to discover.

Don’t stop. Drink. Keep digging.

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