how writing became my holy prayer [@ the gift of writing]
When I was nearly sixteen I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a progressive curvature of my entire spine.
I was a dancer, suddenly unable to leap across the stage. Mercifully, the dance season was coming to an end, and I danced one last time.
My surgery was scheduled for the fall, a handful of days after my sixteenth birthday. It was what some would call, the prime of my teenage life, and my body was shrinking, threatening to crush my lungs and heart.
I went to the Christian bookstore and purchased a prayer journal, intent on filling the pages with my psalms. As other young girls were suntanning and flicking wet grass from their pink toes, I was mentally preparing to be sliced wide open.
I wrote every night, sometimes crying, near hysterics. Other nights, I was calm, nestled in a place of peace that writing carved out for me.
I wrote out the aches, the yearnings, the desire, to be healed and made whole without a scalpel. I wrote about suffering and praising in the midst of this confusing time.
I wrote songs and sang them to my own tune. I wrote with wild abandon for a fifteen year old. I never wrote out angry words. I wrote to calm the tempest, and it worked.
In the fall I was put under anesthetic for 12 hours, cut open from top to bottom, side to belly. One sole rib was removed, used to cushion the thin, lifeless discs between vertebrae. Months later, I was able to walk without dragging myself around like Frankenstein.
My prayer journal lay untouched. My lips were dry, my heart heavy, everything was angry. My writing was sacred to me, and I felt it had gone unnoticed. I stopped writing for years.
Then I began to travel to some heartbreaking places. I scooped up lifeless infants from the feet of their mothers, saw sorrow played out on the faces of Indian mothers, Egyptian garbage collectors, Romanian street children.
I learned to write again out there in those places, my past sorrows dictating a response of compassion, but not quite understanding. I wrote, somewhat removed, flabbergasted by the daily sufferings of poor, pregnant mothers and the like.
Fast forward a few years. I’m married, currently pregnant and have a two year old daughter. She was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 1, a severe and terminal neuromuscular disease. And the backbone of my faith has been put to the ultimate test yet again. My husband and I were slapped hard with turbulent grief and trauma. We were told our little baby would not grow out of childhood, would never walk, and would wither away before our eyes.
I write these words now, remembering how I processed the first few months after her diagnosis. I couldn’t write those words out, couldn’t give them power, couldn’t believe them to be true. I had to process each word, sometimes through a blur of tears.
But I did write. I wrote all the time. I wrote sobbing, I wrote stunned, I wrote to music, I wrote to heal. I wrote with understanding, and it opened up a whole new well.
People began to stop me at stores, introduce themselves with a hug and say they loved reading my blog. I write to an audience of Christians and non-Christians, many of whom have a child with special needs or illness.
Writing has become my prayer, nothing short of holy. It gives me time to ache, it fills the wordless places with something I am unable to express vocally.
Writing has been redeemed as a sacred art in my life. Words have become a scent, released when I am bruised, an armful of support for those that hurt. Here, I say, I hurt too, I get it.
When I write, it’s a time to cry out in the wilderness: clear the obstacles, make a way here in the desert, prepare a place in the unlikely landscape where we mourn and suffer and try to make sense of things.
Prepare a place. Here, in the dust, the valley of dry bones. Here, words give life and power, move the unseen things, give a voice to the suffering ones.
And most importantly, writing enables the caked over wells to spring up when we aren’t strong enough to speak.
I have learned that taking time and creating a space for words speaks bravery over my heart. The details of my journey need a land to dwell in, a permanent place to imprint and make the shaking ground still, if only for the day.
If only until I pluck away at the keyboard and begin again.