“You were married before?”
“Yes, do you remember him?”
“You were pretty little.”
“He left you?”
Selah looked into my eyes for a minute, the way she has since she was a baby. She reads people that way. Then her mother whispered something in her ear, and then she said:
“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“Thanks for saying that,” I said. “But you know Selah, you were there for me when it happened. You were just three years old, but you were there.”
“Really?” she wrinkled her face, and looked at me as if I was teasing. So I told her.
One day, during the darkest days, I drove to her mother’s house - her mother, being a shelter of friendship during the unexpected unravelling of my marriage. I needed to get out of my apartment. I needed space to be human, and not pretend to be okay. I walked into their house and asked if I could lay down in the guest room. Grief is many things, but it is especially exhausting. I walked past everyone and everything and flopped down on the bed in the corner. I didn’t cry. I just laid there, feeling like a stone that might have water in it, if Moses were around to knock it out of me, and bring it crashing forth.
I laid very still, without expression. It felt good to let my smile muscles go slack - to not have to be anything for anybody. Selah was just a toddler, with big brown eyes and a mischievous smile. I loved her, but she was still getting to know me. She wandered into the back room and found me lying on the bed in the corner, and she knew. She knew I was sad, and she crawled up into the bed and laid down next to me without a sound. She picked up my hand and held it.
A few minutes into the silence, she looked at our hands, intertwined - mine, pale and pink, and hers, dark, velvety brown. She looked at me seriously and I wondered how this precious baby had so much insight and empathy at such a young age. She finally spoke: “You are so white.” I looked back down at our hands and I started to giggle. “It’s true!” I said. She started to giggle too, and we both laid there cracking up, and for a few minutes, I forgot that my life was falling apart.
I told her this, and she looked shocked, then amused, then curious. Selah has the most expressive face. She moved onto another topic and activity, but I am leaving this story here for her to return to. Because there may come a time when she wonders about her gifts. How God has made her, and her place in the Church. I want her to know that, ever since she was a baby, she has known how to love the hurting, and how to make them laugh. And the Church needs this, both empathy and laughter. The Church needs Selah.
Listen to this sketch