The Man with the Tattoo

I wish I knew your name, my friend.

You sit down near us in a sea of people, and I am immediately drawn to your story. A tattoo under your right eye jumps from your face, but I can’t distinguish the word it says.

At first you appear a traveler like the rest of us. A heavy olive jacket to keep you warm, a knitted skullcap covering your head. Your large red suitcase showing its years of use sitting next to you.

We sit next to one another at Grand Central in the place where the masses gather to catch a meal or just pass the time. As I blow to cool my tomato soup, you eat too. But you are not a traveler like the rest of us.

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Your meal is in a can. Do you eat cold soup tonight? Or are they beans? You eat with gratefulness, and I am grateful with you.

We sit just feet apart, and everything in me wants to ask you your name and listen to what brought you here. How did you get to this place? What is the word stamped on your face? What does it tell of your story?

You turn to your giant red suitcase, the one packed with all you own. Right there, in the middle of Grand Central Station, you had brought your entire life. You rustle for a moment and then seem content to just reorder.

On the night we sit, it is cold outside. Hot soup warms our insides as layers and scarves warm our skin. Your jacket is not made for this weather. Maybe that is why you are inside. You wear well-worn black Asic sneakers. They are old with scuffed leather and look one size too small. You wear them without socks on this chilly night.

Friend, do you have socks? Does your red suitcase carry warmth to cover your feet?

We sit longer still. You because there is nowhere to go and me because I can’t seem to leave your story behind. I wonder what your name is. I want to hear how you got to this place. What pain do you carry on this night?

You suddenly begin an animated conversation. You talk to the empty chair across from you with passion. And you begin to rock.

As you talk and rock, you push up the sleeves on your worn olive jacket. More tattoos are revealed, and you bear scars. Are they the marks of one seeking healing through the highs of a needle?

Does a needle drive you now, my friend? Are you here but lost in euphoria? I see your eyes, and they look present. I think you are here. I think you see the fullness of reality.

You rock and talk and then you seem to disappear. Where have you gone and what madness has hold of you?

I think of where you’ll sleep tonight, and I hope you’ll be warm. I hope the night takes you to a place where you are known.

I pray joy for you. I pray for someone in your life to bear witness to your suffering. I pray you would know the comfort of human touch and the love of someone who cares about your very precious story.

I pray you would know how deeply you are loved by the God of the universe. He sees you, my friend. He grieves the pain written on your heart. You are worth more to Him than all the silver the world can hold. You are so, so valuable.

God knows your name. Not just the one spoken once by your mother but your true name. He knows you fully.

I can delay leaving no longer. I have to go. I won’t forget this night in a train station in a city I do not live. You have not even seen my face, but I am the one who will pray for you the rest of my days. I will not forget your dark, tattooed face. I have seen you.

And I wish I knew your name.

 

 

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The Land of the Living

Last week I shared my story with the team I work alongside. They are a grace-filled and safe place. Though answers are few, it is good to be known. It is good to let others help carry my weight. I am grateful for the opportunity to borrow hope.

One who has walked through similar darkness shared a word that challenged me deeply. And planted hope.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

I needed to hear this. I wish I would have heard it six months ago.

Hope feels to be a magical word when in the world of depression. In fact, my best description of depression is the absence of hope. That is what makes it so, so dark.

One of the places I have struggled most is in what my hope should be placed. I thought my hope should be in the resurrection (and in part, it should). But I also desperately need a hope that isn’t an eternity away.

On my darkest days, I longed for the rest heaven would bring. I didn’t want to die as much as I didn’t want to live. Glory is a great hope, but it is far away. I remember the days glory consumed me. I longed to be relieved of the world. I wanted it all to be over.

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During this season, I have clung to God’s word. I have poured over every verse that speaks joy and hope and strength. I have prayed them when I felt the very opposite. I have tried to believe when nothing in me experiences their validity.

When darkness chokes out hope, it is hard to believe there is goodness in the land of the living. It is hard to believe there ever will be goodness in the land of the living.

It is hypothesized several figures from the Bible struggled with depression. David, the author of Psalm 27, is among the most prominent. The psalms read like his ancient blog posts through a darkness of his own.

This verse does not just speak to the hope of glory. It talks about goodness this side of eternity.

So today I am seeking something other than resilience. I am asking for more. I am asking to see the goodness of God in the land of the living.

May the day hasten when I can declare it with the confidence of David.