She’d lived in the village as long as anyone could remember.
Her hair was thinning, salt and pepper grey,
And her eyes paled by days
numbering into more years
than polite company would ask for the grand total of.
Not that she was ever shy
Of letting you know her age,
“What is there to hide about that?
The longer I’m here the more I’ve got to be grateful for.”
It was late when the doorbell rang.
She wasn’t expecting anyone.
It was Sheila.
A young woman who’d lived next door
For maybe 3 years now.
Grace welcomed her in
And walked towards the kitchen:
“I was just about to put the kettle on.”
Sheila followed her into the kitchen,
Watched her plant two tea bags into two cups,
fill them from the kettle
And out of the crumbs of polite conversation
“I’m sorry to call so late, Grace -
You’ll think I’m daft butSometimes, When Billy’s on night shift
Sometimes...I get a bit feart.No so much in the summer –But when the dark nights are in...
It’s the dark.Imagine being scared of the dark at my age.”
“You'll no be the last person to be scared of the dark.
The dark’s a trickster -
it calls out to all the broken and fearful shapes
That hide in the corner of our hearts,
the things we can distracted ourselves from during the day."
Sat together in the kitchen, as if it were a confession box,
Sheila brought out a few of those shapes.
“Billy’s Job’s no that secure…There’s talk about moving the plant to India.He doesn’t say, but I know he’s worried.And my sister's no keeping that well –we don’t know what it is…
And I was passing the church this morning -
did you see all the people arrive for the funeral –of that poor girl -
terrible- isn't it- And I thought...you know...
I mean most of the time I'm fine
I never think twice -
but sometimes this fear, it fills up inside me:
What if something happened to me;
What if something happened to Billy - or one of my family."
“You and I know, hen,
Out there – anything can happen", Grace said,
"Out there canny be controlled -some trouble or other
will always find its way to our door.
I’ve had my share of disappointment,
God knows I’ve seen people away
I couldn’t bare to think of losing...
But what Iv'e learned is,
well, we can choose to live in the endless procession
of "what ifs...or we can do something else."
"Like what?" Sheila asked
"We can trust."
The watermill of age often brought tears to her eyes
Without the need of emotion, that was getting old for you,
But these welling tears
were drawn up from the cistern of her heart.
"There is a door
In every moment we are in.
It opens up into a refuge for us.
There's a shelter in our days,
A safe place for our nights -
and we all need a safe place to go to -
And God is mine.
Each morning I open my eyes,
each night before I close them again
I go to my safe place:
God is my refuge,
who I trust.
I trust him with the people I love
and the folk I've lost.
I trust him with what I wanted to happen
that never came to pass.
I trust him with the things I can do
and the things I can't
I trust him with all I've still to get sorted out."
Grace stretched out her arm
And pulled back the curtains,
Outside the raven wings of night
spread into a thick and impenetrable darkness.
"I’ve learned how God won’t save me from trouble
But he will save me in it."
"How can you be so sure, Grace?"
Because I’ve lived it, hen:
When money was tight,
When I had to let go of what I hoped for,
When what I never asked for knocked me off my feet.
He was there – with me –
And that got me through…
When my weans were wee
there were days when something happened,
one of them fell outside or something,
and in they'd come, greetin,
And wouldn'y settle for anybody else's arms but mine.
I'd sit with them in my arms.
Their knee wasn'y any less sore,
but they came to me
and brought what was sore,
to be held in my arms.
When I cling to God with a child’s grasp
He carries me through the terror,
Through the unwelcome surprise,
Through the helplessness of what canny be changed.
He's promised to shelter and protect
Those who know his name."
"And what is his name?"Sheila asked.
"You know his name
When you understand how
Mercy is more important than judgement;
You know his name
When love is your first choice and your last;
You know his name
When the hurting become visible to you and you care;
You know his name
When everything you have and everything you are
Is received as a gift.
I learned his name when I was a wee girl
singing hymns on a Sunday - Sometimes
the words were like arms lifting me up
To be kissed by God as I was singing…
I trust him."
"What’s it like - Trusting God?"
"Sometimes it’s like hanging off a cliff edge
And you call out - help -is there anybody there -
anybody who can help me?
And a voice calls back: Let go – I’ll catch you."
"I know how I'd answer that," Sheila said,
"Is there anybody else there."
"But that’s the point, hen,
It’s no until you let go
And start to trust him with the weight
of all you are living,
that you’ll find him there for you."
They finished there tea.
"Thanks Grace,For taking the time, I meanTo listen to me."
The young woman rose and went with Grace to the door.
"Will it always be like this Grace?"
Grace stood by the open door, and before Sheila passed through
her voice dropped, as though
this was something she'd never said,
never told anyone before,
"Sometimes, when I’m still and it's quiet and I'm praying,
Praying without saying a word,
or sometimes I’ll hear a piece of music
Or a memory will find me from nowhere,
and I catch sight of something…
"What is it that you see?"
"Something too beautiful for words:
How God has made all things for love,
That its by love he keeps them,
And shall keep them forever.
Our troubles are no a full stop, Sheila,
they are just a comma,
In this life and the day we hand it back -
We belong to God.
And I know, like in my bones, I k n o w -
all will be well."
They smiled at one another and said goodnight.
And the door closed,
and the night was still dark
and the whole of it all
was held in the bosom of God
within the uncreated light.