The memories are a bit of a blur, naturally. One is of me running – aimlessly, wildly – back to my dorm and hurling down the concrete steps to the floor. Blood spilled from my chin and I ran to the toilet, confused, until my sweet friend found me. I still have the scar. Another memory I have is being in our regular Monday night club. It was ‘school night’. And though I’d been drunk out of my mind every other night for months, suddenly I had a moment of clarity, seeing all these students dressed as little girls but with a lewd twist. I couldn’t stand it. I found myself running home, alone, in my party shoes. I sat in my little dorm room, stared at the moon and out of my heart came one word. God.
I name you, though you do not know me. Isaiah 44. I read it, this week, surrounded by a white duvet, eight years on.
I think of how He named me back then. He wrote a song over my days, that said Beloved. You do not know me, but I know you. You are lovely. You are cherished. In and out of rooms I shouldn’t have been in and He still cried it over me. You are perfect. You are holy. You have a destiny. Up and down the stairs, bottle of anything in hand. I have a plan for you. You don’t know it yet, but you are going to shake nations, beloved. Broken and searching. Eyes glazed over and hungry. Beloved. Full of beauty and promise.
And one day, I turned my eyes towards Him. And the kindness I found there was overwhelming. Warm tears rolled down my cheeks and I felt like I was walking into sunshine. And even when I fell down again, there He was. A Father, singing that song over me. Just like I read this week, I name you
. Naming me with all sorts of wondrous, beautiful names and I could hardly breathe with the sheer luck of it. That the God of all things was actually kind
beyond all kindnesses, and He looked at me with love.
As you know, we are in Cape Town. Resting and laughing and reading and cooking. Relishing little luxuries so rare to us like buying ice tea and running along the beach and painting. And then Willow got sick. Everything goes under when a baby is ill. We are awake multiple times every night, often for hours. Patting and singing and shushing and feeding and nothing is working. We are tag-teaming and collapsing. Eating chocolate and drinking caffeine. She got better and but her sleep remains crazily broken, breaking us.
I have felt nauseous with the exhaustion of spending 3 a.m. until 5 a.m. wide awake pouring my guts out for my little love. Sometimes I’ve barely looked Him in the eye, I have been so tired, escaping into a little mecca of screens until I shut my eyes at night. Sometimes I have railed against Him. Sometimes I feel like I’m dropping the ball. I’m not praying enough. I’m not passionate enough. I’m not impacting enough. I’m not playing with my toddler enough. And for sure there are a thousand experts who will tell me my baby should be sleeping better than this by now if I just mothered enough.
And then I find myself, surrounded by my duvet, reading these words.
I name you, though you do not know me.
Because I understand kindness for the drunken mess of a girl at the bottom of the concrete stairs. I understand that she needed it badly then, she thirsted for it and she was given to drink, deeply. I understand she couldn’t get out of the hole except by this lavish, overwhelming love.
And then, somewhere inside me, I think it runs out. Because it’s time to get up and go to work. Because I’m saved now and He’s given me enough to run hard after Him. So if I’m tired and I can’t produce the goods, all I’ve got to do is try harder. It’s time to show Him I am strong and holy after all.
I name you, though you do not know me. The source of my everything, these words. The source of my everything, this grace.
His kindness shines like the sun, just like all those years ago. His face is still the same. His eyes have not changed. And while I’m busy scurrying and proving and fighting and failing, my belovedness falls me on like gentle rain. I never had to do anything to prove it. It was always a gift. And all those names start being echoed out around my house. When I’m tired and I’m picking half-chewed food from the floor, there He sings Chosen. When I’m looking down at my offering and it feels so small, He says glorious. When I’m frustrated and aching and searching, there He soothes me with beautiful daughter, you are my heart’s desire.
We have this in common, the drunken teenager-me and the 27-year-old mother-me. We both thirst for his kindness. We both hope with all our hearts that this love which seems too good to be true is, in fact, truer than the air we breathe. We both need it more than we can say.
And it is. It’s all true. Just as it was for me back then, it is for me now. Kindness and grace and tenderness. Deep wells of mercy in His eyes, as He looks at me the same. The same way He gazed at my newborn frame wrapped in blankets, the same way He laughed over me as a child playing in the grass, the same way He sang over me until His throat was raw in nightclubs and bars, the same way He delights – delights – in me as I walk before as a mother, but really a little girl wrapped up in big-girl skin. He’s kind. And it’s all lovelier than anything I can say, lovelier than the sea I gaze at now, sparkling in the sun.