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Cracks In the Concrete: Let the Light In

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

I have the tendency to do something awesome and then get my little brother to do it later. I don’t know what exactly it is. Maybe I tend to hype things up? Maybe I’m like if it was amazing for me, you need this in your life too? Not entirely sure.

All I know is, I’m positive my summer with Love Thy Neighborhood was the best summer of my life. It was 2020. Who says that? Haha, I do. And I think probably everyone else who lived at 514 St. Catherine. The summer was just different. Just so entirely set apart. Holy, holy in all the simple, ordinary ways of living in authenticity, trustworthiness, openness, care, compassion, and friendship.

That summer opened me up to a life of love, light, color, spirit, visions, dreams, emotions, and music. Courage, risk, faith, boldness, confidence. I felt like I belonged in a way I never had before. It was absurdly good. It was electrifying.

It was three of us. Roommates. Prayer partners. Sojourn Church intern pals. What didn’t we do together? Surprise twenty-first birthday parties with tacos and blueberry pie. Picnics every day at the park for our lunch breaks—except in the rain. Spaghetti in the kitchen and conversations about boys. Talks on the porch with Bibles open and hours of prayer. Tears and written letters and held hands. Life, life.

Three years later, almost to the day. We were reunited. She told us whenever she would get married, we would be standing with her. We did. We will. Stand with her, holding up her arms. Praying for victory in the battles ahead.

We used to talk about who we were, out there on the porch. Like, identity. Autumn Grace was a lion. Full of power and grace. Bold. Beautiful. “When he shakes his mane, there will be spring again.” Full of life. Q was a waterfall. Healing, gentle healing. Flowing into the sea for a multitude of fish. Uniting, unifying. I was a mariposa. A butterfly. Unique. Wonderfully different. Something that brings happiness just by fluttering by. People notice.

Two years later: Cam. I don’t know if it was my fault he chose to intern with Love Thy Neighborhood. All I know is he knew my story. He applied. Got in. And I was over THE MOON. We called and talked about all the fun and wonderful and exciting things that were in store for his summer. 2022.

I don’t know how exactly to write what happened next. It’s almost too painful. What was sheer joy—the art of learning love, freedom, and healing—to me has come and is still coming to Cameron, but through pain.

Because it’s 2023. A year later. And he’s still broken from the accident. And I don’t know how or why. I guess I do a little. But mostly I just want to know. How long? How long until my brother is restored?

A year ago: the accident. The concussion. Playing basketball. Shoulder to neck, bone hitting, coming down, slamming a new reality. It was abrupt. Loud. Tense. Like a basketball dropped on concrete.

Wham. The hollow sound sucking life, so much life. A whole year. Stripping. Stripping light, face to face, work, study, play. Joy, laughter, moments. Stealing a thousand things it could never give back.

The ball drops. A concrete slab of dark. Cold. Quiet. Isolated. Hard. Pain. Can you imagine running smack? Into a world of concrete black? Laying flat on your back? A year of tears. Never-sung goodbyes. Wounds. Anxieties. So many hours alone, alone, alone. Suffering wordlessly. Separated by a thousand pains, fears, and anxieties. Gone.

But. There may still be cracks in the concrete to let light in. Life like water for a parched plant in the sidewalk. I have seen exceedingly more than a sliver of light in the rock-hard slab beneath the feet where my brother has walked.

It’s wild, wild, wild how something small can change you so much. It’s the power of moments. There’s really nothing we can do to prepare. Nothing we can do to be ready for everything that will happen to and around us. There’s so MUCH beyond our power, consciousness, comprehension. A world of unseen mystery—leaving us vulnerable. To pain. To love.

A year ago, I learned something about forgiveness I had never seen before. Forgiveness, especially the really difficult kind, is like when something wrong has been done. And you have to suffer through the healing process with YOUR WHOLE SELF. Body. Heart. Mind. Kind of like pouring hydrogen peroxide on a scrape or cut. It stings, it stings so bad. But our bodies, hearts, minds—are amazing. Healing happens through hurting. Like salt water in a cut.

And ever since Cam’s concussion, it’s been different. Earthquake. Cracks opening. Yanking wide, wide open. Exposing heartache. Disoloding darkness and isolation. Ripping this up out of me, my family. Stuff that’s been long buried beneath our feet. We really didn’t even know it was there. We just lived in it, you know?

This. This is forgiveness. Healing through the hurt. Power and strength through powerlessness and vulnerability. Ugly yet beautiful roots and ripples of space on basketball courts. I hate them. They hurt so much. They tear and it’s fire inside your bones. But they’re also freedom.

When I was eleven or twelve, it was icy in Indiana. Snowy, white, flurries. All of it. We lived across the road from a pond. Iced over, mysterious, taunting. Dad was with me. He said I could walk across it. I was way too ready. I got halfway. Maybe more like two thirds. Suddenly it was thin there. And I didn’t know where else to step. So I did. And I fell in, hands first. Legs sinking into melted glacier.

And then it was only a few feet deep. Relief. I think I probably laughed it off. Trudged up. Dad was there pulling me out. But his eyes. His voice: panic. Frost bite? Malaria? Hypothermia? My little heart started racing a thousand miles a minute. Run, run, run! She said inside me. Go, go, go!

I started. I tried to. But my legs were blocks. Hard ice. Dad and I stumbled our way over to our house across the road. Each step growing less cold and more nothing. Nothing but heavy—ice and fear.

It was the last thing on earth I wanted. But I went inside our house. And got in the bath tub. I think mom made the water slightly warm. Like not even luke warm. It was fire. Fire all over me. Fingers, toes. I had to go through the fire to melt.

I think I used to view healing as black and white. Hurt. Then Heal. But sometimes, that’s not how it goes. It goes hurt. Hurt really, really bad. So bad it seems like it shouldn’t hurt that bad. Like it’s magnified. And suddenly so out of control, blown up.

You’re spinning in black and the stars are all upside down and Earth feels like it's slipping, slipping, slipping. Bowling ball under your feet. Can’t keep your balance. Now you’re upside down inside. Or outside. Or which one? Don’t know, don’t know.

And then you don’t know anything. And everything goes gray. And your mind does too. Your heart. You’re walking around like a human marshmallow. All squishy and fragile and vulnerable and porous. But you’ve spent too much time in the open air. What once was soft is now impenetrable.

You’re hard and you can’t be any other way or else will you survive? You’re a shell. Crystalized sugar coating. It’s your armor.

You’re almost too rock hard to want to soften, except there’s a little… little tiny part of yourself that hates being so frozen. Heavy and fear and nothing. You’ve GOT TO MELT. You’ve just got to. And you know it’s going to mean cracking. And that’s going to hurt like hell, literal hell. But it cannot happen any other way.

It’s just a moment, sometimes. Sometimes it’s just an afternoon playing basketball in the summer light with new friends. Other times it’s a season—yet a moment, still.

Two years ago was mine—the I’ll just go play a game of ball with my friends and it’s going to be cool. And it’s not. For me, it was the I’ll just go halfway across the globe to study abroad for a few months and it’ll be an adventure. And it’s my destruction. That was my basketball shoulder jam.

Two whole years ago. And since then, ripping. Absolutely ripping everything up. Tearing up all the foundation and throwing it out and putting some of it back in. Stars upside down, bowling ball topple, marshmallow armor, ice, and fire. It was me. All of it.

So many wounds that hurt way too much. Stung way too deep it didn’t make sense in any way, heart, mind, body. Except that I realized this papercut wasn’t the real one, it was something deeper. It was sore, it was smarting because of the old, old one from way back.

Hello, little fragile Alyssa. You’re so tiny, hello. You’ve been hurt. Your heart is so fluttery.

And that’s why this papercut right now stings so damn impossible.

There’s so much more beneath the water. So much under that top layer of ice. An iceberg’s got to break. Crack. Melt. Waterfall.

Ingredients of time and time and more time. Hugs from loved ones and an unexpected amount of tears and mostly just living. Sitting. Standing. Walking. Fetal position. Huddled. Prostrate. Slowly, slowly. Gentle like the light pink at the corner of morning on the sky. A hello waving over the ocean. Lapping to my feet with laughter and salt.

Wounds are healing. Hurting as they come out. They come out screaming sometimes. Hydrogen peroxide stinging in the concrete rip.

That’s where I realized I HAD to hurt. Because there was so, so much history deeper still. In the wading, gentle through my story. I had become so lost in the hurt, because I’d been there before, long before. And this paper cut dragged it up again. I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know why suddenly I was thrust into space between galaxies and star dust and ice and life and death.

I was hanging there all along.

And now? Cam and I are not where we were before. We were hurting deeper there than we were now maybe? But we had zero idea. It was all covered up under the ice. And now, the melting.

Melting is spring. Melting is water, gushing. Dry plants, drinking. Growing up from cracks in concrete. Beauty. Resiliency. Hope.

Cameron is not the same. He is more beautiful, so much more. I’ve seen more kindness, gentleness, humility, authenticity. So much more care, thinking of others, showing honor, and forgiveness. More of that in him over the past twelve hell, melty months than before.

It’s tricky. This thing we do to find goodness out of darkness. There’s part of me that hates it, still. But if there’s no goodness to search out, then it’s only darkness, I’ve seen. The concrete is unending. There’s no cracks in the iceberg. No trickle of melting. The water in the bathtub might be fire. But it’s the one little little thing that lights the way.

So thank you to the papercuts, the stings, and the salt-sea. Thank you to the hurting that’s whispers of healing. More whole. More than just your finger-tip. More toward the stars in your eyes, your mind, your heart, your veins. Worlds, galaxies. All inside and around.

And so there’s hope, always a little more. In the same breath: Heal him more, Abba. Heal all of us. All of us.

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