I Ache

This is a little weird for me; usually when I write a post for this (which is oh so rare these days), it’s EITHER sharing a poem I’ve written OR sharing ramblings or musings on something I’ve been reflecting on. But this is a bit of both.

We all have aches, wounds. We all have a story, a life that no one earthly person knows in its entirety except ourselves, and in each of our stories, there are gaps, hurts, cuts, bruises, gashes, major traumas that color our very vision, tiny but persistent aches that form undercurrents to the music of our lives. We have joys, too; moments of light, seconds or days or months or years long, intense and immediate or subtle and hidden, sprung on us out of nowhere or persistently present, all of them precious.

But it’s so, so easy to retreat from the wounds into the joys. It’s probably a little redundant; it’s not like we seek out wounds. But we come to them nevertheless. We carry them. Spaces crying out with voices we don’t want to hear. Longings we wish would go away. Tears we wish we didn’t have to cry. It’s hard. It really is.

But there’s something about the ache that needs to be seen.

I recently was uprooted, thrown into a place of turmoil. Leaving behind a career, leaving behind friends and a place of relative happiness and peace, familiar yet new places, familiar yet new people, and above all, loneliness. That’s always been my big ache. I think deep down that’s everyone’s big ache. Finding oneself at the end of the day, with just yourself, who you are, where you are, and that’s just…it. And you have a choice: face yourself, everything you want and need, everything you hope for and regret, everything that hurts…or run. Distract. Keep moving and keep thinking of anything, anything else, until you fall asleep, wake up, and start over again. And no matter how often you might choose the second option, eventually even that isn’t an option anymore.

So it’s just me. And until rather recently, more recently than I’d care to admit, it seemed my only option then was to wallow in it. To think of others. People I’d left behind. People I just wanted to hold and tell them how much I cared about them. People I wanted to be with so bad it hurt, knowing that I never could, which hurt even more. People I knew now who seemed destined to fall into that same category. To sit alone, in my ache, and just…ache.

So…it’s been rather a new thing for me to look back and realize that these spaces of aching and realize that…well, that I’m glad they’ve happened.

Don’t get me wrong. This ache sucks.

But seeing myself and who I am and where I am now, I don’t think I’d trade them away.

The thing is…it’s in these aches that I found God. Or maybe more accurately, that He found me. Maybe even more accurately, that He finally got through to me. That part in St. Augustine’s Confessions where he talks about the Lord calling and shouting, breaking through my deafness? I feel like those aches are where the Lord broke through. It’s in that ache that I first asked Him to see me, know me, love me, and He told me He already did. It’s in that ache that I begged Him to change me and take away what I hated about myself, and instead, He told me how much He loved me as I am. It’s in that ache that I yelled out at Him that I was fighting for Him, and with nothing but patience and love, He told me that He was fighting for me too.

It’s in the ache that I first discovered what it means to be God’s beloved.

So would I rather not have this ache? Well, yes…but also no. Because as Jean Vanier puts it so perfectly, “The wound in all of us, and which we are all trying to flee, can become the place of meeting with God and with brothers and sisters; it can become the place of ecstasy and of the eternal wedding feast. The loneliness and feelings of inferiority which we are running away from become the place of liberation and salvation.”

So when I come to that ache again (and I will, countless times before this pilgrimage is done), I’m going to try, and I hope you will too, to invite Christ into that space with me. To ask Him to just sit with me there. To be close to Him. To love Him, and to know better His love for me.

And from my heart to all those who have ever had a place there, here’s the poem that came out of this reflection. It’s potentially the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever written…I hope that it helps someone out there to reflect on how God has worked in their own wounds, and maybe assures all those who don’t already know it just how much He loves them.


I ache to tell you that you matter,

to echo in my fragile frame

the terpsichorean tremors

that murmured you into being:

It is good that you exist.


Unbidden, unplanned,

the song of Adam rises from my fragile frame,

Bone of my bones!

Flesh of my flesh!

Well-intentioned, beautiful,

but broken,

it falls into fragments

and rests unevenly in my soul.


So great the heap of these broken songs,

unspoken words,

unrealized dreams.



they rot away at secret structures,

half-formed hopes,

plans barely begun,

that I thought mattered.


So easy,

so tempting,

to believe that the death of my infant dreams

kills with it all that I hold dear.


So easy to believe that nothing matters.


But it matters.


You matter.


It matters

that when I am parched,

the sapphire pools in your eyes

make me thirst for the Living Water.


It matters

that when I sit in darkness,

the light of your smile

illuminates my wounds for my Healer to see.


It matters

that when time unfairly rips you from me

(you who were never mine to keep),

when the halls of my heart must make their final farewell,

when I am broken open,

I will stretch and tear all the wider

for the One Who cannot be contained.


Loving you wounds me.

Sharp is the spear

that tears open my heart

when you look at me

and somehow love me.


Loving you heals me.

Tender is the touch

of the words you fumble to find

to tell me I matter.


Remorseless, my lately love, am I

in choosing you

over safety and solitude.


Regretless, my lately love, am I

in making a place for you

at the hearth of my heart.


I choose you.


I choose the pain,

the balm,

the caress of the cross

which you carry

in your own fragile frame.


I choose this lesser way,

this greater way,

this rocky road to Calvary.


I choose to see

in every step,

every ache,

every breath,

the great gradual romance

of the One Who first loved me.


I choose to say,

with every word,

spoken and unspoken,

“You matter.”

Posted on March 8, 2019, in Insights. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Love this Sean. Been feeling that ache very acutely lately. I needed this.

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