I am sitting on a bench, hard up against the wall. My sweet smelling babe is nestled into my neck, breathing milk into my collar bones. The room is filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, prayer to prayer. I am smiling and chatting, showing off my baby but inside myself I’m thankful I wore waterproof mascara, already feeling the prick and sting of tears.
Because today is graduation day at Mercy.
I remember the days that these three young women arrived here. (One dark haired young beauty was our very first resident.) Oh, I can’t express the restoration, the transformation.
We sing songs loud, proclamations rising, “Oh, how He loves us!” And then grace is where we’re sinking, my eyes only seeing the row of daughters in the front, their thin hands raised to a smooth ceiling. I can’t even sing because all I want to do is listen to them sing their freedom song loud, out ahead of their fears.
Is it too much if I slip off my shoes? Today they are standing, transformed, and their very presence turns this laminate floor, this packed classroom into holy ground.
We pray and they stand nervous in front of their friends and family, our staff and residents to unfold sheets of well-read computer paper. They read out loud about dark depression and the need to cut their own flesh, skipped meals and skeletal frames, exhaustion and how no party, no man, no friend, no frenzy, no alcohol, no drug could calm their racing heart. They spoke of chains that bound, cages that held them in, wings that had been clipped.
Then they spoke of freedom. Of hard work and discipline, three steps back for one step forward, progress in long, steady, determined gait, nights of breakthrough, of the ministry of scripture, of music, of friends and unconditional love. Their voices changed tone from the sadness and defeat of the past to the strong ring of strength and courage because now they knew who they really were: a child of God, beloved.
A dad hasn’t moved for the entire hour, I’m watching him, wiping his tears and I think he’s remembering what she looked like when she was three and the world hadn’t touched her yet. There is a mourning in him but his back is straight and then he rises up to call her blessed before us all.
Other dads, mums are conspicuous by their absence but even that is okay, let go, forgiven and released. There is a community of father-and-mother-hearts here around her.
We are celebrating them, adorning their necks with jewellery that bears the legend Created Chosen Cherished because they are.
My hand is cradled around the crown of my youngest daughter’s head, fingers lightly resting on her soft spot. I like to think I can keep her from feeling or experiencing any of this but a part of me is here, giving myself just a bit – about the size of a mustard seed, praying that I am sowing something graceful into their lives. I can’t explain why I feel it but I there it is – I am guarding my own baby girls by being a part of the guarding of these girls.
Their bags are packed by the front door. Today is the day for the rest of their new lives to begin.
It’s thrilling and terrifying, this freedom.
God, they’re beautiful, standing up there, smiling and unburdened. We are all on our feet and we’re hollering, we’re clapping, we’re crying, we’re loving them and crying out, “You did it!” and “Praise God!” and “Glory! Glory! Glory!” because it is glorious.
I’m crying into Evelynn’s neck and my husband is beside me wiping tears and I know we’ll keep giving money, we’ll keep telling their stories to our friends, I’ll keep working here, we’ll keep doing any small, small thing we can so that another girl and another and another can experience this moment.
I try not to write about Mercy Ministries of Canada too much. I don’t want to share stories that aren’t mine to share, after all. But sometimes I can’t help myself. I hope you know that I don’t speak for the ministry or our staff, board and founder in any way at all, this is just me and my own thoughts.