The morning after Kiara’s first shower, I am surprised to see her come through to the lounge for school with her head uncovered. Our littlest two have passed thoughtless comments in the past: “Freaky!”; “Scary”; “Mommy, make her put her hat on.” She just smiles at them sweetly, accustomed to little children. On this morning, one of us gives her a compliment, to which she raises her chin with a royal grace, and again that sweet smile, but her glistening eyes expose hidden hurt.
We begin our morning worship, and as the others are singing, Kiara sits with her chin on one knee. She shrugs when I ask her if she is okay, and I take her in my arms. She smells of Savlon and sticky adhesive that will take days to wash out, but I stroke and kiss her head, and her unspoken sorrow seeps from her eyes. It is the compliment that has undone her. What if people think she chooses to look like this? I whisper in her ear about the beautiful long hair that is growing, and the crown of beauty she will have. That she is indeed the princess-ballerina, and not the funky, pixie-type. “But it’s just that you truly do look stunningly beautiful this way, too!”
My words are too weak to heal, and I beckon discreetly to her oldest sister and brother to come and pray. They place hands on her shoulders, and Kiara allows herself to break. She sobs more tears than she ever has - my strong, strong girl bowed by sibling-kindness. The younger boys gather around and soon they are praying aloud and a few have words straight from heaven brought as gifts in grubby hands. “Kiara, God says you’ll never be alone,” and “Kiki, God says you are so courageous.” And we cry together, for the fight she has won, and for the battles ahead that we thought she could manage without us.
In the afternoon, it is a brother who is sad. Deep disappointment at being dropped from a sports team. We have to peel him off the bed to get him to go to practice. He sits sullen in the backseat and I remember morning prayers. “Kade, put your hand on your brother. We’re going to pray for him, too.” And we do.
Again, sweet, fumbled prayers on lips of babes, but sibling-love is powerful thing, and God speaks clearly. Another brother hears a heavenly whisper and gives a perfect word. It has the power to creep under the broken boy’s skin, and encouragement births courage in him. When we arrive at the school they tumble out the car with heavenly purpose and the will to fulfil it. I am left wondering…
What is this strange atmosphere that has been birthed in my home? These are the same kids who squabble over carseats, who speak without thinking, who think mostly of themselves…
I am reminded of my recent introduction to home-grown granadillas, picked off the vine on a garden fence. As I cracked the leathery skin with my teeth, it burst open, leaving sticky sweetness all over my face. Even my hair was dripping with juice. It was worth it!
And I shake my head in awe and wonder at the way Kiara’s brokenness has left sweetness dripping through our family. She teaches us how to crack tough skins and expose soft hearts, and we accept the invitation of delicious intimacy.
Because life is busy and skin toughens for protection, and soon we have no idea what is hiding within. Mother and father and brother and sister, cohabiting houses and hiding hearts.
O, but sweet brokenness! Sweet brokenness breaks leathery skin and lets love in. Kiara has generously let us see her naked soul, even with it’s silly shame and pointless pride. She has let us in, and in doing so she has set a new normal. Days slip by and it becomes our way… we share our hurts and hopes; we take time to know and be known.