Sitting on my couch at 7pm on Sunday night, I'm exhausted. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I'm home from a 48-hour retreat with seventh and eighth graders. I've spent the last two nights on a mattress on the floor in a cabin in north east Maryland with 10 eighth-grade girls at a Winter retreat for LCBC. Forty-eight hours sharing thoughts with 10 amazing young women. I'm a 41-year-old mother of two. I'm a writer and inactive lawyer. I've been to Italy, France, England, Ireland...California, New York, Washington D.C., Colorado, and, of course, Alabama (born and raised). I've lived through illness. I've lived through childbirth. I've lived through heartache. I've lived in a 10 by 10 room on Miami Beach scraping to get by and pay enormous student loans.
So I leave for this retreat hoping to reach these girls. Have them open up about what's going on in their lives so we can help them. Let them know that someone's listening. Someone loves them and cares. To be an unjudgemental ear to whatever they need to say. And while I knew I'd enjoy my time with them, I didn't expect them to affect me the way they did. They shared things that made me laugh. They showed strength and beauty and grace in ways that made me literally cry. They reminded me that although they are young, they have wisdom to share.
In referring to the story of Adam and Eve, one of my girls said, "I find it interesting that the Bible says Eve came out of Adam's rib. Because it means we're all connected. And I'll never be alone because I'll always be connected to someone."
Growing up in a Southern Baptist home, I've heard and read the story of Adam and Eve literally hundreds of times. I've heard it used to explain why we bury the dead: "Dust to dust." I've heard it used to describe the terms "man" and woman." I've, sadly, heard it used to justify the subservience of women to men. But I've never heard it used as a metaphor to describe how people are connected. And by a sleepy, eighth-grader.
After I'd finished "The Beauty of Grace," I put it aside for a few months before picking it up to edit it (for the fourth time). In reading through it again, I stumbled on mistakes, but I also stumbled on pieces to expound upon. Although I've read and re-read it a hundred times in the editing process, I still sometimes find something new to fix or work with. Just as when you read a novel a second time, you see things you missed the first time because of the immense layers. There's always something new to discover even when you think you've exhausted it.
And sometimes it isn't you who sees the nuance, but someone unexpected. Sometimes even a child. If we open our hearts and minds, our view of something we thought we'd examined exhaustively can be renewed. Deepened. Bettered.