Seeing Red

The trees were all turning brown.

All just giving up, browning, dying, without even the attempt at color.

Too parched, too worn out, too long of a blazing hot dry summer to give way to one last heaving breathe of beauty before the fall.

Instead just brown.

I guess this is how I often feel- dry, defeated, crispy. Too worn out, too long of a hard hot season to give any color.

We were driving one day and I saw it, this sudden bright blaze of red.

And I didn’t have a good camera or a stagnant position, but in that moving vehicle with a cell phone, I had to snap it. Because who can resist photographing hope?

That red, that bright red coming on to defiant tree that said “I will not give up” and brought a glimpse of the fall that almost wasn’t. And since then, more, more trees with more color and more hope.

But red hasn’t always meant hope or perseverance or joy. It has meant death and dreams dashed and in a single blink, terror.

From that moment, that very moment that “Jesus Loves Me” sang out of my mouth and my eyes glanced down and saw red streaming around my ankles, red has been a color of trigger, a color of grief.

I remember, months later, bathing the boys in that same scarred bathroom, trying to make light, happy memories instead. Color tablets to play with, dissolving in the water, wishing memories could dissolve so easily, and my four year old stands up from the water. A red tablet slowly melting down him, down his legs in red streams, and we all saw it, the same flashbacks. And the four year old looks nervous, looks at his legs, and asks me, “bleed?”

No darling, I blink and battle the waves of PTSD, no, it’s not, you’re okay. And I swish water quickly, wash the moment away.

And then there was the day in the kitchen. Pulling a wet washed cookie sheet out of the dishwasher, not realizing rusty water seeped in corners. Walking to put the sheet away, and looking down to see red drops. Catching myself mid-moment in panic, realizing they were just rust drops. Yet even after the realization, drops of red still grip my mind and I’m jarred, dry, crispy.

I never knew, before, anger could be a sign of anxiety, never knew what it meant as a stage of grief, never dealt with anger like I did, after.

But those months post-trauma, I faced my fierce anger for the first time. Up to this point, I had not been an angry person, never had struggled with such a short fuse, and I would have told you that in the wake of recovery, I would surely be more patient, more joy-filled. Yet I found myself deeply angry and lashing out over the smallest of last straws. Last straws that broke the broken’s battered back, rage overflowing over what seemed like nothing, but roots deep in deep loss. Tiny troubles, and I would see red, anger blazing, frustration burning.

The guitar strums, my small group leader’s voice sings, her sweet voice filling my house of hard recollections.

“Where Your love ran red…”

She sings of red, red hope, red love.

I experience the peace that passes understanding, the intense anxiety of the day, of the weeks, for this moment dissolved. We sing of Jesus’ blood streaming, and I know, as I sing it, “here my hope is found.”

Hope found in His blood poured out, it gives me hope for mine.

And I remember my counselor saying it, as I ached under trigger pressures, what is Communion but a trigger? He invites us, take this cup and remember.

Remember My blood, remember the red, remember the stream.

Take this cup and trigger yourself and recall the most horrific of horror scenes.

Come be triggered with this scene in holy communion and trigger yourself to worship and trigger yourself to amazement and trigger yourself to hope.

And His red blood, it makes all the difference, all the difference

This is the deepest of defiant red hope, the dry crispy dying places resurrected to red relief. When red memories haunt me, I look farther back in time and kneel at that cross and remember His red hope poured out for me, and I’m seeing red in a new way. And I hear “this is My body, broken for you,” broken for me, the broken, and I have hope.

Real red hope for real red terror and real red anger, and isn’t this the great flipping of the upside down Kingdom?

The King triumphs with trauma and all has hope.

All has hope.

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