A Desperate Kneeling


“The magic of the Incarnation was familiar when I came to adore, to behold, to be awed.  But now I come with grief’s veil draped across my face. “

I kneel beside the manger not because I am reverent, but because I cannot stand.

I bow low beside the Christ not because I am faithful, but because I cannot lift my head.

I have come to see His birth not because I am exceptionally spiritual, but because I am barely surviving.

And I know that this waiting is good. I know that this waiting is the refining work of budding holiness. I know that without the yearning and without the thirst, I might never experience the light of longing fulfilled.

But here I am, kneeling and bowing and barely surviving with two clenched hands on the side of the manger, while the last, wet drips of hope fall from my eyes. And all of the knowing in the world cannot fill the bottomless hole of deep pain.

I come with no gifts of gold or offerings of myrrh. My hands are the empty vessels of my spirit. My wounds are all I have to show for my coming.

The Child lies so close that I can smell his skin and sense his warmth, but I cannot lift my head or raise my body. I cannot see the Love of God come down.

Death’s darkness wraps me close and the company of loss holds me near. In the strangest way, loneliness is my most trusted companion, and sorrow my equal partner.  The magic of the Incarnation was familiar when I came to adore, to behold, to be awed. But now I come with grief’s veil draped across my face. Where is the magic and dare I say, miracle, of this Incarnation when I come struggling to stand and laboring to lift my head?

My son has died. This fact seeps deeper inside of me than the truth I have come to see in the manger. My son has died. This reality is more real to me than the mystery that I have come to unfold in the Babe. My son has died. These four words wash over me like a mighty wave and run through me like a bulging vein. What might I see in the birth of the Christ Child that could be as true and real as the death of my own son?

My God is born. It is the truth of which I am sure, but do not feel. My God is born. It is the reality that I believe, but do not know. My God is born. These four words wash over me like fresh water and run through me like sweet wine. The truth of this holy birth does not diminish the pain of my earthly loss. It does not lessen the grief or soften the blow. It does not negate the sorrow or shorten the mourning.

But all I know is that I can hardly breathe, and right next to me God offers His lungs in the primal wails of a newborn boy. I am barely standing, and here within reach God will learn to crawl and walk along with me in the clumsy, fumbling stride of a toddler. I wonder how I will survive the day –to- day business of life with the constant stabbing of grief. And here in the flesh God, too, is learning to survive, only to bear the painful piercing of the ultimate grief.

So with my hands on the manger and my knees on the ground, I kneel. I kneel not because I am reverent or because I am righteous, but simply because I can no longer stand. My open wound and staggering loss are all I have to bring to this infant King. 

My son has died, and my God is born

May the pain and the power of these two truths keep me forever on my knees with my hands gripping the side of the manger. For perhaps it is only in this desperate kneeling that I will rise with the hand of Love Come Down.


Image credit: Scrapbook Sunburst Stock, by Backgroundsetc. on flickr

Settle Monroe
I am grounded to the earth in a beautiful life with two sons. I am rooted in heaven with the promise of life eternal with another son who leapt into his Father’s arms in October of 2011. I write about the joy and pain of living heart-broken but heart-swollen in the valley of love and loss at my blog, As I Walk.
Settle Monroe

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  • Rebecca

    October 2011 is when we lost our twins through an early miscarriage, and with the emergency surgery, my ability to bear any more children. You have put into words the feelings and emotions that I have never been able to convey. Thank You!

    • Settle Monroe

      rebecca, thank you for sharing with me. so much loss. bless you, friend. you are not alone, never, ever alone.

  • Heartbreakingly beautiful. Two truths, yes. May we never forget the thirst and need. Thank-you so much for sharing.

    • Settle Monroe

      Thank you, Heather.

  • This is nearly unbearable to read, Settle. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your inner heart. Bless you, friend.

    • Settle Monroe

      Thank you, Sarah. You have, indeed, blessed me.

  • Margaret Feinberg

    so touching! Thank you for this

    • Settle Monroe

      thank you, margaret.

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  • -jan

    I love you, Settle. God is using your raw grief to point people to hope. We give what we have into his hands … God turns it to a good and perfect gift. What a beautiful way to honor Webb. Honoring you and thanking God for you, sweet friend.

    • Settle Monroe

      Jan, thank you. for this and a million other things. thank you.

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  • Wow. These words really touched my heart. It is easy to see that you are writing out of a real grief place. So powerful, especially I’m light of the deep mourning happening in this country right now.

    • Settle Monroe

      Yes, I think we all feel the deep mourning right now. Thank you for sharing, Anna.

  • Holly

    Settle, we are so grateful for your voice here. Your vulnerability and your grief are palpable and raw but they leave grace and hope in their wake. Thank you for sharing a truth that many others are living but haven’t been able to frame with words. Your heart, here, fully open and revealed, will bring life.

    • Settle Monroe

      holly, thank you. yes, sometimes beneath the wake of our wails we find, against all odds, the budding of new life. this is my prayer for myself and so many others, especially now.

  • i have no words after such a piece.
    perhaps i will say well done . . . and thank you.

    • Settle Monroe

      thank you, kelli.

  • Claire Traynor

    This is me. This is how I feel right now. My little girls are gone, I can hardly deal with the world around me right now. I kneel and I can’t lift my head. Thank you so much for sharing xxx

    • Settle Monroe

      Oh Claire, perhaps it is not a time for lifting, but for kneeling. Perhaps you are right where you need to be. I am beside you, Claire, right beside you, on the ground, kneeling too.