When we were little girls, my sister Kristen and I shared a bedroom. The room was oversized, originally intended to be split into two rooms. We split the room into sections, instead. We used one side for our two twin beds and the other side became our playroom, complete with a dollhouse that put Barbie’s Malibu home to shame, stuffed animals, art area, and bookshelves filled with our treasured picture books. Mother and Daddy encouraged artwork --- painting, drawing, coloring, although Mother snubbed her nose at traditional coloring books, claiming them to stifle any creativity. Artwork, however, was not encouraged to be completed on the walls of our bedroom, as I personally found out as a young girl. Like Harold with his purple crayon, I somehow got the idea that drawing on the wall by my bed with a blue crayon was a good idea. Not so. A strong scolding was all it took to convince me to not do that again.
So, when Mother and Daddy suggested Kristen and I begin measuring ourselves, using a pencil to mark our height on the bedroom wall, I was a bit gunshy. Was this a trick? Could we really mark on the wall? “Yes, it’s fine in this case. Plus, we are only using pencil and we’ll wipe it off as we make new marks.” Reluctantly, I backed against the wall to allow Kristen to draw a line above my head with a #2 pencil. In case Mother and Daddy changed their minds and got onto us for writing on the wall, maybe I wouldn’t be first in line to be scolded.
How odd to turn around and see where the mark on the wall was. It seemed so low. Could I really be that short? But week after week, we returned to the wall to measure. Lo and behold---the lines slowly but surely crawled up the wall. And despite the original thought, we were able to keep the older pencil marks so we could see where we had come from. “Wow! Can you believe I was ever that short?” we would marvel. Kristen and I grew, we grew up, and for a time, we grew away.
Nichole Nordeman’s song “I Am” begins with the words
“Pencil marks on a wall, I wasn’t always that tall.
You scattered some monsters from beneath my bed.”
This melodic song depicts growing up, calling out by name the need for a savior, secret keeper, elbow healer, and comforter, with a loved one, a parent and, ultimately, God answering, “I am”.
How I measured myself changed as the years went by. Marks on a wall were exchanged for milestones such as shopping for a first bra, “falling in love” with my first boyfriend, and moving into a college dorm. College, for me, brought a host of new experiences including making lifelong friends, two of whom ended up being bridesmaids in my wedding. Kelly, Robin and I saw each other through major boyfriend breakups, late nights studying and, ultimately, weddings.
When we called out for a “secret keeper” or “heartache healer”, the others would be there. We listened to each other declare we would never be able to love again. When we were weak, we would call each other. When Robin called so long ago to say she was getting a divorce, I asked “Do you want me to come be with you?” She answered, “Come if you can.” I said, “I am.”
This last fall, Robin called. I knew what had happened before she said her father had passed away. I didn’t go to Nebraska. But she asked me if I had any suggestions for music that might be nice for his funeral. I told her I would think about it. I did. Robin’s dad had meant the world to her. What kind of song would be fitting for a dad who had been the hero to her for so long? What kind of song would be a good measure of her love for him? I burst into tears when I pulled up Nichole Nordeman’s album on my computer and saw this song. I sent her the words and told her to listen.
“When I am weak, unable to speak, still, I will call you by name.
Oh Shepherd, Savior, pasture maker, hold on to my hand. And You said, ‘I am’.”
After all these years, from measuring myself by pencil marks on a wall to measuring myself by the love I still feel for my sister and these God friends, I want to take a minute to remind them that when we are weak and unable to speak, if you call out for a secret keeper to hold your hand, I will answer “I am”.