One of the things I have found myself talking to my kids and others about in the last year is the fact that because something is hard, even painful and grief-laden, does not mean that it cannot also be profoundly beautiful and holy. While I prefer the times of sunsets on a mountain top where I can easily raise my worship, I often find myself most drawn into the arms of my father in a true, barley-able-to -breathe sacrifice of praise in the dark and painful times. I can see God in the eyes of another no matter the circumstances, but learning this is not easy.
We’ve been through our own share of grief, tragedy, and loss in our lives – just like all of you. No one’s story is void of it, and the longer we are on this earth diving into what He has for us, the more we see and experience it. I’ve see it in my kids’ eyes a lot over the last few years – that look of grief touching a part of their soul yet holding it in because they are not ready to process it. I saw it last night as we talked about a friend who is at the end of his life way too soon for our desire. Death became a reality to them sooner than I had wanted in their lives.
As I’ve asked God to help me walk with people better, I have often found myself unable to handle the amount of emotion that comes with that. “Rejoice with those who rejoice” is easy and full. But mourning with those who mourn is heavy, dark, and often triggers some of my own laments in life. Too often I have let that allow me to “turn off” emotion and not really feel. I can walk with people and help in tangible, real ways without being a vat of emotion, right? They don’t need the “extra” Heather, they need someone who can take charge and be in control.
What if it isn’t either/or but the true definition of walking alongside someone is actually both/and. You can be a person who, in one moment cleans the kitchen, makes meals for the week, walks the dog, gives the kids a bath, organizes grocery delivery, and gasses up the car. But in the next moment, as the person is sitting and tears are falling, you need to be the one who allows your own tears to fall and intermingle with theirs while possibly sitting in awkward silence and praying. I know I’ve needed both of those at the same time and couldn’t articulate it. I am thankful for Spirit-filled friends who listen and obey.
In those times – when the tears are falling, when there are no words and you feel helpless to do anything – because you ARE helpless to do anything – those are the times when the Father turns a hard, impossible moment into something holy. The things I remember most about the death of both my parents are not the flowers or the food received (though we appreciated those thoughts) but the times when people would call out of the blue and tell me I was on their heart that day. The times when they saw me crying and didn’t offer any words, just a tissue and their presence. When I didn’t feel as though I had to apologize months later because I “should be past it” and instead had them acknowledge that grief is a strange monster and my way of doing it wasn’t wrong.
Still, as I have helped carry the burdens of others, I have found my own joy being squished and compacted into this tiny, little space where I could not even access it anymore. How do I feel what they feel and sit in it with them and not be swallowed up in it myself? As a person in ministry, this is not only part of my “job description” but an honor and privilege. However, it’s not just for the professionals – all of us who profess to be followers of Jesus are called to do this.
Like with anything of purpose in life, we cannot do this in out of our own strength. It requires us to live in that daily surrender of self to Him. In the daily reckoning that we are dead to our selves and alive in Jesus because of the work he did on the cross. I can’t make more room in my heart and my emotions for the burdens of others. But I can offer my heart to the one who has already changed me from the inside out and allow his heart and life to be lived in and through me. It is in those times that we see how even the hard becomes holy.
Would you take time today to ask the Spirit to fill you and expand your ability to walk well with others?