There is a lot of weeping going on in my house tonight. Sometimes there are sorrows and exhaustion that Netflix can’t soothe; the frayed nerves and sleep deprivation and financial issues and all the gaping loss–there is so much loss.
So much is lost.
And by lost, I mean gone. Never to be found again. Gone in ways that chanting Christian songs and feel-good “I’ll pray for you” handshakes do not cover, but are instead like pinky Bandaids on bazooka wounds.
Good Lord, you’re thinking, here she goes again. Talking about that dead baby. It wasn’t even her baby.
But the losses stack. You deal with a troubled, chaotic childhood by dreaming of your peaceful adulthood–only to find there is no such thing. Adulthood is a stack of sorrows: the child on drugs, the senile mother, the husband who cheats again and again and again, the alcoholic wife, the car accident, the cancer, the sick child, the financial woes.
And it gets to be So Much and So Big that there are things you just no longer talk about because there is no point, and who would believe you anyway because no one’s life is that weird.
I can still recall exactly where I was–sitting shotgun in the brown-paneled station wagon at a red light at Satilla Square–when my mother, who was then in the throes of alcoholism and bipolar disorder, told me something along the lines of, “You know, I’m not the only one who has the types of problems. Dr. ______’s son/daughter/wife was admitted to the mental hospital last month.” I was probably ten at the time, but I can still recall the relief that I felt that night–along with the amazement that the family was hiding it so well.
I can’t hide anything. (A favorite boss once said, “Sweetie, most people hide their buttons. You put yours in the middle of your forehead.”) It takes too much energy to hide things–to stuff and repress and pretend. I have lost close friends to illnesses they chose not to disclose, and while I respect their choices, I myself couldn’t poker-facedly grocery shop for more than a week or two before I’d have to say, “Pray for me, please pray for me.” I can walk while my world is disintegrating. I can plan and strategize and email the world’s best doctors and ask them intelligent questions–but I can’t lie to my friends at the cosmetics counter at Belk, telling them my world is fine when it’s crumbling.
Because it is crumbling. And they are my friends.
I have been thinking about friendship a lot lately because another avalanche has fallen, and while I’ve managed to patch myself up a little, I’m still broken and hurting, walking down this new, dim road. I can’t really see through much yet through my fog and confusion–although I can certainly feel (and am grateful for) grace for the day.
But it’s tacky, isn’t it, for me to be off the main path once again? To be off on this side road where music, pets, and trees are my main comforts? I’m 47–I’ve been in church my whole life; I know enough Bible verses to live in an isolation cell and encourage those in the cells nearby–or to exhort others on my liferaft if I was lost at sea. I have seen miracles–my family is one: a group of people who should not exist. I know the power of God’s hands. I have been rescued just in time.
Despite these assurances, I still feel the need, every time my trail goes dim, to tell a few longsuffering friends, “Hey, I’m over here–I’m on this uphill path, and it looks like it might be difficult, especially since I’m pretty tired already: would you mind saying a few prayers for me?”
And I thank God that there are those people who are unequivocal with their, “YES!” Who, even after years of watching me trudging the same paths, wandering in my wilderness and gnawing on my manna, will say, “I’ve got you.” Some Christians know that drug-addicted children take a while to find their peace; stillborn babies take more than eight days to grieve; marriages take decades to recover from affairs; a parent’s Alzheimer’s breaks hearts daily. On these long roads, it is the few who stay near, who steady our hands until sunset, who are the dearest.
I was sitting in church on Sunday, thinking in typical midlife-crisis-fashion about my life: like many nearing fifty, I feel I have very little to show. It seems I have wasted much on things that are now ashes and tears.
Then, the pastor started talking about the paralytic, whose friends removed part of the roof to get him to Jesus.
Think about that: to get him to Jesus, the paralyzed man’s friends carried him on a couch down the long, dusty road–he couldn’t walk the path at all, he was so broken. They were hot, they were tired, their arms ached. But they carried him because he was their friend--he had likely been so a long time. They had probably heard him talk about his dreams of running, how he wanted to feel the earth under his feet, to feel his knees pumping, and they maybe had rolled their eyes at each other when he wasn’t looking, thinking, “He isn’t going to walk.”
And then, they heard the Savior was coming. Maybe it was the paralytic who said, “Hey, guys, can you carry me to see Him?” Or perhaps one of his friends said, “Hey, guys, grab the sofa, we are going to town.”
They mobilized for the immobile–and then, when there was no passing through the throng, they DID NOT STOP. They climbed the roof. They had the strength. They had the determination.
I’d spent the previous weeks–before the pastor brought it up–thinking about that story. I’d thought about how I had friends who were roof climbers, still. People who were not tired of me, who would walk with me a little while longer, who would work to push me through the roof, dropping me through prayer into the lap of the Savior, saying, “She’s a mess, but we know you can fix her. We love her, even though she can’t walk, even though we have been feeding her so long, and she’s had this problem forever.”
To have this handful of people who see steadily past the trouble I cause them–who still discern heart and value and worth when I see only damage and destruction–to have those people who will exhaust themselves for my chance at wholeness–is amazing. Incredible.
Because we, all of us, get tired of ourselves–our same problems, our thorns in the flesh, these things that just will not go away–and it is a glory and a grace that there are others who are not weary of us. Who can carry our couches. Who can buy us coffee just to be told once again about our cheating spouses, our heartbreaking children, about the weariness of all this pain. Who see promise where we see pain.
These friends will reach across tables, handing us crumpled Starbucks napkins to wipe away, again, our thousand tears. They will once again prepare to drag us up the roof.
And they will smile as they watch us fall, dropping through the air.
Delivered. To Our Deliverer.