I love words. I love the way they sound. I love the way they feel in my mind and soul. I love the joy of finding that one exquisitely perfect word that completes the thought that expresses the colour and rhythm and depth of ideas and emotions. I believe and know from experience that the right word communicated at the right time is so powerful that lives can be changed and hearts can be healed. What to do, then, when words fail me?
This year has been filled with watching people I care about walk through pain and challenge, far more than life usually dishes up. Joblessness, homelessness, cancer diagnoses, foreclosures, memorial services, reputations maligned, relationships broken. People I care about are facing all of these. I sit with the ones who have lost their home, the one who is seriously ill, the one who is finishing her life enveloped by the pain of cancer. I search for the right words, the words that will help soothe the fear, the grief, the feelings of loss. Meanwhile deep inside me (ok, perhaps not hidden so deeply as I like to think), there lives a “little Miss Fix-it” who truly believes that I need to be doing something more to make things better…to make all the pain and sorrow just.go.away. I want my words to have special super hero powers and make all the problems disappear.
Perhaps when you were young, you had an experience similar to mine, of being ill with a fever and your mom or someone else who loved you came to you and laid a cool hand or cloth across your forehead. That simple touch conveyed so much, didn’t it? You were still sick. The fever wasn’t actually reduced by much, if at all. But it felt so good simply to know that someone cared about the fact that you felt awful, even if they couldn’t fix it.
In my faith tradition we teach that we are to express our love for others by rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. We believe that we are to give comfort to those who are in pain or suffering loss. Jesus said that if we’re following his example, even a “cup of cold water” given to the most inconsequential person was valuable. Somehow my inner “little Miss Fix-it” doesn’t seem to be satisfied with something so small. (I love this perspective on trying to be a super hero.) A “cup of cold water” doesn’t feel like something big enough to make a difference in anyone’s life.
I think Jesus understood something important about loving others, that just like when I was 10 years old and comforted by the touch of my mother, the gift of a loving touch is not small to the person who is in pain. I truly want to absorb this understanding, follow his example of humility and give a loving touch, whether or not I can fix things for others. I want to be able to “sit in the lament when the hard stuff happens and invite others to sit there with me” (as Diana Trautwein puts it so well here). I want to make sure I’m weeping with those who weep, not weeping because I can’t fix it. I can’t comfort anyone if I’m more focused on my own inabilities than I am on their pain.
What about you? How do you “sit in the lament” with those you care about? How do you give a “cup of cold water” to someone who’s hurting?
Note: I’m linking this up with Life:Unmasked today. Take a look, I think you’ll appreciate Joy’s perspective.