Being with a friend in great pain is not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear. Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain….We can simply say: ‘I am your friend, I am happy to be with you.’ We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence. Sometimes it is good to say: ‘You don’t have to talk. Just close your eyes. I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you.’ ~ Henri Nouwen
One of the scariest things about relationships and community is learning how to be present with someone when they are in pain….when there’s been a cancer diagnosis, a miscarriage, a lost home or job, a divorce. I think it’s natural to feel like you need to do something to alleviate the pain. The more I care for the person, the stronger I feel compelled to do something, anything, to help make the pain go away. I don’t know about you, but sadly on more than one occasion I have experienced those times when I’ve been very reluctant to make myself available to a friend in pain because I was so afraid I would cause them more pain by being clumsy with my words and just plain not understanding enough of what they were going through.
Maybe I’ll always struggle to understand the value of a “cup of cold water” and sitting in the lament with my friends, but that doesn’t mean I should draw back from relationships because of the mistakes I make as I continue to try and figure it out. I know what it feels like when a friend is there to weep with me without thinking they need to say something to make it better. Sitting in lament together requires vulnerability, both from the person in pain and from the person bringing comfort.
This is Day 28 of 31 Days of Soul Tending and the focus is maintaining community and building relationships. I’m reminding myself that just as time spent together and forgiveness are both fundamental to maintaining community, vulnerability is also required.