Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Silence is Golden...

The news hit me like a ton of bricks... Cruel, heavy, unwieldy clods of baked earth that sat heavily on my chest. It seemed as though the air had been pressed out of my lungs and the tears that were forming in my eyes stung relentlessly.

I had been enjoying the late fall sunshine with a friend and had entered our home to see the look of utter shock on my husband's face. There was just nothing fair about this news, and yet its state of injustice in my mind wasn't going to change the sheer fact that it just was. The loss was not my own, I had never met the young lady who had passed, but the loss was that of a dear friend and it crushed my heart to know the pain she must be feeling.

I was overwhelmed by the urge to pack up my car with a few overnight things and head to her, immediately. And then I stopped. My friend isn't alone, family surrounds her and it was family that I wasn't all that familiar with. Would my presence be welcomed or intrusive in the face of such grief? And since I didn't know the balance of her family well, would they be stoic when what they really needed was to let loose the flood of overwhelming sorrow? I sat down heavily in my chair and wept, a feeling of helplessness washing over me.

Should I call? Should I ask if I should come, knowing full well the answer in the face of such drowning grief would be "no, please don't." In trying to determine my own reaction to this situation, I put myself in my friend's shoes, as if I could ever fully comprehend the magnitude of such a loss. Even so, trying to understand another's grief, my empathy almost paralyzed me in place. I would honor the direction to stay put... Against my desire to be helpful, I instead respected the family's privacy.

It reminded me how so often we try to make other's feel better because we feel helpless. We attempt to assuage or ease their struggle because we want them to be comforted and we want to be comfortable. In doing so, more often than not, we do the wrong thing, say something insensitive or remain silent in paralytic fear of doing the thing that will cause even more harm.

It took a day and a half's worth of prayer until I truly felt that staying put was the right move on my part. But the thought of intruding on someone's grief process, when family is really the only remedy for this kind of loss, that was a faux pas far worse than I could readily wrap my head around. I am not a stranger to loss and I am a witness to many ill thought out attempts to soothe a mourner's heart. I have come away with some basics that I think warrant sharing.

When you don't know what to say, say very little. As a word-smith, I struggle with this most. I want to use my vast vocabulary to somehow impart the sorrow and angst I feel for the person who is hurting. It isn't necessary and it isn't likely to help anything. Eloquence has it's place, but not here. Not when things are so raw with emotion. It is much more likely that in my nervousness to say the right thing, I will choose the wrong adjectives, the wrong sentiment and then I have done something that cannot be undone. If I feel I must say something, "I'm so sorry," is a good bet. Sitting with someone's silence is hard, sitting with their grief and tears is often much harder. Taking back words said in haste, no matter how well meaning, is impossible.

If you want to send something, flowers are traditional, food is better. The family will be inundated with lots of mourners converging on their home for quite a few days. If you live close, making a casserole and salad and bringing it over, staying only as long as necessary to drop the dishes if you are not specifically invited, can be a Godsend for the weary hosts. With the internet the emergence of many food providers is another great way to send something if you don't live close by. For a few dollars, you can add something that makes a huge difference with very little waste left over. On the sentiment card simply convey your sorrow for the loss and leave your name. You may never know how much the small thought may make but not having to cook or think about heading to the market is such a burden lifted.

Lastly, remember that once the dust settles there is still a lot to deal with. The guests will leave and the extended family will return home, but the loss is still very real. Your friend may need you in ways they never thought possible. It may be as simple as heading over with coffee to sit and allow them to talk or cry. You may be tempted to help clean up - do so only if it doesn't make your friend uncomfortable. Sometimes it is only being present while the mourning take a much needed rest or a walk around the neighborhood. Many times the simplest things are the most thoughtful. We don't have to make elaborate meals, or spend gobs of money to bring comfort in this time, mostly we just have to be there to respond.

My heart is heavy for my friend and her family. There are just no words to say that with any kind of depth. I will stand by, waiting for the right time to sit with her and hold her hand. I will not need words then, she will just know...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

God is not my friend...

When you are sitting in the obstetrician's office, big round belly taking up most of your lap, the best advice you can get as a woman and an up and coming parent is to be a parent. Simply put (again, simple not easy), this means that there will be times in your parenting journey that your child is going to need you to be the tough guy, the hard nose, the bad cop... Kids need boundaries and we as their parents have to be the ones to give it to them - clearly, concisely and firmly. While it is so much more fun to be the one who takes them to the movies, the parent who understands their mood swings, and the person they can feel safest with, it is crucial that we keep the role of parent and friend firmly separated. Our children don't need more friends when they are struggling, they need their parents. They need discipline and guidance that coincide with our particular lifestyle, things only their parents can give.

We see this relationship played out in other avenues as well. Living where I work and working with younger folk, it can be really hard for me not to make those kids my family or my friends. I have to remember, on some level I have to remain their boss. The worst instances of business breakdowns we have suffered around here have come, I believe, when we blurred those lines between friend and employer. It was hard on the employee and it was very hard on us. We needed our boundaries.

The same stands for our relationship with God. God is not our friend - God is the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, he is not, repeat not, our equal.There are some beliefs out there that say we are all our own God... If that is true, someone needs to be dialing 911 right now, because I am in BIG trouble! I don't want to be my own God, I screw up toast! I cannot even begin to think what a mess I would make of even just my own little universe. Trust me, you don't want me being your God either... But I digress.

What I am getting at here is simple and something I have been struggling with on some level for some time. God wants me walking hand in hand with Him, obviously. What God doesn't want is to be tied to my whiny butt, walking alongside of someone who is constantly asking, "Where are we going now? Why did you do it that way? Can't I rest for just one minute? Do you really, really love me?" He wants to be God, not my buddy. I am not His equal to question why He does anything, I am only charged with being obedient to His will.

Understand, God takes it when we act that way... He just isn't a fan. He wants us to trust Him, He wants us to love Him, but He also wants us to treat Him with the respect He is due. I mean, how many times does He have to tell us "I will never leave you, nor forsake you?" It is repeated often throughout the bible, five times that I can immediately find in the NKJV offhand without trying hard at all. Maybe He's trying to tell us something! three out of those five instances involving that phrase accompany verses that also address fear... Hmmmm. Now I know He's on to something! I am often caught worrying "Where is God?" when I am fearful. These words are meant to encourage me that no matter what I see, God hasn't left me. He is still right there by my side.

In a time when we are all becoming very familiar with each other, rarely using the "Mr. So-and-so", "Mrs. You-Know-Who", or even simple "Yes sir/ma'am", God reminds us that our ways are not His ways. He begs us to not lean on our own understanding. Do you think He might have something there? Well, it depends on your view of God. If you consider Him your equal you may be having a hard time understanding why He is choosing to use a particular trial in your life to train you up. If, however, you fully realize and understand who God actually is, you may (and that is a big may if you live in my skin) have a better time walking beside a God who desires your love, your trust and your company - Just not your advice!

Trusting God when it hurts or doesn't make sense will always be the hardest thing we humans have to endure in this life on earth. His goal in our lives isn't open for discussion, but it is always set up to benefit us in the end. Be honored that the King has requested your presence in the garden to stroll with Him at leisure. Treat Him as you would treat someone you greatly admire and respect that His will is not clouded by sin or power, only by the incomprehensible love He has for each and every one of His children. That alone should be enough to awe you into the proper mindset... God deserves our love, demands our respect and hopes for our trust. God is not my friend, He is so much more!