Beautiful, disappointing, heartwarming, gut-wrenching, hope, hopelessness, healing, brokeness. Doesn’t that describe the different seasons of all of our lives? This past month has been a tear filled month for us (as well as many others) between Tyler’s fall, a scare with another close family member and Pastor Ty and Terri’s sudden passing from a car accident. I have been reminded over and over again that people close to me matter and that life is fragile, but I think the biggest take away for me is the importance of taking care of one another.
You see, with Tyler’s fall, I needed people who would come around and not only see that he fell and was mostly fine, but people who saw the trauma behind what happened. People who understood the healing that John needed from watching Tyler fall, not knowing how things would turn out and then facing the task of a rough hike to get both boys down safely. We needed people who would ask, “How is your heart?” “How are your boys?”, “How are you today?” “How can we pray?” We needed people who would understand the fear in every parent’s heart that is tapped when the ‘should have’ thankfully didn’t happen. I want to give a big thank you to the many who were willing to come near enough to reach out past the obvious and come over, bring Tyler special treats, text me to see how we were and the neighbor who brought a meal. I learned something from you. To the family who lost their son in a horrific car accident 9 months ago, were also close to Ty and Terri and called my dad yesterday to see how our family is processing from the fall that we are now three weeks out from. You called to let us know you are and have been praying. I don’t even personally know you and I can’t believe someone would be so kind and thoughtful. I know for sure that the grief you still feel is by far greater than ours ever was. Your ‘processing’ is Mt. Everest and ours is a mole hill in comparison, but still you cared and it meant a lot. A whole lot more than you’ll ever know. What strength and compassion you have and what an incredible gift you gave. To the grieving family member at Pastor Ty and Terri’s visitation who took the time to tell me you were praying for me and our family and for your tears when you saw John as you expressed your compassion over what he must have felt. I cannot believe that we were even on your mind on that incredibly sad night when you were grieving the loss of two incredible people who were not only loved by you, but were family. I was touched by your kindness. I want God to work this kindness in my own life too. I learned the power of a kind word and that it holds even more power when you pause in your own grief to take the hand of another – even when their grief is passing and much milder than yours. As you said, “We need each other.” Yes, yes we do. I want to be present in the lives around me.
You see, some things about my life have come into clear focus this month. Previously, unless a person was close to me, a person’s problem wasn’t my problem. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel bad or wasn’t moved, it’s just that I didn’t know if I had the right to get into another’s life. My own insecurity kept me from reaching out. I didn’t jump beyond my comfort zone because I didn’t know what to say. I thought I would perhaps do more harm than good or I thought the person would think I was just trying to get into the drama of their lives and I didn’t want to invade. Usually, those were the reasons for me not to reach out, but sadly, sometimes I simply found it easier to turn a blind eye and not enter their grief. It’s hard to sit with one who’s sad and broken and to help carry another’s burden. I don’t want to live like that anymore. I want your problem to be my problem and I want you to know it.
As I have reflected on Ty and Terri’s life and the beauty that is spilling out all over their memorial page and in so many conversations, I realize that the very reason they have made such an impact is that they allowed other’s problems to be theirs. They carried other’s burdens. Sometimes in a big way and sometimes just by a quick text letting the person know they cared. Some of the kindnesses I’m reading about or hearing of, I would never even dream of doing because I would be sure the person would feel I was being an intrusion. In a conversation with my friend, she said, “You know, Ty and Terri probably had many times where they were rejected because in reaching out that much to so many hurting people, it would be impossible to never have that happen, BUT they kept reaching out.” God isn’t asking me to be Ty and Terri or anyone else, but He is asking that I would draw near to Him so that I can enjoy knowing Him as well as allow Him to work His compassion in me. Afterall, He died so that we can walk in relationship with Him continually. He made us to each uniquely minister to those around us. There are people who I can reach that other people cannot in the same ways and the same is true for you.
I have walked with God closely for eighteen years now and have seen Him move actively in my life for all of those years, but never as much as in the past year. He has been healing deep places in me that have kept me from loving, accepting love and walking in freedom. These things have confined me and kept me from truly intimate relationships except for with very few people (mainly people I can’t run away from like family 🙂 and caused me to stay on the outskirts of most of the people’s lives that I am around. My stance was to stay on the outside so I could bolt if I wanted to. Now I wasn’t stupid enough to say this out loud or even to think of it in that simple of terms, but as God has brought so much healing, I can see now that that was why close relationships were hard for me. Surface relationships don’t require heart connections. They keep hurt at bay, but sadly, they also keep out love and compassion. I know that He has been healing my heart and breaking down walls so that I would have the capacity in my heart to carry His love to others. If we are walking in insecurity and don’t understand His heart for us, we will never be able to love others like He loves. Never. We won’t love past offense or past other’s brokeness. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in the big things in life that we forget His heart for others is what is needed for people to see Him. We can do a lot of things, but if we are missing His heart, they will have little fruit. We need to take time to be intimate with God because it is in that place that He brings healing for our own hearts and a deeper understanding of who He is. It is out of this that His life begins to spill out to those around us. His life is not something we can emulate without Him and before it touches other, it needs to touch us. This is the process of transformation. Loving others in our own strength will never work because we simply don’t have it in us. We’re conduits of His love and the source is God, but sometimes our hearts are filled with hurt, brokeness and or sin. When God frees our hearts, we begin to feel deeply.
Last year, I began to see that I just didn’t feel that much. Previously, I had been quite content to live within the confines of my walled in heart, but I began to see that I was missing out on the beauty of intimacy with others and began to long for that. Because of the deep, healing work God has done in my life as well as because of Him clearing up some long held misunderstandings about Him, I am beginning to have more of His heart for others. I pray that I keep growing in this until the day I die. I’ve noticed that when I hear of a tragedy in another’s life, I sometimes have a physical pain in my chest. Before, this only happened in extreme grief like when Jordan (our stillborn daughter) was born. When I think of the depth of God’s compassion and heart for people, I think it must be unbearable to see all of the pain He sees. Thankfully, He is God and strong enough to carry it. Feeling deeply what others feel is only one half of the process though. Compassion is a big part of reaching out to others. Reaching out without compassion is usually not helpful and can feel invasive. You need to have the compassion, but that has to be joined with action. Over this past month I have learned what compassion looks like lived out. I don’t want to be afraid anymore to reach into another’s life and do something as simple as send a text or as extravagant as spending days with them as they process their life. I don’t want to be afraid of your grief or your hard, my friend. I want to come in and help you shoulder your life when things get overwhelming, and I want you to see God’s heart for you in the midst of your situation. I don’t want to live afraid of being too close, but afraid of not being close enough.