She shared with me something she didn't intend to share. She didn't plan to open up and tell me how she really was. Maybe she could tell that I earnestly wanted to know how she was doing. Perhaps she knew that I suspected she was having a hard time, that I would not be surprised to hear her account of fear, frustration over being able to do nothing about her situation, and alarm that she had to live with not knowing, not knowing, not knowing. That was the part she could not cope with, she relayed to me. I kept my hand on her arm as she told me.
I felt burdened the rest of the day. Felt burdened for her, and by the weight of what she had to carry. I know it was good for her to share. By sharing with me, she allowed me to help bear her burden. She knows I will pray for her. But she also struggles with what prayer will do. Haven't we all prayed and prayed, at a tough time in our life, and found an answer we did not want instead of the one we longed for?
After dinner last night, a somewhat fatty pot roast and pretty good mashed potatoes, I did the dishes in a slow, contemplative manner. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, greasy pots, and a blue sponge that was quickly turning brown. I felt the weight of knowing how often we feel alone. How hard it is to connect with someone. I remembered again that I do not like to open up and share my pain with people. And I thought of my friend, her eyes on me, telling me her burden and her painful reality- and I thought of her with such regard. I saw such strength in her- that she crossed that line, and said, yes, I'll open up and tell you how I really am doing. It might not have even been strength that prompted her to act. It might have been desperation.
I keep thinking about the almost-medicinal, therapeutic effect that "sharing" has. Most people feel a bit better after they've talked with someone. But often I take so long in carefully deciding who I would trust with my story, my pain, that I never get to the sharing part, to the part where I open up and you see what I am faced with: me, overwhelmed, and afraid.
I have my favorite people to talk to who have passed "the test"- my husband, my best friend, my dog- because his eyes tell me I am adored no matter if I am in a mess. But I know my circle needs to enlarge. I know my community, my fellowship of believers, should be larger and we should all be able to trust each other enough to open up and go through trials together. We should be able to do that. But the "shoulds" do not determine reality, do they?
"We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him," Thomas Merton wrote, referring to our desperate need for God. And if God requires us to "call unto Me", so that He can answer, then maybe we have to also bear the awkwardness of calling out to each other when we have no other way to signal our distress. We cannot find each other unless we call out, call out even in desperation.
When we really are not doing that well, there may be no other choice than to take a chance on someone who we think may just care enough about us, know enough about life's vicious take downs, and have enough trust in God that whatever is shared with them, does not mean God is any less on the throne, or that we are any less loved.
It isn't enough to pursue only this one-to-one relationship with Christ our Savior, while excluding all others. We have to let people "in". I am taking a deep breath and a faith- filled step in this direction, now. And it's only because a friend shared with me something that she didn't intend to.
Her need became greater than her intention to be private. And that's just how it has to be for any of us to ever take a deep breath and then say,
Can we talk?