Grief and Friendship

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Tonight I was reading a heartfelt post from a friend. She hit on something I have been noticing myself, and my heart broke hearing it from her pain.

We are a busy world: busy working, doing tons of activities, and even busy fighting injustice. All of these are good things, but they can take over our lives to a point we don’t see the person right next to us. There is no time for friendship. No time to help someone in the depths of their despair because we are so busy doing.

When I was in the depths of grief, it was a lonely place to be. I had friends and family around me, but no one knew how to comfort me. What comforted me was Scripture. Which is so ironic, because I was running away from Scripture thinking I had been fooled. Here is the thing though, I could not pick up and read Scripture myself. I needed a break from it. But hearing someone tell me the story differently was relief for my worn-out-grief-sticken heart. Rob Bell podcasts and Jonathan Martin Twitter sermons, plus books from countless authors (Rachel Held Evans!), got me through my existential crisis. Jonathan Martin in particular was a gift from God to me. He would tweet these sermons that made me want to run laps, and he would talk to me. I found a friend who knew how to comfort me, and he let me lean on him (virtually) until I got back up. He did not avoid me because I am a woman. We could be friends, and I am so glad because it saved me. Also, I cannot recommend his book “How to Survive a Shipwreck” enough!

It was a relief to have people to talk to when I was retreating from the world. They kept me afloat.  We shared joy and pain, and the people I found on Twitter seemed to know me. When the world was getting really bad again, and my life kept crumbling even more-I would anxiously await for Jonathan’s Twitter sermon. I knew it would come; it always did. One day he was a day late. I told him he was late, and he told me he felt like he was a day late. My friends on Twitter were, and still are, good to me.

I needed this in flesh and blood. After two years of listening, it was time to get up and do something with this amazing story I heard. Once Scripture grabs you, and you have had time to let it sink in and comfort, it has to be lived right here, right now. We aren’t waiting for a later date; it is right now.

It is too bad it is hard to hear this story in so many areas of our nation. I live in the Dallas area, and it was hard to find a church like Wilshire. And Wilshire and the Dallas area need more churches to wake up to the gospel again-stop catering to the comfortable. We need to be near human suffering to stay awake in the gospel- This is the quote I wrote by Dr. Harold Recinos on the first day of seminary– in my very first class! The comfort of Scripture led me to seminary too. It is so wild. I will never completely grasp what just happened to my life. I was having a meltdown and now I am in seminary. I told people to put on my tombstone: SHE JUST HAD A MELTDOWN!

Scripture is comfort and brings life when we hear it from the Holy Spirit. It also leads to advocacy. Being a part of the change is life like I have never known before. But I don’t want to get so lost in the work-I forget the joy of the gospel. And the joy is in friendship. We won’t have to strive so hard when we truly operate as friends. This world is hard, and what lies ahead is massive, but God is here. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I am thinking about the people who are like me three years ago-needing personal attention. We need therapists -absolutely, but we really need friends too. People all around us are going through really hard things. And we hardly have time to see our friends because we are striving so hard. Before my life fell apart, I had no idea how hard I was striving to achieve and not lose people. We also had bills to pay, so that is part of it too, but I did not know I was exhausted and ready for it to end. That is the weird thing about it all. I was grieving, and for good reason, but I also found the rest I desperately needed. My favorite part of the hymn “In Christ Alone”:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

All of this is true. I especially feel the “When fears are stilled, when strivings cease”.

I operate in a totally different way now. I am not striving. I am just telling the story. I won’t compete. That puts me in scarcity mindset. I know there are plenty of people who need this story, and we live in an area that hasn’t heard this story. But we have to be friends to hear it. Friendship is the revolution.

I am writing this for a lot of reasons. Teen suicide is increasing at an alarming rate. The number one cry for help counselors and advocacy centers are hearing is loneliness. We are a lonely nation overall. If I did not have my book club-what happened to me in the soccer world with people I thought were friends- I might not have recovered. I am still deeply wounded. Everyone wants to win, and we think friendship is secondary. This means we are overlooking things we should not overlook to serve our own interests. This is our rugged individualism, and it is killing us and our neighbor. Our politics is mirroring this too.

We also have people in our church pews who need us to have time to listen to them. This is not all on the pastor to take on. This is on the whole community. And we cannot rush people to healing. They need our time.

Jesus said love God and love your neighbor as yourself- not as much as yourself, but as yourself. We are all connected. There is no way around it. We experience the gospel through each other. Telling me Jesus loves me and cares about me wasn’t enough until I experienced it through humans. Lets not miss the people right next to us who need us. When we empower others; the world gets better.

 

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