Standing in the Gap

brokenangel

I am an optimist.  Most days, regardless of what the world throws at me, I see the good.  I don’t even try hard.  I give the benefit of doubt, more than I should.  I forgive things that  others would hold onto.  I choose to focus on the good in the world, instead of the bad. 

Occasionally though, that bubble of optimism is burst by the harsh stings of reality.  It comes when real tragedy comes too close to home.  I arrives when I hear something on the news that goes beyond what I can comprehend.  When my optimism is challenged in such a way, it is quite honestly hard to shake.  It is where I find myself as I write this, my head spinning in circles.  I am unable to wrap my head around the things that happen in the world, and when I look to God’s word for answer… logically, I get it.  In my head I can understand why the world is what it is.  However, my heart doesn’t and seems completely incapable of understanding. 

I spent several hours on a phone with a mother who is in crisis, and it isn’t a crisis that can be counseled away.  I could hear the the desperation in her voice.  I believed every word that came out of her mouth about the recent events in her life.  She was scared, and she felt hopeless.  The tone in her voice was not something I have ever heard in my life.  She is angry at the system, specific people, and even God.  She is walking a road few understand.

Since our phone call, I find myself in a place where my heart breaks for this woman, and those who are impacted by this situation.  Something that never should have happened in the first place, let alone affect her family in such a way.  I am blown away by the lack of support she has gotten from those whom she felt closest too.  People who were at one time her biggest cheerleaders, became her greatest critics.  So, not only are people like her walking roads that others can’t understand… they find themselves walking them alone.

The reality of her situation isn’t something that can change without some sort of miracle.  People are praying for this miracle to happen, but to day… things are just getting worse.  Things are becoming more difficult.  She is becoming more broken.  She feels more hopeless.

And here is the clincher, there is literally nothing you and I can tangibly do to help in some of these extreme circumstances.  Our encouragement and advice sounds great, but we truly have no clue what we are talking about.  We can rely on the Bible verses that we cling to during times of trial, but these verse seem so very far from her right now.  We can have faith that God is working out something good, but for her things are getting worse.   We feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, when she feels like the tunnel is closing up on her.

It is truly heartbreaking.  When I asked her how people could support her, she said:

Listen.

Believe me.

And if you can, relieve me or the family.

When people are in true crisis, they tend to keep things close to the chest.  They find themselves confiding in those who are closest to them.  But, and I know I am guilty of this, we often attempt to problem solve instead of just listening to them.  I once read that the biggest problem with communication today is that people are listening to respond, they are not listening to learn.  When that person in your life is in crisis calls and they just need to unload, let them.  Shut your mouth, open your ears and listen.

People who are living in incomprehensible situations are often accused of making things up, exaggerating how bad things are, or treated as if they don’t know what they are talking about.  Good intentioned people give advice or guidance over a situation they truly have no experience in.  I too am guilty of this, but nothing in my life can even remotely compare to what this woman is dealing with.  Who am I to even think that solutions I have to my everyday common life issues would even touch the extraordinary situation she is facing?  Instead, what we need to ask is “What can I do?” or “How can I help”?  We can ask the person what their options are, and then evaluate if we are in a position to help them.

There are some situations where the person in crisis is in desperate need of relief.  Relief can be something as simple as coming in and doing her household chores or preparing some meals for her freezer (so she has one less thing to deal with that day).  Relief can be taking her kids for the weekend, and giving her some peace and quiet.  It could be sending her and her husband on a weekend getaway to a local bed and breakfast, and keeping her kids.  Or, it may be finances.  Maybe you have been financially blessed were you can reach out and offer a financial relief to medical bills that have added up, or that unexpected expense that popped up at the worst possible time.

For those we love, who are going through the trials that test their faith… when their loss and grief becomes so much more than they can bear, that their pain turns to anger toward God…

Stand in the Gap.

When she cannot pray, we will pray for her.

When the Throne seems so distant to her, we will stand before the Lord on her behalf.

Please, right now, take a moment and pray.  Pray for the men, women, and children who are walking through crisis.  The Lord knows their names, He knows their situation.  God knows their prayers, their needs, their wants, and their desires.  Pray for His hand to intervene.  Stand in the gap for those who’s voices have gone silent from all of the screaming and crying out.  Be the voice.  Be the intercessor.

Whenever I write, I take a break to read before I come back to proof.  It’s a way to freshen my eyes to my work.  Like when you sniff coffee beans between smelling perfume samples.  I’m not the only one writing on this subject today, and it reminds me that there is MORE hurt out there than we realize. 

Article from A Holy Experience

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Just Show Up!

justshowup

My grandmother had a huge influence on me, and my personality.  She was a registered nurse, who began her nursing career in the Army.  She had a very no nonsense way about her, when it came to things like being ill or hurt.  I could express it in a single sentence:  Suck it up, you do what you have to do.  There was no wallowing or lamenting with my grandmother.  Stitches needed, stitches given.  Broken bones get casts and physical therapy.  If you need surgery, no need to be scared, just get it done and over with. 

Because of her influence, I must admit that I don’t handle these things like I should.  When someone tells me they are sick or seriously injured, I lack compassion.  It isn’t that I have never been hurt or faced crisis myself, but I was trained to face it headstrong.  You do, what you have to do.  Period.  No sense in crying or getting depressed.  My shoulders have not held many faces, nor caught many tears.  I haven’t grasped hands, silently praying, or even giving reassuring words.

This response is not even toward others, but to myself.  In 2003 I was pregnant with our second when precancerous cells were found in my cervix and my uterus.  It brought with it a lot of concerns for my pregnancy.  I remember keeping so very much of it to myself, because I didn’t want to worry people.  I didn’t want people fawning over me with concern.  It was something that needed to be dealt with, simple as that.  I recall staring out our window one day, teary eyed, when my husband tried to reassure me that the baby would be fine.  I took a sigh, and responded that her conception may have been a gift to save my life… and that may have been her only purpose.  It wasn’t cold and callous, I loved her so much already.  It was just part of how I was raised to view things. 

There was a difference between this and other health scenarios, in that I was a believer now.  My prayers to God were that any treatments I would need could be held off until she was born.  I didn’t want my illness to affect her chances.  In the many years since, I am often haunted by concerns that those precancerous cells come back.  I rarely find myself struck with terror until the tests come back clear. But I do pray to God that if I must deal with this again, that it can wait until my children are adults.   I know that sounds strange, but in truth I personally don’t fear death.  I only have concern for those whom I would leave behind.

So, once again, this doesn’t exactly make me the best person to lean on when you find yourself in facing crisis head on.  It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I am ok with bad things happening to amazing people.  Far from.  I just don’t know how to process it like I should, I don’t know how to be the friend you need in that moment.  I have gotten the news that a friend’s child has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I have received the funeral information for a person who unexpectedly dies leaving a family in mourning.  My phone has rang in the wee hours because someone is in the hospital, or missing.

I’ve realized that in these moments, I thought I was not the right person for compassion.  And, that is probably still right.  However, I have also begun to learn that I am the right person for action.  I will get in my car and drive the streets looking for your child.  I will do the talking when you can’t, I will pick out the dress and the shoes, I will fill out forms, I can make decisions.  I will call the family members for you, or contact the church to make arrangements. Perhaps there is a blessing to being a person who doesn’t lean into emotion and instead steps up to the tasks ahead.

I believe, however, that there is a time when both of those attributes can come together and work beautifully.  When a friend was facing cancer, she was worried and anxious.  She also had moved and I couldn’t be there for her to help.  My only way to “act” was to have compassion and empathy for her situation.  This was something really hard for me to do, but I knew her battle was going to be harder.  I resolved that I was going to send her a card every single day until we got through the testing and results process.  I honestly have no idea how many cards I sent her… but I did it.  Every single day.  I went to the scripture, found verses regarding health and healing, used my artistic talents to create individual cards, and inscribed them with the selected verses.

To this day, she still has at least some of the cards.  Occasionally I get a text or note from her where she mentions them.  When I realized how that little step on my part meant so much to her, I began to see how I could take action and bring it to compassion.  In the years since, I have done similar things for others when they need encouragement, compassion, empathy, or even just a thinking of you.  I’m learning more and more that being present is enough.

This winter, I had the opportunity to read the book “Just Show Up” which was co-authored by friends Kara Tippetts and Jill  Lynn Buteyn.  This was a unique opportunity with Family Christian to do a review, because the opportunity wasn’t limited to a select number of bloggers.  And, I couldn’t be happier that so many people were given the opportunity to read this book and share it.  This book is simply put, super important.

You may be the person who has a lot of compassion, no one cries alone with you.  You may be the person who doesn’t know what to do in those situations.  Or, you may be the person who is going through a crisis and you hear the offers of help and support… but you don’t know what to do with it all.   In other words, if you are a person who cares about others in your life… READ THIS BOOK!

Just Show Up, brings us into the reality of walking through life with your friends when they are in the midst of suffering.  Author Kara Tippetts was actively battling cancer and Co-Author Jill Lynn Buteyn was the friend walking alongside her.  In this book you get to see both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the person who is in crisis and the friends who are trying to be there, supporting and encouraging.  This dual perspective helps us all see what this journey looks like for those involved, they share their struggles, they share what they learned in the process. 

We learn that there is a time to be a silent presence, how to give and receive, and how to be that friend who just shows up … even when she doesn’t know what to do, or say.  In fact this book, in my opinion, is one that goes beyond enduring suffering as friends.  It opens our eyes to what real,  godly, loving, and committed friendship looks like.  In the good, and the bad.  When life is going great, when life is changing, and when life takes an unexpected turn.

One of the blessings I received from the book is the “Comfort In, Dump Out” circle, where it tangibly helps us identify who we can speak to during the times of crisis in a helpful way.  For example, it is not my place to dump on my friend’s spouse how her illness is affecting me.   I need to be a comfort to him, and he can dump out on me.  BUT, I can speak to my personal friends.  They are the people whom I can dump out on, and will comfort me.

This is a book that is going to create radical, fierce friendships… the kinds we long for and God wants for us.  Let’s do life together, even when it is hard.  When you don’t know how, go to those who are willing to share.  Put this book on your 2016 must read list, keep it in mind for gifts.  When you friend confides her crisis, this is a great book.  When another friend is expressing her sadness because someone in her life is going through something difficult & she doesn’t know what to do… gift or at least recommend this book.

Just Show Up is a book that is insightful to what really happens in relationships during times of tragedy, difficulty, crisis, and suffering.  I would also recommend this book to Women’s Ministry Leaders who may be counseling women through tough seasons or tragic circumstances.

 

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