What does it look like to give and receive authentic and genuine gospel-fueled community; to be received for who you are and to give what you can genuinely give and to not be asked or required to do or give more than that?
From my perspective this was it. It was the embodiment of loving others as you love yourself-or you yourself are loved. It was December and just weeks after we had buried my mom. I went up to visit my Dad and help him work through some things at the house and to pick out a grave marker for my mom’s grave. It was my honor to be there and to do these hard things with my Dad, but we were exhausted after some emotional days and decisions. After church we were invited to have lunch with a couple whom I have known my entire life. They have deep history with my parents and my siblings and I. Their youngest daughter was one of my best childhood friends and we roomed together in college. So here we sat, knowing so much of each others lives, But this. This season, this is new and foreign to everyone. My mom was the first of their group of friends at church to die. It was obvious in conversations with my parents’ friends and my peers that it was a stunning reminder of their own mortality and they all seemed to be taking stock of their relationships with each other. So here we sat at a table with this couple, who we have known forever and are so familiar in so many ways, but who are treading this very unfamiliar and even uncomfortable terrain with my Dad. I waited almost expecting a trite word or a casual and almost empty condolence to be spoken, but instead what happened over that meal was truly Holy Spirit filled and purposed. I walked away feeling and knowing that my Dad was among people who are truly seeking the Lord’s wisdom and offering compassion and companionship to him. I was so relieved, as I knew I would have to leave for home the next day, to know he would not be alone.
And this is what I witnessed:
-They confessed that they could not understand what he was going through. They allowed him the space to feel whatever it was that he wanted to feel and didn’t try to control or guide him by sharing similar experiences or show how they might be able to relate. They just gave space and agreed that this was hard and that they wouldn’t try to understand.
-They offered themselves. They said to my Dad, “we know that you really don’t want to be around people right now, but also recognize that it may not be healthy for you to be alone all the time, so use us.” Call us up for a meal and we will take you out and you don’t have to talk to us, we can just be together. We will just be with you.
-They prayed with him. They prayed for hope and encouragement for him. They prayed that God would be near. They prayed for our family. And from the sincerity of this encounter I suspect that they continue to pray for my Dad and our family.
-They cried with him. They sat in his grief with him and they cried. They grieved because they have lost a friend in my mom, but more so because their friend was grieving the loss of his wife. They cried and waited. In their compassion they showed that it is okay not to understand or even agree, but in this moment to just grieve and lament to the Lord that it hurts.
-They gave space for him to speak and weep. They didn’t try to finish his sentences or determine what needed to be said. They allowed for time and silence. And sometimes nothing came, just tears. And that was okay too.
They were there that day. In every way I could think of. They met him in his grief and they joined him there. They provided a meal and companionship and gave of their time and comfort to be there that day. They didn’t ask for anything in return or try to lighten the mood. It was an honor to witness and an encouragement to my heart. But even more than that, it was an image and a lesson in biblical community and loving one another.
Co-writer for The Hybrid Home, wife to Jason and mama to 5; living in Raleigh, North Carolina helping run she and her husband’s non-profit, Rooted To Live Ministries. She is passionate about women living their lives knowing who they are in the Lord and helping them find their voice.