Sometimes things tick along sweetly, spring arrives, you take a big breath and enjoy the feelings of bliss that come after getting through winter and you cruise into the warmer months knowing that the Christmas holidays are almost here and there’s good times ahead.
But when it’s not like that, when things don’t tick along sweetly, and the big breaths you take aren’t so much a sigh of relief as a pause while you figure out what to do, it’s good to find that in that spring air there’s still a sense that God is standing right beside you, with a questioning smile on his face, as if watching to see what move you will make, while at the same time knowing you well enough to already know exactly what you’ll do, and you know that he trusts you to go into the rough and not leave him.
This last week I learned that my big sister was going through some hard stuff in Christchurch, and as I sat here praying for her, and hoping for the best I felt so helpless and upset for her, and as I talked to God about whether there was anything I could do or should do I knew that this time was different from any other time before. In the past my sister has been the one to take care of us, when we go through hard times, like when we lost our baby, she shows up and supports us. She’s not so good at letting us do the same for her though, and I knew if I went to her I’d be going as the little sister and that’s exactly how she’d see me, so she’d try and be strong and maybe my being there could do more harm than good, since she would most likely hold everything in until I left again. But God said change that. And I knew too, that if I went to her she’d see me as the Christian one, the one who hangs out with Jesus, and she’d look at me and I’d represent everything that she didn’t believe, and maybe in that light everything I’d say would sound text-book and patronising and preachy and unrealistic.
It’s funny how easy it is sometimes to reach out to a stranger or someone you don’t know that well. When it’s someone close, you can make excuses that because they love you they won’t hold it against you if you aren’t there for them right now, especially when they know you have your kids to take care of, and money’s tight, and it’s a long drive and you have your own life...it’s funny how all those excuses, although real and totally valid, all seem so trivial when you’re talking to the Almighty. Cos you know he’s going with you, and he’ll watch your kids, and your car, and your wallet.
Sometimes when you talk to God there’s this moment...it’s like the silence that follows an explosion. It’s a different kind of peace. Something’s happened, something’s changed and you’re a little scared in spite of the fact that you know you’re safe.
What changed in me was my willingness to remain sympathetic. I couldn’t say anymore I wish I could be there, I had to actually go and let my sister know that things had changed. We talked and cried and drank and talked and talked.
And now I’m home with my family and there’s still that scary peace; that feeling that there’s still something required of me. I know right now I’m in the aftermath of some significant moment spent with God, that something is different than it was before I decided to stop thinking, and just go with my gut instinct to drop everything and run, to let my sister have a turn to be the one taken care of.
There’s a reason why he says to love. Because it’s the most powerful thing we can do as humans, and we hold ourselves back from doing it.
You know the feeling when you go to the funeral of someone you were close to? That feeling of love and regret, that perfect combination that makes you speak from your heart about how you felt about the person? You say the sweetest things, remember the good times and the bad, tell stories to others about them. You drop what you’re doing to go to them, wherever they are, even if it means travelling. And you love them without holding back.
What if God means for us to love like that all the time? What if love is only truly working when we do it without counting the cost?
I think I always knew it in my head, that love is a sacrifice. But I think I’ve been doing it all wrong. I try to feed the poor and hungry, and pray for the sick, but I so often avoid really letting my feelings get too involved. I keep my distance in relationships. I mind my own business. I don’t get hurt.
But there’s something so powerful about dropping everything and running to someone, with no agenda other than to be there so they know they’re not alone and know they’re loved.
I came home and tried to slip back into the usual routine, but so much of what I do is worthless and tainted in light of the realisation that I’ve been so closed and distant for so long. I think it’s ever since the baby died that I’ve been like this. It’s no good. I almost didn’t go to my sister because that wasn’t how we usually did things in our family. How terrible would it have been if I hadn’t known it was time for things to change?
No one is meant to be alone.