Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I won the arm-wrestling competition two years in a row in high school.

My sister labeled me as "freakishly strong".

I had the nickname "tank" for about two weeks in junior high.
(Does anything last longer than two weeks in jr. high?)

But my crust is thin. And underneath, I'm a freakin' softy. I mean, yes, in the physical sense; I'm really a lump of bluugh. But in the emotional, empathetic sense, too. When my heart is close to God, the walls that allow me to insulate myself from the world are so thin. So easily infiltrated.

It's a good meter for me, actually. When I hear something terrible, and I'm like, "Eh. That's not so bad," or the Penelope response of one-upping someone else's struggle with my own lame one, or the ever popular pretend-to-care-and-forget-in-3-minutes response, I know that I've allowed my crust to get too thick. I've left too much personal space between me and God. Then I see that same person again, and I'm all, "Hi! Good to see you! How are you?" through big smiley teeth and they're all, "Well, still in a lot of pain from my surgery last week," and I'm immediately changing my face to concerned and going, "Aww, yeah. That's hard," and in my head I'm like, Oh shoot. I knew I was supposed to pray for something. Yeah. I'm a jerk.

But when my crust is thin, and then I hear some news or see someone suffering, it sticks. Hard. And I know that it's right, even though it feels horrible. Even though it disrupts my practically worry-free life. Even though it's inconvenient. We're supposed to suffer with one another. Bear each others' burdens. When Job lost everything everything everything, his friends sat in silence with him for seven days and seven nights (before they ruined it with their presumptuous, judgmental criticism. Paraphrased, "Dude, you must have done something to tick Him off." But let's dwell on the positive). They didn't even speak a word for a whole week because they saw how great was his suffering. This is fellowship.

Sometimes I think about the things that God grieves over, and I can't imagine the depth of His burden for us. For cancer. For loss. For divorce. For addiction. For our continuing disbelief. And God sits with us in our burdens, if we'll have Him.

Today, I visited with this lady I know. She's living in a personal care home, wading through the final stretch of life's waters. Her body is failing, despite the sharpness of her mind and the fire in her heart. She's nearly mute and blind because of her crippling illness. We had a sweet visit where I caught her up on the latest, and read aloud from a book she likes. All was well, and then, before I left, I had the numbness to ask her if she was doing okay.

No response. Not even a head waggle.

And then I tuned in. For real. And I said, "Hey. Are you doing just okay?"

Slow nod, yes.

I embraced her and she crumbled. She held on to me with every bit of strength she could muster. It was a long long time before we let go. I promised to visit regularly, and she cried onto my shoulder. Silent tears.

We need one another, people.