All the stories the rooms could tell...
Do you ever find yourself in conversations that you aren't sure you're supposed to be in?
Three scenarios took place over the weekend, and each time I felt like I had walked in on a private matter, uninvited. Except I was invited; I was the receiver on the other end. But unlike conversations with a beginning, middle and end, I felt like I was getting served a double portion of mystery, ache and struggle, with no conclusion. Just a whole lot of subject matter to sift through and eventually file away into the compartments of what I've been told about life.
They were stories leaking such heartache, that cause you sit there torn up with emotion for a person who has no idea that you're even thinking of them, or their loss that was so deep, or the tears they fell that finally ran dry; the facet finally shutting off.
It was the news of the mentor, who means well, who may have given very bad advice. Advice that caused a divide so deep, that it took a hefty stitch from another receiver to repair the tears. The thought that one who means well, could give divisive advice in the name of Jesus? Reconcile that on a moment's notice.
It was the conversation with a new acquaintance that ran circles and circles and circles with long explanations for his life lived unconventional, housed in a VW bus, a week out from being shipped to The Islands.
"I'm living on the sand. But I don't have a house, cause I'm still running. But when I build a house, it's going to be on a rock," he said.
Confused by his need to tell me why the VW bus, the sand running, the here, there, everywhere, explained in story, unpacked with analogies, I finally offered,
"You don't need to explain yourself. Just be." He looked at me eyes slightly squinted, half smiling.
Though I did manage to say four our five more things in those two hours, I felt it my responsibility to be a receiver that night. He had much to share, explanations to give and circles to run. His whys were not for me, but for himself, so I listened on.
One of these days I suspect he'll get tired of running, and just be. Maybe on the Islands, or maybe back in the Midwest. Maybe his past love--the one whose visa ran out, will come after him again. It's hard to catch a person if they're running.
As much as these stories petitioned an unsuspecting visit with mystery, ache and struggle, and as much as I wanted to forget how they made me feel on that long rainy car ride, or on the couch with two sleeping babes curled beside me, wisdom beckons me to scoop them up and take them with me.
It's as though God was telling me, take these stories. No, here. I know they're not yours, but have them. Be burdened by them for a minute. Because they are real. And of the people around you. These stories are the people walking by and beside you each day. I'm building compassion in you. It's one of my greatest virtues. To be able to give more, you must know more.
A year and a half or so ago, I had felt that my passion for my work in peer abuse prevention and spreading kindness, was running dry. I'd been pushing away my dealings with prevention, because I wasn't quite sure that I had yet entirely faced my own story of abuse. I fought with myself over what healing looked like and whether or not I could in fact be a voice or a vessel of hope. But on a good day, during that time, I prayed to God with the Hillsong lyrics:
Heal my heart and make it clean / Open up my eyes to the things unseen / Show me how to love like You have loved me / Break my heart for what breaks Yours.
My timing must have been off.
I fell into despair, heart cracked for friends dealing with heartache and loss. I learned fast that God is quick to answer a prayer that builds compassion. God shows up when you sit at His table.
He showed me a mother mourning for a son who'd taken his life, and her dealings with on-going depression. He brought to my attention a father, who worked in the trenches of suicide and peer abuse prevention, who succumbed to the pain of his lost child, taking his own life. He showed me over and over, heartache and mourning, heartache and mourning.
Until I was aching and mourning. The sky clouded, happy hellos half-filled, a closing in, a double-take at the children, and the deep heaviness in the chest that greeted me in the morning, even as the sky beamed in blue hues. And I didn't know what to do with it.
Isn't that what He feels for us each day, every hour, every minute as His children walk out life feeling alone, abandoned, rejected, humiliated. His heart breaks for us while we mourn. And He waits for us in the mourning. He waits for the moment that we give ourselves over to His love, to set us free from the leaky facet, the divisiveness, and the race that begs to be ran--the race that He's already finished.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn," says Romans 12. It was never required of me to know what to do with a double-portion of mourning. I was only asked to receive and mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.
So as the stories continue to be given, they don't fall on deaf ears. Though the lives that they've affected stir in me an emotion to close off and not receive, I agree to receive them anyway. Because to know is to understand and with understanding we can live with compassion. The stories make up volumes of books that God has outlined for His children; a compilation of stories shared, to teach, uplift, pages to mourn over, to rejoice over. All leading back to Him.
So I gather the stories, the mystery, ache and struggle and place them in my pack, and continue. I'll carry them with me, eventually tucking them into the books of compassion that God is writing in me.
The light is on for you, friend,