“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
She sat in my office voicing everything that she’d kept bottled up for years. “I internalize things,” she told me. I sit and I listen. She asks, “Do you have any advice?” I gently tell her what I tell myself and others: We cannot live the Christian life alone. And I tell her that I was honored that she’d even share with me. Then I encourage her to find trusted others to share with. Others who would share her joys as well as her pain. I can’t remember where I read this or who said this (otherwise I’d attribute it to the person), but I remember reading that a person doesn’t know us until they know what brings us joy. We share our lives with others–not just joys but pains, too. Real friends know our joy as well as our pain.
I remind her that although her struggle is unique, others suffer…others who have smiles pasted on their faces. In my work, I am in a unique position. Daily, people come to me, and I have the sacred privilege of peering behind the veil of their souls, of sharing my own journey, of living life together with them.
Most of the time they think that no one else is suffering or is insecure. But I have a distinct vantage point; I can see that many are–only they don’t disclose it to others. Over and over again, I see that no one has it all together. And many times the difference between those who are moving toward health and those that aren’t is this: those who share their joys and suffering with others have a safety net–a web of support–those who bear their burdens and share their joys. Most frequently, they were first vulnerable. They had courage to reach out.
Often, I have to be the first to be vulnerable in a situation. The first willing to be humiliated and to share with trusted others. I find that what I dread the most–rejection because of what I share–seldom comes to fruition. Instead what I often find is love and understanding…at least compassion.
The body of Christ should be a place where we can be transparent of our unraveling. Transparent in saying, “I am falling apart.” Or transparent in saying, “I just got a promotion.” We are to share each other’s joys as well as each other’s pain. The Church is the first place we should encounter hospitality…an invitation from God.
Are we inviting souls? Are we a spacious place? Do others have the confidence to approach God because we are approachable? Are we an icon of God in some mysterious way?
If you are lonely, feeling rejected, depressed or abandoned do reach out to someone that you find trusthworthy. Sadly, sometimes we find unbelievers who are more gracious and trustworthy than those who profess the name of Christ. We find that we cannot easily find living icons of God in the Church. That is profanity. Sacrilege.
Do you have someone you can share your little and big joys with?
Often it will involve you being vulnerable or saying, “Hey, I like you and respect you, let’s be friends.” I have done that many times and have been truly nourished and blessed with deep and lasting friendships.
Jesus had a circle of intimates–Peter, James, and John. Did he not show him his glory–his joy on the Mount of Transfiguration and also share his pain with them in Garden of Gethsemane and at Golgotha?