Come. Take a walk with me. We’re not traveling far, just a lap around the village that is your heart. Grab your friends, your family…let’s get the whole band together (the marching band, that is…we’re going to want to make some noise).
I had a different idea for this week’s blog. I was going to expand a bit on part of my Wyldlife talk from last week. There was some more stuff there that needed to be said, but had to be cut for time. It stayed with me, though, so I was going to let it out here. Maybe I’ll come back to next week. Maybe it’ll never return. All I know is that I need to write about something different right now.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading these last couple weeks. Not from the psychological-thriller that sits next to my bed, but from the hearts of people. Joe’s Facebook posts…Joe’s blogs (joeringle.blogspot.com)…Facebook posts of friends and family. Thursday night, I came across the blog of Jennifer Roth (www.jenniferroth.me). Jenn was one of Christen’s closest and best friends, and my family has recently adopted her into our own (she has adopted us as well). I won’t go into everything she says here, but the title was “Fort Jenn” and is a good read. It’s also the basis of how I landed here on this topic. See…I started to respond to her post. It was intended to be a quick note, but the words kept coming and coming. Soon, I realized there was even more wanting to pour out. My response to her post was beginning to be longer than her actual post. That’s when I realized that something bigger than me was trying to come out.
When God wants to talk, you don’t tell Him no. You don’t say, “Sorry, God. I wanted to talk about something else this week.”
Can the horn section give me an Amen?
Come. Let’s keep walking. When tragedy hits, it is common nature to shell up. We regress into the dwellings of our homes, our hearts, and our minds—cut off from the rest of the world. While we appreciate the well-wishers around us, we really just want them to leave so we can be alone to grieve on our own. What’s the one thing constantly said when we grieve? “I am so alone.” Yet when we are surrounded by loved ones, all we want is for them to leave.
We seek solace in our seclusion.
God does not want this. We were not intended to be alone. God was alone, and it made Him unhappy…so He made everything, including man. He quickly realized that man wasn’t enough. Man needed someone as well, so He created woman. And families. And friends.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
In other words: Strength in numbers.
And the band said, Amen!
Come. Let’s take another lap. We are so quick to share our joys with others, but equally quick to suffer our trials alone. Never assume that you are alone in your pain. Suffering isn’t some island located in the Bermuda Triangle. Those that love you hurt WITH you…sometimes, they hurt FOR you. Sometimes, THEY hurt too. My sister-in-law, Christen, passed away three weeks ago. My brother, her husband, Joe, is obviously hurting. Think he’s the only one? Of course not. Her parents are hurting. Her children are hurting. Her friends are hurting. Aunts…uncles…cousins…in-laws…the list is endless.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
I don’t pretend to fully understand scripture. I am far from a Biblical scholar. When I read this, however, another common phrase comes to mind. Share the load. Yes, you are suffering, but don’t think you are alone. Others are suffering as well. Share the load, and the burden of our pain will lesson. Share the load of your grief and comfort will find you. All of you. Share the load, and you will also share comfort and ultimately…
Sound off, band.
Come. Let’s continue. This trip is a little bumpier. Who is the cause of suffering? Satan. Why does he throw this emotion at us? Because he wants us alone. He wants us isolated. He wants us to withdraw from our friends and family. There, we are weak. When we’re alone, we are more susceptible to his attacks. Don’t fool yourself—you cannot defeat Satan one-on-one. Alone, he will defeat you. There’s only one who has stood toe-to-toe with Satan and walked away victorious…and last I checked, none of us were Him.
The wall around your heart is quivering ever so slightly…can you feel it? We will bring it down if we just keep marching, so come…let’s push forward.
If we’re alone, if we suffer in silence, then Satan can do what he does best—build a wall around our heart. He will construct an impenetrable fortress brick-by-brick from the inside. Once it’s finished, he will reside within the walls of our heart, replacing love with anger and resentment.
We will learn to hate our friends and family when they come to visit. We will learn to hate them when they call. Or text. Or Facebook. Then…as we ever so slowly push them away…we will learn to hate our friends and family for not coming to visit. We will learn to hate them when they don’t call. Or text. Or Facebook.
We will refuse to let anyone in; our hearts will be completely closed to love. We won’t allow anyone to even get close to us. The way we will see it—if we allow them to get close, then we allow for the possibility of love. If we allow for the possibility of love, then we open our doors once more for heartache. Pain. Suffering. Grief.
You know what? It’s true. The more you are willing to love, the more you open yourself up to the possibility of pain. Why is Joe hurting this much over Christen’s death? Because he loved her this much. Why are the rest of us hurting this much? Because we loved her this much.
But what’s the alternative? A robotic, emotionless life? It doesn’t work like that. We are not robots. We have emotions. So, if grief causes us to live without love, what emotion will fill that void?
Satan is the lord of hate.
What does God want from us? Love. Read 1 John 4: 7-21. A sample: Verses 7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not love God, because God is love.”
I hear the band giving a Hallelujah here.
Come. We’re almost there. The walls are trembling. We march on.
I have been trying to write this for three days. The words have come and gone. Ideas have come to me…then faded away. I kept trying to deliver the message instead of letting the message deliver me. Last night, as I was lying in bed, I prayed. I asked God to guide me, to give me the right words. I received an immediate answer in the form of one sentence:
“If your heart is closed to others, then your heart is closed to Me.”
The band wails away, and a light tremor shakes the ground.
Come. This is it. The end. The final trek around your heart. Let’s make it good—let’s destroy Satan’s structure once and for all. Drums—give us a cadence. A stomping Sousa should do the trick. Forward!!
A few years ago, Steph and I were living in a different town. There was a huge storm. A couple towns away, in a place called Utica, a tornado dropped down and destroyed most of their downtown. It was really strange because it didn't follow the normal path a tornado makes. Instead, it STAYED downtown. Basically—it landed in the middle of the town and got stuck. It had nowhere to go, so it just tore the town up.
If we allow Satan to build a fortress around our heart, his storm will be trapped inside, shredding everything in its path. Hate will consume us, and our relationships with friends and family—and God—will be wiped away. We’ll be left to rebuild all by ourselves, a Herculean task that none of us are capable of performing.
If we tear down those walls, are we weather-proof? Of course not. Storms will still come, and some will even do heavy damage. But we will not be alone. Loved ones will be there to share the burden. We will rebuild the village together. We can rebuild our village brick-by-brick until we're whole again. It won't look the same...it won't feel the same...there will probably be some historical landmark to show where the pain hit...but it will be WHOLE again. Time, sweat, tears, and love will make it whole again.
How do we do that? Strength in numbers. We surround ourselves with loved ones. We share. When we hurt—we don’t dwell in the darkest corners of our homes or hearts. We talk. We talk to friends…family…our pastors…church members…co-workers…anyone who will listen. We write, and share those works with as many people as possible.
The other day, Joe told me that he’s currently averaging 750-800 hits on his blog PER DAY. By definition, that’s a village. Every day, there are 750-800 people desperate to help Joe rebuild his heart…and in turn, he is helping them rebuild theirs.
Horns—give me all you’ve got!! Readers…spiritual warriors…give me a barbaric yawp!! It’s here!! The walls of our hearts are crumbling!! Satan’s fortress is falling to the ground!! Let our love for Christen…for Joe…for Jeanne…for each other…for God fill this place once more!!
Of course we’re still hurting. This was a massive storm. We have an enormous rebuilding project in front of us…but we will rebuild. There will always be a place in Joe’s heart (in all our hearts) for Christen, but as long as we continue to share with each other…talk to each other…share writings with each other…healing will occur. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s good. Healing does not mean forgotten. Healing means peace. It means we’re open for joy again. For grace. For love.
Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what God wants? What Christen would want? How happy would she be with us if we ignored the cries of others and focused on our own pain? Alone. Christen was about family. And friends. She was about closeness with each other and with God. Shutting it down…packing it in…closing up our hearts to each other would NOT sit well with her. C’mon…those that know her should see the stern look she’d be giving us. Head slightly tilted…mouth in a straight line…eyes burning a hole in your conscience. You know better, that look says.
Having received that look numerous times, it’s etched into my soul.
So, my friends and family, I reach out. My work gloves are in my back pocket. I’m ready to do some rebuilding. Give me a call if you need some help. Shoot me a note. In return, I will need your help as well. Answer the phone if I call. Respond if I send you a message. Reach out to each other. Visit each other. Call each other. Share. Keep expressing your thoughts and feelings on Facebook or your blogs. Together, we can restore this village of Utica as the Utopia it is meant to be.