If I wrote a blog post about every wonderful friend that I have I would be writing for days. I don’t say that to sound impressive as if I did anything to deserve these friends. I haven’t. I try to be a good friend but on the friend meter I don’t know that I’m an extraordinary friend. I’m not saying that to solicit compliments so PLEASE don’t send any.
My point is that I’m very humbled by my friends and their obvious love for me and my children. If I could be more like some of the friends I have I would be a better person. I believe that God has brought many of them into my life just to show me that.
One of those friends is Kelly my neighbor. I hate to single out a particular friend because it’s like choosing a favorite between your children. You simply can’t. Still, I feel compelled to share the way Kelly has touched my life recently because it’s been very inspiring to me at a time I could use some inspiration.
Kelly’s son Mike has cystic fibrosis and is battling leukemia. I suppose some other combination of horrible things could happen but I can’t think of any. The softest most palatable way I can describe it is to say it’s a health train wreck. When Kelly sends me messages about how Mike is I wonder how much more he can endure? Then I shake my head and ask myself how is this mother holding up enough to send me this message? I say this with a little experience in the mothering challenges category and believe me I’m nowhere near as tough as this gal. When I think about mothers with soul strength Kelly has to be on the top of it.
Are you getting the picture? Kelly is living every mother’s worst nightmare and then there’s me. I’ve got some “stuff” going on right now in my life. It’s hard but nobody’s life is threatened. Healing and the full measure of God’s provision will come in time. I have no doubt about that and yet sometimes I just can’t muster up a smiling face. I try but I’m not that great of an actress.
Knowing this I prepared myself with every happy thought I could and went to visit Kelly and possibly see Mike. I was determined that I would say absolutely nothing about what was going on with me. I put every worrisome thought I had in the furthest corner of my mind before I walked in the door of her house. Kelly came down the stairs smiling and after giving me a big hug immediately says, “Are you okay? Something is wrong I know it. Tell me.” I stood there in her doorway taken aback by her mind reading powers!
What could I say she’d figured it out? Am I that pathetically transparent I thought? Yes, apparently so and as hard as I tried to distract her Kelly did not relent. She found out what was troubling me and dismantled every bit of false bravado I had. Then in a moment I will never forget looked me in the eyes and said, “Karen you don’t have to be strong because I will be your strength.” She didn’t say it just once she said it several times looking me square in the face. “I will be your strength – don’t you worry. I will be your strength. I will not stop praying and I will be your strength and you will be mine because I need that.” Her tone was emphatic and she wouldn’t let go of my shoulders until I agreed. So of course I did.
I was speechless. I stood in her entryway wondering how I could deserve such a friend. I left overwhelmed and thought about every other friend I have and how while they haven’t said it just the way Kelly did they are saying the same thing. They are saying they will help carry my burdens and likewise they need me to carry theirs because we’re in this mess called life together and indeed we are.
I thought of what Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians when he says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In the Greek the word used for burdens means “heaviness”. It’s a heaviness that is overwhelming to a person. A burden that is too much for them to bear alone. It may be a burden they brought into their own life unintentionally or one that was arbitrarily handed to them. Either way it doesn’t matter according to Paul. It is also different than the type of burden he talks about later in his letter which is a load you are expected to carry on your own. The first burden no matter what the cause is one you won’t be able to handle and the second is one you will. The first kind of burden can’t be addressed by the often quoted belief that God never gives you more than you can handle because that’s simply not true especially when it comes to emotional strength.
I think this is where we can take a lesson from Kelly who was reminding me that there is a fellowship that can only be found when we are willing to share in one another’s suffering. There is a collective strength that can be harnessed if we enter into and share with each other the heartache we are all feeling for different reasons. This is how we fulfill the law of Christ which is to love one another.
The only way this can work, however, is if we are willing to let people see into us past our smiling veneer and if we are willing to look into them past theirs. That’s what Kelly was saying to me. I see you are hurting and you know that I am and so we have to be each other’s strength. What made this so poignant to me is that Kelly has learned this because she is desperate and willing to let go of any bit of vanity she might have. She’s fighting for the life of her child and subsequently anything that would get in the way of his healing she is willing to let go of.
Most people in this kind of situation would horde their time and emotional energy but she looks at her situation in exactly the opposite way. Instead of hanging on she’s letting go. The beauty in that to me is inspiring. How many of us when faced with a desperate situation can look past ourselves and offer someone something we don’t even think we have?
When I think about my life I have to ask have I ever been that generous or humble? If not I want to be because I believe it is in that kind giving that we can receive abundantly more than we could ever imagine. Perhaps then whatever the burdens we have to bear will feel that much lighter.