November 14, 2011
Last night, I learned that a colleague was getting a divorce after a marriage of 2 ½ years. You could tell that she was in pain, yet numb From my conversation with her, the struggle to make her marriage work had been much longer and much more private battle than the world knew. Now, she and her teenaged daughter were struggling, searching for a footing, something solid to stand on. There will be no one who can give her exactly the kind of council she desires, I told her. She, like so many of us who face this crisis, will hear from many with endless advice, strategies, vengeance, “I told you so’s”. On the other hand, she will not hear from those who she thought she would. A deficiency in a friendship is often realized under stress.
It’s important to know that we, as people and as friends are inadequate, we fail those that we care for, and that is a guarantee. We will not be there for our friend on that one sleepless night, we will not be there to pick up the call when they desperately need that shoulder to cry on, or that ear to hear.
Some days, yes, other days, no. We will miss the mark too often; we’ll come up short of expectations. However, I told her that in this time of suffering, there is a foreign perspective to consider, as odd as it sounds, she, herself has a responsibility in this dark hour. Her job is to realize that fact of her friends and all earthly support systems will be inadequate, those of you going through a divorce, even a tragic death, all of you who suffer, suffer alone, but there is a choice in how one suffers, choosing to suffer with beauty, or suffer with a toxicity that poisons those who come in contact with you. You can suffer with a grace, knowing that, in spite of the fact that friends and family will miss the mark many times, you, yourself can extend a grace to those who are stumbling to minister to you. You, in a sense can become one who ministers to those who were originally intended to deliver hope and encouragement. Knowing this will equip you to face these dark days, knowing that in the future, your own story, your own struggle, your experiences during this time will in fact be a teaching moment, a guide perhaps to someone just like you who is in his or her own dark valley, where their sleepless nights, and endless questions may be met with a wisdom only someone as my friend can provide, even though marked with some measure of inadequacy, but more with a seasoned grace that can serve as a balm for a broken and wounded heart. Suffer you will, surely, but in doing so, choose carefully and intentionally how you will suffer and you will transcend its pain, you will see past its long sentence and you will know its grip will last, but only for a season and the choice that you make at the beginning of this journey into darkness will be the lasting lesson you take with you as your pain begins to ease. This choice is most often not contemplated, suffering is natural and uncalculating, its pain is seemingly a freefall and we are in our own mind licensed to spiral recklessly because of the very nature of its tragedy. However, if we can supernaturally pause, if we can contemplate, and calculate the effects of a reckless suffering, it becomes clear that we must not, nor should we desire to suffer selfishly. When we do, our hearts begin to refuse nourishment from those who wish to lend comfort. Recklessly swirling in our own despair will do nothing of benefit to ourselves, much less to those who still need you.
If you could see yourself in the future looking back at your past, will you look back on it with gratitude or regret?
Choose, be thoughtful and focus not on your own suffering, but on how your suffering will someday be a season where grace was full and wisdom was present.