Pain Credentials- There is no passport needed to love well

 It was eight years ago but I can still easily go back to that room in my mind, all of us crammed on the couches, chairs and floors.  The air heavier than any I had every experienced in my life.  My Father had recently been taken out of the basement where he had died the night before and we all sat together in shock and love.

Family, friend, neighbors, all of us breathless, speechless.

I could write a thousand words about the people beside me that day and how their face to face love changed my life.  Yet the one person that will always come into focus for me is my sweet friend and college roommate Becky.

We had met at a pizza place and our lives were totally the same and completely different.  I was casual and went to class in hoodies and funky hair.  Becky was (and still is) the modern day Audrey Hepburn and always dressed in flawless jeans and heels with carefully coiffed hair and makeup.

So it said something when she skipped her makeup and shower to rush over to my parents house when she heard the news.  Neither of us had ever lost a parent, so I know that she was completely unsure of what to do, or say.  Yet I remember with tender thankfulness how firmly she stayed by my side, offering even to come with me when I went to the bathroom, in case I was reluctant to be alone.

She was my maid of honor and threw a thoughtful shower and bachelorette party.

She bought a last minute plane ticket when our firstborn Noelle arrived, because she couldn’t bear to miss out on those first days of excitement.

At my Mother’s funeral she and her husband Adam, stayed with Kel and I for much of the visitation and she was by my side through all the confused and dark details.

She never flinched, never waivered, never let things get awkward.  She had no credentials that gave her permission to speak into my life other than the simple fact that she was my best friend, and belonged there.

So often when we don’t know what to say we make one of two mistakes:

  1. We say something trite that makes us sound like we know more than we do and we inflict pain.
  1. Or we say nothing and keep our distance because we feel ill equipped to speak to something we don’t understand.

Surprisingly #2 is far worse than #1.  The last thing a wounded friend needs is to wonder if their pain is too awkward for you.  To question if you were only there for the good times.

Don’t buy into the lie that you need credentials to enter into the world of the broken.

I have loved people through loss and pain that I have no understanding of: miscarriage, chronic pain, divorce, abuse.

A Friend loves at ALL TIMES isn’t a phrase that should only be sweetly needlepointed on a pillow, but actively lived out with late night phone calls, tears over coffee, surprise meals, flowers, books, pop-in visits and oceans of love.

Real hands and feet love will speak louder than your nervousness, every time.

Go there, love them.  Say something like: “I have no idea what this is like, but I am so sorry, and I’m all in, what can I do?

You aren’t going to understand everything, yet you are called to love your people well and doing so will and should make you uncomfortable at times.  This is how we grow stronger and closer and more beautiful to Our Father.

  • Lisa K

    I definately made the mistake of not telling a roomate I was sorry for the loss of an aunt because I thought maybe it might be too painful if I brought it up. They didn’t talk to me for 4 months.

  • http://twitter.com/Vaderalman Mark Allman (@Vaderalman)

    Leanne,

    This subject is always dear to me.

    I think often it matters not what you say at all. What matters I think was that you showed up; you hung around; you pitched in if you could identify a need; you stood and walked beside.

    I do not remember anything anyone said when my father killed himself but I do remember who showed up and who did not.

    One story Leanne that I have remembered for years upon years and it always tugs at my heart and tells me to pay attention and it is this. I read about someone whose friend had someone very close to them die. The person knew not what to say and knew not what to do. He went to see them, and just hung around and they discovered while he was there he had shined all of their shoes……

  • http://www.missbananapants.com Michelle

    I have never lost a parent. Not to death. But loss and brokeness are very real in my life with a father who refuses a relationship and a marriage that could have broken to a million pieces just as easy as it’s chosen to fight and stay intact. I think you explained beautifully what it means to love people through any of these times. Thank God for your friend. This is a wonderful post for those who may not understand this road. :)