We live in a world of walking wounded. She is fearful of succumbing to the mental illness that plagues her family, constantly wondering if she’s slowly going crazy. He wonders if the abuse and betrayal in his past will ever stop sabotaging his marriage. She faces mid-life alone, aching for a life and ministry partner, enduring comments from family and friends about still being single. They wonder if they could have done more to help their child, to save him from drugs, from suicide. She goes for another test, another procedure, wondering if she’ll ever conceive a child. And the stories go on…
We want transparency and vulnerability. We want people to share. (At least most of us would say so.) But what do we do when the tears come? What do we do when people are needy? What do we do after people drop the bombshell of how they’re really doing, what they’re really feeling and thinking?
Are we uncomfortable? Do we change the topic? Do we quickly come up with the right Christian answer for their problem? Do we tell them we’ll pray for them, and then never do? Do we tell them their problem is too much and they need to see a professional?
Do we cry with them? Do we just sit and listen, not trying to fill the silence, not trying to give answer to the questions? Do we ask them what they need, what practical way we might be able to help?
I heard of a seminary professor who explained (using slightly more colorful language)…
When you’ve been in a difficult place, it’s like you’ve been rolling around in the mud, and there’s dirt caked onto you, clods of it clinging to you. What you need isn’t professional help. What you need is to roll around in grace until it rubs away the dirt, until the grace rubs off on you.
Rolling around in grace. Like a dog on a summer day—flipped on its back, flailing this way and that in the grass, scratching its back, getting the scent all over, perfectly delightfully content. What a picture.
This is not to say that there isn’t a time and place for professional help. Surely professional counseling, and sometimes medication, are very needed and can be a great source of help. There are some situations in which professional assistance is necessary and it would be foolish not to seek it.
But sometimes that’s not what’s needed, or at least not all of what’s needed. Sometimes it’s the dirt of life that needs to get worked off in the context of friendship and caring community. Sometimes what we need is love, concern, compassion, and…grace. And these are things that can’t be put into a pill and aren’t supposed to be solved in a 50-minute counseling session.
Are you feeling muddy and messy? Go find a community of grace to roll around in.
For the rest of us, how can we create a grace-filled place to invite people into so that they can soak it in, letting the dirt of life fall away? How can we make a wide open, lush field of grace?