Forty Days Revisited, Day 30–As the End Approaches

The countdown is on. We are now in the finals days of Lent. These are among the most intense days of the season, when we truly zero in on the final days of the ministry of Jesus and enter the period in which those of us who are familiar with the story watch Jesus trek toward his betrayal, torture, suffering, and death. And then, we wait alongside the two Marys and Jesus’s befuddled, bemused disciples, for the impossible to happen.

It’s interesting to think about how the “passion” story plays out. It’s like a movie you watch over and over again: you know virtually everything that happens, but you’re still compelled to watch it until the end. I was talking to a friend about this just the other day. There are movies I turn on when I know I need a good cry (so why I haven’t turned one on lately is beyond me, given my relative tearlessness of the past few years.) You know the parts that make you cry, you know every line of that one scene as if it were burned into your consciousness.

Those of us who were raised Christian know the story and the lines: we have heard them preached, or said in mass. For all that I have been many years estranged from formal Christian religious practice, I could very nearly say an entire mass by heart, and, having spent a number of years as a Protestant, could also recite chapter and verse a number of lines from Gospel accounts of the last days of Jesus. If the life of Jesus were a movie—well it has been several, really—we might sit and yell at the TV or movie screen, “No, Jesus, don’t let Judas kiss you! Dude, he’s tryin’ to betray you. They’re gonna turn you over to the torturers.” We are frightened, yet we can’t look away. We have to watch it play itself out. And though we know what’s going to happen, having “watched it” in some cases for our entire lives, we nonetheless wait to see what happens.

The payoff, of course, is at the end. It’s a little like staying for the extra scenes after the credits roll in a Marvel movie: you know that if you sit there long enough something else is going to happen. And in this story it does, as the scene opens on younger of the two Marys visiting the tomb after Jesus’s death. She’s going to arrange his dressings or something, but arrives to discover that the stone…Oh wait, it’s not time for that part yet. First we have to endure the grim parts.

The journey of this 40 days is and has been about discovery. The 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus fasted before he started his formal ministry was all about discovery for him as well: learning what was expected of him, battling and gaining mastery over temptations laid before him by a most wily adversary, contemplating all manner of things, including how hungry and thirsty he must have been. (Let’s be real: no one fasts for 40 days and 40 nights and doesn’t think from time to time about food.) Our journey is in part commemoration of those intense first days, as well as the intense last ones. People around the world—Christian and non-Christian alike—know the story of Jesus, and some join in the Lenten observance as an act of solidarity.

For some of us, this journey has been about introspection and reflection, a time to ponder a variety of things about the nature of suffering, our own personal challenges and victories, and the lessons we learn and the strength and capacities we develop when we walk into the fire and come through on the other side. I am grateful for this journey, and yes, I am going to watch the whole movie all over again, even though I know how it ends. And so it goes.

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Forty Days Revisited, Day 29–Finding Rest

I am function in the “tween times,” that is, I traveled East to West and am now three hours behind my normal time. This is not easy. I won’t be here long enough to fully transition to West Coast time, but just long enough to make my reentry into my home time zone a bit problematic. I will arrive home at 10:30 p.m. and have to be prepared for a 8:30 a.m. daylong meeting with the Board of the organization I work for. The problem with an 8:30 meeting is it will feel like it’s 5:30 a.m., as I will not have had time to transition back to my regular time. This is truly not an epic problem, but one of a little discomfort and inconvenience. Many people around the world are much harder pressed to find places of rest. And so I offer this post with a prayer that those who need rest this evening find it.

Forty Days, Day 29–A Place to Lay My Head
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Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest.” (Matthew 8:20)

I have had several long days that have added up to being a number of long weeks. An evening event at work means I am starting this writing process later than I’d like, and I am exhausted. I know that exhaustion has been a theme over these four weeks, and I must acknowledge that as my reality of the moment. I plan on taking some intentional steps to do something about this, but perhaps tonight is not going to be the beginning of those actions.

This morning as I blearily began writing in my daily journal, struggling to awaken fully after about five hours of sleep, I found myself thinking, “I wonder what Jesus did when he was tired.” I have to believe that even the ‘Son of Man’ got tired and weary and heartsick and discouraged. “They just keep coming,” perhaps he observed to his disciples as the nonstop flow of people followed him around coming to him for healing, blessing, absolution, and myriad needs. Did he ever get overwhelmed at times by the depth and degree of suffering he saw around him? He appeared to be disgusted by the self-righteous politicking of the religious establishment of his day (what would he think about Congress??) Perhaps Jesus showed his divinity through his ability to not throw up his hands and permanently withdraw from it all. It would be understandable.

There are saints and angels among us even now. They are health care workers who daily expose themselves to sickness and dis-ease to touch and heal people, not necessarily through divine miracles, but human kindness. My father was a physician. While he healed people through modern medicine, people were touched as much by his compassion and humanity as by his medical skill. When he traveled to East Africa to practice medicine, the people would walk from miles around, sometimes for days, covered in the red dust of the clay roads to come see this doctor who actually touched them when he examined them. My father would work long hours at the “bush” hospital. I’m certain he got tired over the months, and when we returned from Uganda several months later, he had contracted malaria and was quite ill. But he at no point regretted his decision to go or the actions he took while he was there. All around the world people reach out to and help people in need by doing what they can where they can as best they can with what they have.

I am not my father, and I am definitely not Jesus. In my little corner of the world I do not heal the sick or perform great miracles. Most of us don’t. So first we can do the best we can on any given day. Sometimes that means 110% and others that means 55% (but I try to give as much of that 55% as I possibly can.) Second we give what we can: a kind word or compassionate act or gesture goes a long way to providing a moment of encouragement or hope to someone who is struggling. They probably won’t come back and thank you for it, they might not even know what you did. They simply know they feel better simply by being seen and acknowledged.

So I do the best I can, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of everything going on in the world: the suffering, the wars and strife,  hunger and disease, and most baffling man’s inhumanity to man. And heaven knows I get tired; sometimes I feel like I am in a perpetual state of tiredness. In the contemplations of these 40 days I continue to explore what it means to persevere, to “soldier on” through deep weariness and periodic overwhelm. These are things that Jesus no doubt experienced as he engaged in service to the community hour after hour, day after day, month after month throughout the brief duration of his ministry and life. Some days he had no place to rest his head. At least I have had that and am grateful for it. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May we experience and know true happiness and peace and taste and savor the fruits thereof. May it be so for us all.

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Forty Days Revisited, Day 28

From the treasure trove of past posts, I have extracted tonight’s installment. Good thing, too. I was traveling much of the day crossing airports and time zones. I find that these 40 days start out painfully slow, and then they seem to pick up pace. Now there are two weeks left, and while I am relieved to be nearly at the end, it also signifies just how fast time is flying. And while I’m confident that I have a few good original posts left in me, I am pleased that I can share an earlier one that has as much relevance today as when I wrote it. On that note, please enjoy this post from two years ago.

The Next Forty Days, Day 19–Find Me Unafraid
Originally posted on 2 March, 2016

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
from “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henly

I’ve recently been thinking a bit about fear, and the things that hold us back from experiencing as full and rich of life as possible. I am amazed that when I take the time to explore my hesitation about doing something, it is very often based in some totally irrational fear. Over the last few years my relationship with and to fear has shifted in some fairly significant ways.

When I experienced the series of losses that occurred in 2011, I realized that I had been slammed by a heavy dose of painful realities. I had neither the time nor luxury to wallow in some sustained pity party. I had to figure out how I was going to live and try to continue supporting my two dependents as best I could without a consistent, steady source of income. I spent a few weeks alternating between being scared silly about what I was going to do to survive and depressed and emotionally overwhelmed by all the loss I experienced. And buried not too deeply underneath it all was the fear that I would “never” recover and lead any type of “normal” life again.

There’s a line in an old country song that says, “When you hit rock bottom, you’ve got two ways to go: straight up or sideways.” So I sat for a little while at rock bottom before I slowly began taking intentional steps that pulled me out of it. One of the lifelines by which I pulled myself up was expressing gratitude. Intentionally focusing on the things in my life for which I was grateful allowed me to build a foundation from which I could begin the healing process and get myself back together. Focusing on the many blessings in my life help me see very clearly that, in spite of the things I had suffered, I experienced many, many more good and positive things in my life than I had the negative. And while losing my father, separating from my significant other, being “let go” from my job, and losing my home in the span of a few months was difficult, I still considered myself very fortunate indeed.

I began to gain a new perspective on fear. It wasn’t that I now lived completely unafraid; like most people I still experience occasional fear that something bad might happen to me again. But when I examine the things that used to really make me nervous–like how a former boss was going to respond to something they didn’t like–I realize that their impact on me was minimal. Unless the boss was going to do bodily harm to one of my children or put someone I loved in mortal danger, there was little they could do to me that would do more than rattle me a little. I have not faced death, but I’d dealt with a lot of difficult things. They simply don’t have the same impact they used to. I really resonate with something Eleanor Roosevelt said about fear,

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

I have learned to “take the next thing that comes along.” It is not pleasant, and in fact can be quite difficult or painful, but increasingly I am looking fear in the face and moving forward in spite of it. And if I should hit rock bottom again, at least I’ll have seen what it looks like and can once again find my way out.

As I think about the various themes of these 40 days, I wonder if Jesus ever felt fear. I mean, before his arrest and torture and crucifixion, which would have frightened the bejeebers out of anyone, I wonder if he ever experienced any of the less dramatic fears that we regular folk sometimes stumble over. How did he deal with it if he felt it? Who comforted him. It is likely that he too had to find his way out of his traumas in similar fashion as we do now. At least I like to think that he did.

I have gained strength and wisdom from some of the difficult times I’ve faced. I don’t want to act like I’ve got everything together now, that nothing can frighten me. I have by no means arrived at such a high level of grace. But I have learned to get back up when I am knocked down, and I definitely learned what I was made of. I like to think I could face “the next thing” with some measure of equanimity. While I’m not anxious to flex that particular muscle any time soon, I believe if I need to I can, that the “menace of the years, finds and shall find me unafraid. I rest in a belief that at the end of the day, all truly shall be well.

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Forty Days Revisited, Day 27–For Those Who Remain

As I walked through this day, I remained keenly aware of the sadness that has tagged along with me. The after effects of the sudden death of a work colleague yesterday have lingered, so everything I did today seemed to take longer, my steps were a little slower. I have been reflecting on the tenuous hold we have on this life and how much I would love to remember this when I am sniping at my partner over something small, or expressing irritation with my well-loved canine, companion, or feeling detached or disconnected or disengaged from work colleagues (even though I spend a significant amount of time with them.)

The other day I was having lunch with one of those work colleagues. We talked about many things related to our families, our upbringing, and–interestingly–about loss. They told me that after the death of one of a close family member, there was no funeral right after the death, but that a few months later, they’d held a memorial service. Some of them found it extremely disorienting; they didn’t feel a sense of closure. The last time they’d seen that loved one, she had been alive, not well, but alive nonetheless. Then they heard she had died. But none of them went to a service, saw her body, stood at her gravesite, or even gathered together to mourn or celebrate her life until months later.

I was struck by their story because it reminded me that such rituals, rites and ceremonies are less for the person who has died and more for those who remain. It caused me to totally rethink my “last wishes” about what might happen after my own departure from this earth plane. I had decided, among other things, that after donating every part of my body that doctors, hospitals, or scientists would find useful, I would be cremated. I did not want a grave or a headstone or marker of any kind, because I didn’t want my kids to come “visit” me. My rationale was that my spirit would be wherever they needed it to be, that it didn’t matter where the shell that was my body was.

For a long time after my mother had died, every time I went to her gravesite, I cried with fresh, renewed grief. I didn’t find it comforting to visit her grave, it was deeply distressing to me. So when I’d go back to my hometown, I eventually stopped visiting her grave. After a while, I couldn’t even remember where to find it in the cemetery. My brother, on the other hand, visited regularly (and still does), tending to the shrubs and grass and flowers that he planted there. I think he probably couldn’t imagine not visiting, while for me it is pretty much the opposite. After my father died and was laid to rest beside my mother, I found that I could look upon their graves with much less distress than I had during those early days. It was the sadness I’d felt at my parents grave that made me design the “last wishes” I described above.

My conversation with my colleague got me thinking about my self-centered notions of how I wanted things to be after my death–what I did and didn’t want, and so forth. I decided that I would ask my children and family what they want to do, how they might want it to be. At the end, it is totally about those who remain, and not about me at all. My spiritual beliefs are not tied to a rite or ritual that says one thing or another must be done in order for me to go into the afterlife in some particular way. And so I will invite them to co-create with me a celebration, a commemoration that will bring comfort to them. And while everyone might not agree on the various elements right away, it feels like an important conversation to have.

Jesus knew he was going to die, and did his best to prepare his close friends for the inevitable. He shared with them what was going to happen, what had to happen. And he gave them several important rituals that they could engage in as a means of remembering him. Millions of people around the globe, two millennia later, still engage in those rituals of remembrance. “Do these things in memory of me.”

We are now 31 days into the Lenten season, with two short weeks remaining. As people around the world continue to commemorate the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own lives–how we live, love, and celebrate the people around us, are be present for and with them, and how we live in the moment, each moment, as best we can. At the end of days, if I can say I did that more often than not, it will have been a life well lived.

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Forty Days Revisited, Day 26–Say Something

The other day I wrote a post titled, “Don’t Say Anything.” The premise was that there are times when saying nothing in a situation is the best thing to do. Who knew that today I would get to practice. This morning, a colleague at work was killed in an automobile accident. I learned about it via email (not the best way to learn things) within the first few minutes I arrived at the office. I sat stunned, rereading the email several times so the news could sink fully in. What? I was disbelieving.

I immediately thought of a friend who worked closely with the person who’d died. What should I say? Should I say anything at all? Did they even know? After a few minutes of thought, I sent them a simple text message: “I am here for you.” Within a few moments, I received an equally simple reply: “Thank you.” And in that exchange, I said as much as I could say in that moment, as much as I was going to say until I knew they’d had time to process the news. I am here for you. I can’t think of anything else I could have, or perhaps needed, to say. In that moment, I chose to say something that opened the door for them to talk to me if they needed to; they knew I understood the magnitude of the loss.

There are times when it is good to say something, but we often don’t know what to say. In those five words I texted to my friend–I intentionally chose not to call–what I actually said was, “I just learned this heartbreaking news and I thought of you. I know you are in shock and grief, and deeply saddened and affected by the enormity and tragic immediacy of the loss. If you need to talk, or need me for anything, I am here for you.” And in their response I likewise heard and felt more than her simple reply, “Thank you.” In both cases, it was sufficient.

Eventually they did call, some 30 minutes after the text exchange. When I answered, I said their name, and asked how they were doing. They spoke haltingly and briefly, and perhaps a little mechanically. I could understand that: they were still processing what had happened and still seeking words to form into semi-coherent sentences. I probably said simple things, one and two word responses, just enough to let them know I was listening and acknowledging their words. The entire call lasted about seven minutes, with me closing with “If you need me for anything, you know how to find me.”

It seems to me that what we need at times like these, is sometimes simple, basic comfort. Sometimes there are words, and sometimes there are none. I have various memories of those kinds of moments. After my mother’s funeral and burial, I can remember walking down a slight hill from the graveside. And old friend, standing near the bottom of the hill, saw me, opened her arms to me and I walked into them and wept. By her gesture she said, “I am here for you,” and I gratefully accepted her presence.

There is wisdom in discerning when to say something and when not to say anything. I am still learning that and no doubt will continue to have opportunities to practice. These 40 days has me in introspection and reflection mode. Events like today’s draw me to think about the nature of suffering, of life and death, of the suddenness with which everything can change. It also reminds me to be grateful for the beauty that’s all around me, for the love and support of family and friends, and the opportunities to connect with the world around me. For that I am quietly grateful.

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Forty Days Revisited, Day 25–And Now for Something Completely Unexpected

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to. And occasionally “sometimes” means more often than not. Today was one of those days when  a variety of things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. The whole day wasn’t a wash, but it left me with a furrowed brow (that I keep having to smooth as I type) and a generally unsettled feeling. This evening I had a lovely theme all worked out for tonight’s blog, and then something came crashing into the middle of it breaking my concentration, dampening my mood, and taking the wind right out of my sails. (Insert a HUGE sigh here…)

But as someone who has major skills and experience with perseverance and resilience–that I have written about often–I have bounced back, and reached into my treasure trove of writings and plucked out a gem that I will share with you now. No, sometimes things don’t work out the way I planned our wanted them to. Sometimes they work out better. Perhaps that is the case this evening. Perhaps that is what the journey of 40 days is all about–dealing with the unexpected and unplanned interruptions that are part of life with as much grace, humor, and self compassion as possible. And so we press on.

Forty Days, Day 31–Study War No More
(Originally posted on 25 March 2015)

The other day I was forced to admit to myself that I am tired. Not simply the “I didn’t get enough sleep” kind of tired, though that state has become more commonplace than I care to acknowledge. I mean a deepening, in-the-bones kind of weariness. I am aware that some of this is the war weariness that comes upon someone who has done battle over a protracted period of time. I have not been in the military or trained in any kind of physical combat. I have not experienced the actual horrors of war, the fear, the grim determination, the mental, physical, and emotional strain that our actual combat soldiers and local “peacemakers” have experienced. In that sense, perhaps the metaphor of being a warrior is not appropriate.

Those of us who have not engaged in actual battle need to be significantly less casual in our use of martial metaphors. However, when I think about fitting metaphors for the type of work some of us engage in, while the “battles” are generally not physical ones, sometimes the mental and emotional drains for various types of noncombat work can be psychologically and physically draining. Those of us who work for social change: racial and social justice, marriage equality, reproductive rights, economic equity, immigration reform, environmental justice, peace in contested regions around the world, food security, and so many other areas of endeavor are in our own ways warriors of a kind.

Those who have battled in these areas over many years move through various phases–we are passionate, dedicated, and energetic early on, become battle tested and hardened over time. We take “command,” leading others in the work, and eventually, we get weary. Along the way we may burn out, experience setbacks and be sidelined, get sent back from the front lines, be “wounded” and face all types of hardships and obstacles. Often though, we pull ourselves together and recover enough to throw ourselves back into the fray.

Metaphorically speaking I suppose I am a grizzled and somewhat reluctant old warrior. I have been campaigning for many, many years, sometimes leading, often following. I have had “commanders” who didn’t know what they were doing, who were ill-equipped to do the tasks that were set before them and yet somehow were in leadership. They took orders from the brass even when the results of those orders would be ineffective at best and disastrous at worst and turned around and asked us to execute them. I spent at much time trying to circumvent the foolishness and meet our objectives in my own way when and where I could, protecting the people I was responsible for along the way. In spite of all the dysfunction I managed to do some good work and to stand strong and live to fight another day.

Recently I found myself questioning if I have the stamina for one more campaign. I’ve been given a new set of orders. It’s kind of like in the movies and novels when the leader gives you an assignment that you’re pretty sure you’re not going to come out of in one piece (think of the epic battles in “Lord of the Rings” or the civil war battles depicted in the film, “Glory,” or storming the beaches at Normandy.) You know when you look at the map and the accompanying orders, the objective you’re being asked to take, that you have no idea how you’re going to do it or if it’s even possible, but you know you have to try. People are depending on you, lives are affected by what you are able to accomplish. You have to do what must be done, what Eleanor Roosevelt called “the thing you think you cannot do.”

It is good to be thinking about this during these 40 days of contemplation on the nature of suffering and healing, loss and redemption, death and life. Even when one is weary there are some key things to remember:

  1. You are not doing this alone. Every great struggle for freedom, equality, peace, justice, faith, etc. has been and is engaged by many, many people all over the world. This is not solely your struggle, you do not have to carry it all by yourself. Even when you feel most alone, remember this.
  2. You really are stronger than you think. Every time I think I have hit a wall, I have been able to draw on some inner reservoir of strength that I hadn’t remembered was there. These days I suppose I no longer panic when I get weary. When I reach for the energy it is there, and if I ever reach for it and it isn’t, then I know it’s time for a rest. I trust I will know when I’ve gotten to that point.
  3. There will come a time when you can rest. No one can battle forever. There comes a time when you can “lay down your sword and shield, down by the riverside” and won’t have to “study war no more.” I for one am counting on it. But for now the fight goes on.

I keep proverbs, prayers, and quotes posted around me to keep me moving when I feel tired and overwhelmed. Among them is this wisdom from Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox: “The more we do, the more we see the potential of what is possible. We are not discouraged by the enormity of what lies ahead, we are motivated by it.” While I confess that periodically I am discouraged by the enormity of the hills I have to climb and the work that needs to be done, I know I can’t afford to sit in that discouragement. I have to pull myself together, take quick breather, and get back at it.

That’s what this 40 days is allowing me to do, contemplate and view life through different lenses. I am grateful to be able to share reflections with any who might read and find value in them. Whether you are an actual warrior, physically laying your life on the line around the world, or a more metaphorical warrior battling against all manner of social ills that plague our planet, I have to believe that at the end of the day, we mostly want to study war no more. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May we all experience and know true happiness and peace and savor the fruits thereof. May it be so for us all! 

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Forty Days Revisited, Day 24–Don’t Say Anything

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything. About anything. Lately I’ve found myself in situations in which discretion was the better part of valor and so I said nothing. Some circumstances require, even demand a response, but where possible, sometimmes a wise and knowing nod serves to let someone know that you’re listening to them without needing to respond with words.

Depending on the relationship, allowing your nonverbals to speak for you is sufficient. (If you’re on the phone and the other person can’t see your nonverbals, saying “Ah,” or “Mmm Hmmm,” with the occasional well-placed “For real?” works well.) It’s not as placatory as it sounds; you really are listening, but the other person does not need and often don’t want a response. Sometimes they simply want to vent, to share their issues, concerns, frustrations with a sympathetic friend. And as long as what they’re saying isn’t draining your life force from you, you can fulfill that role.

There are other times when it is better not to say anything. I recently saw an article titled something like, “Ten Things Not to Say to Someone Who is Grieving.” Talking to a person who has lost someone close to them must be done with great care. Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of practice with this lately as coworkers and friends have lost siblings, parents, and close friends. In those situations you want to say something, anything, to bring confort to the person. (And in truth, sometimes it makes us feel better to say something to the person to acknowledge their loss without making them feel bad.) But as much as you want them to feel better, it’s not about you. It might be good not to say anything. Pay attention, watch for the cues.

Recently, when in a situation where saying nothing was not an option, I simply said to the person, “I cannot know what you’re experiencing. You and your family are in my thoughts.” Even when the person has lost a parent, I don’t say to them, “I know how you feel,” (first mistake) “When my mother died I felt….” I may know what it is like to lose a parent,  (and in fact I have lost both my parents) but I should not transfer my experience of that loss onto someone else. There is no comparison. This is not the pain olympics. Silence in those situations is better than awkward platitudes.

The other night I wrote about persevering through the storms of life, saying that it does get better (“trouble don’t last always.”) A friend who reads this blog commented that they suffer from constant, chronic pain. They mentioned how hard it was to believe that it would get better, that they would be pain free.  I closed my eyes and sighed a deep sigh. What do I say to that? I asked myself. I could not offer trite words of false comfort, of assurance that all would be well. How could I? I can’t say for sure if it will get better, when, or how. I want to make it bettter, to offer words of comfort. But I also wanted to speak what’s true. How to encourage someone in that situation?

I know that during difficult times in my life, the last thing I needed to hear were things like, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.” What?

So I will say this: “I have no idea how difficult this must be for you. I cannot imagine it. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers and that if I can help in any way, please ask.”

It is incredibly difficult to watch people you love face challenges that you cannot make bettter. I have had my own struggles, and watched people I love go through things that I fervently wish weren’t happening. But I know I can’t “fix it,” and sometimes all I can do is sit in silence with them, holding their hand or hugging them while they weep. Even more excruciating is when they live far away and they are weeping over the phone. I don’t say anything except to murmur, “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” and “I’m here, it’s okay to cry.”

I wonder what Jesus did. So often he was called upon to aid people who were suffering, who had lost loved ones, who had experienced pain and blindness, loss, loneliness and isolation, and so many maladies and misfortunes. I imagine there might be times when Jesus first offered comfort, then healing, all done with great compassion and kindness. At the end of the day what we can offer those who are suffering is love and compassion and kindness. That is what is needed more than anything else.

On this journey of 40 days, we pay attention to the suffering of the people around us as we commemorate the suffering and death of our friend Jesus. We each of us are called to attend to those around us with that same compassion that says, “Unlike Jesus, I cannot heal you, but what I can offer you is love.” Words are not necessary, sometimes not saying anything speaks volumes. And so it is.

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