There's an old story about a little boy who was scared and needed “Jesus with skin on.” (from this blog post)
Late one stormy night a small voice was heard from the bedroom across the hall. “Mommy, I’m scared!” Mom responds sympathetically “Honey, don’t be afraid, I’m right across the hall.” After a short time, with thunder snapping in the distance, the little voice says again, “I’m still scared!” Mom replies, “You don’t need to be afraid. Close your eyes and pray. And remember that Jesus is always with you.” The next time the pause is longer … but the voice returns along with a little child standing next to her bed, “Mommy, can I get in bed with you and Daddy?” As Mom is just about to lose her patience, her little boy catches her eyes and says, “Mommy, I know that Jesus is always with me, but right now I need Jesus with skin on.”
Yesterday, I posted about how much Jesus sustains me. Today it's all about the people in our lives—our community. First off, the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that my husband is in Alabama and I am here. We're a team. We are literally and metaphorically one flesh. He is my co-parent, helpmate, partner in crime, and my other (best) half. He is my top tier burden-bearer and I am his. I am having to help bear the burden from afar. I am needed in Wisconsin right now. I have two sons who need my attention and a household to keep running. Robert needs to be in Alabama right now to help make hard decisions and provide and receive emotional support with his family. However, I want nothing more than to be able to hug him and hold on so tightly. We need to weep together. We need physically cry on one another's shoulder. For today, the meager substitute was that he cried in Walmart on his cell phone, while I weeped at my desk on my phone. It isn't enough. This experience has made me realize in gratitude the depth of our love and support and for that I am thankful.
It has been a tearful day today. I am an easy crier anyway. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am moved by a beautiful piece of music, when I see a glorious sunrise, when I laugh too hard. It doesn't take much to get my waterworks going. Although sadness precipiated a lot of my crying, much of the catalyst for my tears has been kindness. It started on Monday with my colleagues. Monday afternoon I had a rental car reserved and was schedule to drive 5.5 hours to the Cities for the night. On Tuesday morning I was suppoed to do a morning extern visit in Minneapolis, then drive 2.5 hours to Chippewa Falls for an afternoon extern observation. I was still planning on going even though Robert was en route to Mobile and Noah was not feeling so great. A colleague encouraged me to cancel and reschedule and then the travel office helped me cancel the car and hotel…so I cried from the kindness. I went to another colleague's office after I got bad news and started to ask if I should teach that day and promptly burst into tears. She told me to cancel my class. I protested with “Yes, I'm crying, but what else can I do? Sit in my office? Go home and do nothing?” I felt very helpless, but I couldn't get a grip and was afraid I would freak out the students. I canceled one class and then the chair of my department got another colleague to cover my afternoon class. Four colleagues stepped up and helped me through the day.
Today, I have been overwhelmed with private messages, texts, and phone calls from friends near and far and from all seasons of life. From Eric, who is taking care of set-up and technology for church on Sunday, to high school friends covering us in prayer. When Robert and I were talking on the phone earlier today we both began to cry in thinking about how many friends we have who show up in the hard times. They ask the right questions, they admit when they don't know what to say, they offer help, and they pray. Robert made the statement that if we needed immediate help for some unknown big emergency that we could be confident that iF we left our housekey in the mailbox and made a few calls, someone would swoop in and care for our animals, our house, etc. at a moment's notice. Man! We are blessed!
We all need community. We are meant to live in social groups and bear each other's burdens, as well as share in one another's joys. We are grateful for our church community, our neighbors, my work colleagues, Robert's pastoral groups, and so, so many people from high school, college, seminary, and our lives in Missouri, Louisiana, and here in Wisconsin, as well as friendships that formed online. I am grateful that both of my boys have girlfriends with whom they can have deep conversations, as well as a community of guys (Los Hombres, as I call them) that they can talk with too. Even though our faith is THE thing, having friends who can be Jesus with skin on is so crucial as well. I am so humbled by our community and the love that they extend to us.
Emily Dickinson was right.
There was a wonderful photo from Brandon's world tour when he aimed his Humans of New York camera on global subjects. Because of copyright, I won't copy his picture here, but please click the link through and see this beautiful photo. I remembered it from this summer because it so echoed the importance and beauty of community. It's a photo of three women and a girl sitting together on a bench with this caption, “We told her to sit with us so we could share her sadness.” (Dohuk, Iraq). That's what it is about. Being present. Sitting and sharing in sadness. Being a witness to the pain. Nothing necessarily needs to be said or done, but the ministry of presence is enough.