Four weeks ago yesterday, I had a meltdown. Oh, you might presume I’m exaggerating. Michele Phoenix, the fearless Miss Phiphi, the courageous cancer-overcomer, wouldn’t have a full-blown, twelve-Kleenex-alert emotional Tchernobyl…would she? She’s too tough. Too pragmatic. Too…
Human. That’s what I am. And on that particular day, my human frailty washed over me with such unexpectedness that I lost my footing. I felt brutally attacked, misunderstood, humiliated and battered. What caused the crisis is not important—not in eternal terms. But what was shown to me through it? That was priceless.
’cause you see, we single girls tend to develop such a sense of independence that we can’t fathom asking someone else to step in when our world goes a little off-kilter. We figure we have to take out our own garbage, scrape our own windshields and paint our own walls, so when something truly troubling happens and we find ourselves teetering on an emotional ledge, we assume that we’re there alone too. Nobody is going to hold our hand, nobody is going to intercede for us, nobody is going to tell us that life is going to be okay. Or so we think.
But as I stood on that ledge in December trying to figure out how I was going to be both the victim and the rescuer in that particular scenario, I discovered that I was not alone. My friends didn’t stand a few paces behind me, a safe distance from the precipice. They stood beside me, feeling the yawning void in front of me and holding me firmly anchored with their words and warmth and wisdom.
I know that we single girls are not alone in our misguided conviction that there is no one we can—or should—call in our moments of greatest need. Male or female, married or unmarried, we all, to some degree, live by the ideal that maturity means self-sufficiency, which, in practical terms, means that we should need no one. And yet…on that Friday afternoon, when it was all I could do string a few words together and hope that my friends would understand the rest, I discovered something that I’d been forgetting for the past several years: I am never stronger than when I am leaning on others. And maturity—true maturity—might have more to do with the ability to express my deepest wounds to friends who care than with being able to hide them in an attempt to appear strong.
I’ve always been a firm believer in kindness. It is the single trait I find most appealing in others and the one I try hardest to develop in myself. It’s the fruit salad of spiritual gifts, and its power is immeasurable. Throughout the past months, it was kindness that fueled my battle, kindness than leant me hope, kindness that soothed my anguish and kindness that kept me whole. Kindness is the selfless and guileless expression of our Father’s love in us…and I find that it is often sadly lacking, most disturbingly so among believers. Some of the kindest people I’ve met this year didn’t know God. And some of the deepest griefs I’ve been dealt in a lifetime among Christians have come from my own “side.” There’s something tremendously disheartening about that.
So my encouragement to us all as we begin a new year and embark on 12 months of living in community with others is that we would be to each other the evidence of God’s kindness in us. That we would consider the feelings and struggles and frailties in others important enough to warrant a little more careful and timely expression of even the toughest truths. That we would not stand back from the precipice others face, but that we would instead step forward with them into the messiness and pain of life in the real world. That we would lend them the courage they lack and show them the compassion they need and gird them up with the strength they cannot muster in themselves.
Let us all—let me—be what St. Francis of Assisi prayed for himself: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
In other news, I had a visitor for a couple days this week. Her name is Maggie.
p of it, but it was a short-lived victory. She spent the better part of the night proving that closeness sometimes means that someone runs out of bed space. That someone wasn’t her!