Whew, Lord; I am tired.
I remember the week, nine years ago, when I was scrolling through my Facebook page and all I saw were posts honoring a newly deceased friend or relative. Every day for one week, I logged in the social network and saw at least one RIP status. I was still a Baltimore resident at the time and, truthfully, each status was posted as a result of a homicide. The lives of these loved ones were stolen by the deliberate malice of someone else. It was horrible. It was heartbreaking. It was enough to prompt me to move out of Baltimore City. I applied for about two weeks to openings in Frederick County, MD, and Port St. Lucie, FL, because I had sisters in both areas and either would be easy to restart my life. I didn’t care which place led to my future, as long as I was able to get out of Baltimore.
After a short wait, the call came in. I was moving to Frederick.
Fast forward to 2020. The pandemic is here, devastating any hopes that anyone had about 2020 being this phenomenal year chock full of positively memorable moments, and we are just left to pick up whatever pieces remain. Understand, the Coronavirus and its nondiscriminatory destructive path would have been enough for us to just cancel this entire year, but then there was more, the personal effects of COVID that prompted this post.
Once again, I was scrolling through Facebook late last month when I saw a post. A former church member (a young woman) had just lost her husband the day before Thanksgiving. My heart ached for her. They had been together for years and raised three beautiful children together. In fact, their oldest daughter is a freshman at UMD. Faith, family, and food found its meaning in their household and the love was real. Yet on November 25th, their lives changed forever. I sent her some comforting words and then added her to my personal prayer list. Daily, I would get on Facebook and see another post of hers, dedicated to the love that she had lost. She’s in her 30s (he would have been 40 this month) and now she is a widow.
A few days after her post, I was scrolling again and I saw a post that I misunderstood initially. It wasn’t until last Sunday that I reread the post and realized the sad, cold truth. Another church member (in close relation to the first), lost his infant daughter. I froze in place as I processed what I had read. A baby, a legitimate baby, had died. There were no words to offer. I saw the comments of others and their reference to things like, “God doesn’t make mistakes,” “it’s all in His plan,” and “Trust God” and in my humanity, I wanted to yell at all of those people, “YOU CAN’T SAY THAT TO SOMEONE WHO’S LOST A BABY!” Maybe you can say that to someone who lost a loved one who had actually lived a life, but you can’t say that when it’s a BABY that has died. I was upset; yes, even upset at God. I had attended the funeral of a baby… and it was the most traumatic experience of my life. (Considering my history, that previous comment is saying a lot.)
Neither my friend’s husband nor my other friend’s daughter died from COVID, but dammit if those weren’t devastating blows to an already difficult year. Thankfully, I cannot relate to their pain. The pain I have experienced- though excruciating in and of itself- is not the same as the pain that these families are experiencing. I reached out to my pastor because I needed his sound advice. I needed to know- as a minister- how I was to comfort these families. In his response, my pastor spoke a truth that resonates in my heart even now: just be a friend. He said some other things about not getting ahead of God’s leading and trusting God to prepare with the words to say when the time comes, but the simplicity of just being a friend was what they needed.
I carried my pastor’s comments with me throughout the entire day. As I encountered others in my adventures, I practiced just being a friend. It sounds too simple to be the answer to the loss that so many are experiencing but here me out.
Some situations are too great for us to handle on our own. Yes, Scripture tackles everything, but some things seem too complicated for us at times. Like these deaths, yes, I could refer the bereaved to Scripture passages but is that really what they need right now? I think too often in Christianity we rush to Scripture instead of truly following Christ’s lead. Think about it. When Jesus spoke to the masses, healed others, and walked in His earthly ministry, how often did He tell people to crack open their Scripture roll? Not very often. In fact, if memory serves me, Jesus practiced love and true friendship instead of preaching.
Beloved, what if we did the same thing?
Instead of trying to be the eloquent “savior” and first person to comment on someone’s loss, what if we just sat with them and was a friend to them? Why not just provide a listening ear and available shoulder so that our distressed friend could feel the love that others so aptly talk about? What if, just what if, we truly acted like Christ and not like Biblical scholars? Hmm…
I don’t know about you, but that’s the approach that I’m going to take from now on. This year has taken so many people and opportunities that I am honestly at a loss for words anyway. Go with me, friend, I’m just a minister who learned that the only way to someone’s heart is through my actions and my heart, not my words. So instead of trying to speak my way into someone’s heart and situations, I am just going to be a friend.