We have many excuses. The confrontation of an illness makes us uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say. We think our words will be inadequate in their time of need. We don’t know what to do. We wonder what will be required of us if we step into another’s dance of suffering. Excuses are extinguished in these three simple words:
Just show up.
The late Kara Tippets, author of The Hardest Peace, and her friend Jill Lynn Buteyn candidly share their experience in the book of the same name, Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together.
“The beauty in showing up, in choosing to enter the dance even though you might not know the steps, is that God creates something beautiful from our attempts.”
That is where we must begin. With God.
“It’s okay to not know how to show up for someone or how to take the first steps into walking through suffering with a friend. Ask for guidance. He will meet you there. You can tell Him how you feel and what your fears are, and He will open the path for you to take a first step.”
Just like being called to a mission field, I believe sharing in a friend’s suffering is a special calling God gives us. When God places us in their lives with all our tears, why-God prayers and the simply hard He has a purpose. It may just be to fill a need we are gifted to do but usually He has a grander heart purpose that is different for each one involved in the dance.
“If you’ve never really walked with someone through suffering, and if your view of God up to this point has resembled a math equation (prayer + God=healing), then I’m sorry to have to tell you, but you’re going to have to sacrifice pieces of that way of believing…If you can stay soft and open during that time, you can realize a bigger faith than you’ve had up to that point.”
Jill states how suffering can steal friendship moments from us and how we crave the times together we used to have. Oh, how I know that to be true! How I long for a trip to Moe’s to eat Mexican with my friend Denise who is battling liver cancer and then after shopping to eat Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home. But those moments aren’t able to happen for now. Chemo and liver cancer brings nausea and loss of appetite. So now on a good day I bring Panera broccoli cheese soup or a bakery treat in the hopes she will be able to taste and enjoy them.
The book also lists many specific things one can do to help a family going through an illness:
-Taking care of the kids
-Sorting medical bills
Not everyone has family close by that are able to do this nor should it always be family taking care of these things. This is where the beautiful can happen. God raises up a community to come alongside the family. Some cook meals, organize fundraisers and others take care of the kids. What could your place be in a community like this?
I love that the subject of insecurity is addressed in this book. Many times it is a group of women who are ministering in the midst of family’s suffering. There may be times we look to another and measure ourselves by what they are doing that we are not.
“We were speaking about Kara’s gift in growing community when Mickey mentioned that most of us have never seen good friendships done well. Especially between women. So often there’s jealousy and cattiness. We aren’t showing and teaching young girls how to do community together. Because of this, more women grow up not knowing how to enter safely in with one another.”
Take any insecurities you have to the Lord. Our loved one needs us even when the enemy plants those thoughts in our minds that they don’t.
I wept through this book. Many times inserting my and Denise’s name. This is a beautifully written book of friendship, community and the legacy of Kara Tippets.
No more excuses. Just show up.
The community of Kara Tippets continues their story at Kara’s blog Mundane Faithfulness.