Monday, September 11, 2006


I came in from work to find The Engaged One watching a rerun of the television show "7th Heaven". The wife of the minister lost her father on that episode. Her mother had died previously, and she told her husband she felt like an orphan. It seems like a strange thing for an adult to say, but losing a parent puts a hole in the universe that never gets filled.

A friend told me the same thing some years ago, after losing her father. I was struck dumb when she told me, and realized what a horrible friend I had been, not at all tapping into the pain and lonliness she felt. A few years later I lost my father. She was a much better friend than I, expressing both sympathy and empathy born of mutual pain.

Since that time I have tried to feel the pain of others more, rather than wall it off as I have most of my life. Our too busy culture breeds this distance, or at least encourages it. Most of the time we don't have time to think, much less to feel. We miss most of the tragedies and sufferings of even our close friends.

As Christians, this is clearly a sin. We are told to bear each other's burdens. We do not meet this command solely by sending cards. We have to share the pain, hold each other up and get involved, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

Men are the worst pain avoiders. I know men who won't visit long time friends because they have hospital phobia. One even would not visit his wife after surgery. He said he didn't "do" hospitals. There is no "bearing" going on there. But I can tell you, when you are sitting in the waiting room or at the funeral home, that friendly face makes a lot of difference. Yes, I know you don't know what to say. Neither do I. Just say you're sorry, give a hug, and sit with them. It's enough, really.

If you are too busy to know when those around you are in pain, you are too busy. If you are aware of their pain, but too busy to help, you need to "unbusy" yourself. Church members are to rejoice together, suffer together, live together and die together. Being too busy at work is not one of the options.

I'm preaching to myself here, too.

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