Yesterday I sat in a parking lot, crying in my van.
This isn’t the first time. The most memorable occasion was when I was pregnant with my first child. I found myself uncontrollably crying in a shopping mall parking lot, feeling perfectly happy but bawling my face off.
This wasn’t like that.
Yesterday was a day where crying in parking lots was the only response possible when interacting with the brokenness of the world.
I’m usually pretty resilliant in terms of helping others with their pain. I’m good in a crisis, level headed, calm. But yesterday was too much feeling hopeless in the face of other people’s pain.
My day started listening to the news while driving to visit patients. A story came on that you feel duty bound to listen to because as Christians we shouldn’t hide our heads in the sand about justice issues, and yet, was so horrible that it took my breath away. The abuses suffered by orphans in refugee camps at the hand of UN peacekeepers.
My heart broke as I heard the stories of young boys, the age of my oldest, exploited by those who were supposed to protect them, just so they could have the meagerness of what life should grant them freely.
Then the reality of the nearness of life’s hurts filled my morning as I sat with people, in pain physical and emotional, sitting present and feeling hopeless.
A Chaplain once called spiritual care “standing in the wind of someone else’s pain”.
Being present with someone in the hardest parts of their lives means that the force of injustice, brokenness, and helpless hopelessness can leave us feeling battered by our inability to fix or change what’s going on.
I can’t heal that person’s physical and emotional wounds. I can’t exact justice for those orphans a half a world away.
And that’s where the tears come from.
From the feeling that my meager offering of presence isn’t even a drop that registers in the bucket.
That some hurts are too big and too complicated for me to be of any help at all.
So I cried, trying to process, trying to pray, not even trying to make sense of the absolutely senseless. Seeking God in the I don’t know what.
And then the still small voice came.
“I’m there, I’m in the room”
Because even though my presence feels inadequate, God’s presence isn’t.
When I walk into each room, God has gone before me. Whether the person in the room knows or acknowledges Him at all, He permeates this world.
He’s in the room. He’s in the room with them, with me. He surrounds the situation and their pain with a depth of understanding that only the Sacrifice for that pain can know.
The depth that I ache is nothing to the tears that he sheds as he looks upon his creation, that person sitting in the bed. Seeing the depth of their experience where I only see the sliver.
He reminded me that my role is to add my presence to His. To bring into the room the knowledge of Him that may be lacking. To bring into the room the hands and feet of His servant. To listen, to grieve, to encourage, to be.
Because I can’t alleviate their pain, but He can.