By Cary Umhau
Each heart knows its own bitterness and no one else can share its joy, says Proverbs 14:10.
Just as Jesus asked his compatriots to stay awake with him in the Garden of Gethsemane and they didnt/couldnt/wouldnt, we humans stink at being there for the long haul with each other. And we stink-stank-stunk at being there for each other in joy.
I fear I am not a hanger-in-there when it comes to relentless sorrow. Casseroles, yes, If Im cooking anyway. Maybe even a card on the anniversary of the sorrow. But day-by-day being there for another? Sadly, no. Not me. God help me!
There are those among you that I marvel at. I have silently watched a neighbor shuffle wordlessly around the block with her demented husband day after day, unable to talk and walk in the jaunty way that had been their habit for years. And I have wept behind my windows over her perseverance, and I weep even more over the knowledge that many at her church had critiqued (and found wanting) her theology. Forget enlightened book knowledge for a minute. She is love personified and a hero.
Joy: that may be an even harder place to join another. Romans 12:15 says that we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who are weeping. Once I wanted to buy a tombstone for my father (who was and is very much alive). It was a joke related to his imagined epitaph, on which he hoped to express his disgust for accountants who had always tried to dampen his entrepreneurial spirit. And a number of monument-makers chided me for even considering that tombstones could be funny.
But another lady, my hero that day, said, Honey we will weep with the weeping and laugh with the laughing. We dont care what you want to do with your tombstone. This is a business! Signed, sealed, delivered.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice. We are all out there trying so hard at whatever it is we are doing. High school students being assessed (generally as not good enough) at every turn. Young mothers slapping bows on a kids heads and taking them to play group, hoping that their progenys behavior will not preclude them from being invited back to the circles they want to break into. People exhausted from trying to kiss up to bosses who seem to hold the future in careless, sweaty palms. Adults regressing to preschool levels when they visit parents whom they never expect to please. Folks showing up day after day to work jobs that are not scintillating, chosen or high-paying. None of those are small things.
Life is hard. People are trying. And bleeding inside even as they try to look able, chipper and appealing. And nobody is handing out trophies for this stuff. People need co-rejoicers for those days when anything goes right. When good triumphs over evil. When redemption peeks out and shows its mighty self. When the project gets done, the anniversary of victory over an addiction approaches, the CD gets produced, the kitchen drawer gets cleaned out–whatever it is that they are struggling to complete.
Im living in the loneliness of being full of longing and desire and hopefulness for dreams I envision on the one hand, and on the other hand feeling that no one else can share the joy or the journey. Those are the days (ultimately rich) of feeling so parched that all I can do is beg for Living Water. And then brace myself for the fire hose delivery (or the slow trickle) while not closing off my heart, stubbornly sure that no one cares (when in fact they might) and remaining expectant and open to engagement without demanding it at gunpoint.
Were all pretty lonely. Im sick of rushing around so that I dont notice the things that others are quietly and joyfully bursting over (and could use a shout-out or a party for). Im tired of playing it cool and letting things evolve when life is truly short and people need to hear that we think they are incredible. One of my friends became a hero the first day I met him. We were in a group together with no personal interaction one-on-one and he walked up to me afterwards and said, I dont know you yet, but I like you very, very much.
The point is not me. Perhaps you would have been in that group and wanted to say to me, I dont know you but I find you extremely annoying. The point was the guilelessness and the candor that he risked. The point was that my friend has since inspired me to put aside my pride and do the same when I feel strongly. Not cheap words thrown away profligately, but genuine appreciation for someone amazing. Yes. Speak it, people.
Lets notice when someone has been cleaning the toilets in our favorite expensive restaurant and say thanks (or better yet do some stealth cleaning for them).
Or have a party to celebrate someones book being published (especially when we wish it were our book).
And rejoice with someone whose child has won an award when we are worried that our child is sinking ever lower.
These are the heroic acts of cheerleading, the amazing moments when we dare to defy the no one else can share our joy concept in Proverbs. These are God-given opportunities, and I celebrate them, and I crave them, and I pray to be part of the solution, even as I am aching today over the problem.
Cary is a writer, speaker and teacher on everything from Not Your Grandmothers Bible Study to helping demystify Facebook for terrified parents. She lives in DC where she loves neighborhood-hopping and photographing flowers, mosaics and graffiti. She is preparing for an empty nest and many nights out with her husband. She blogs at www.holyvernacular.wordpress.com.