My sisters, it’s time to come clean about this terrible thing I’ve been doing to so many of you for years now. It’s not just a terrible thing, it’s a dangerous thing. In fact, it is perhaps the single most dangerous thing I can do to you in our friendship because when I do it, I actually think I’m helping you.
Only here’s the thing: I’m not helping. I’m most likely missing your heart by a Texas mile, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had enough of it. We’ve had enough of saying it, and we’ve absolutely had enough of hearing it. Yet somehow we keep saying it, keep having it said to us. I’d hazard a guess that not one of us would have to think beyond last month’s conversations with each other to recall that dreadful moment when these words came tumbling out of someone’s mouth:
“I think you need to…”
I know for a fact I’ve said these words (or a cleverly subtle variation of them) to at least three of the women in my life over the last week, and if we’re really being honest, each poor soul has gotten more than an earful of what I think she needs to do/think/say/pray. So I make my confession in earnest: I’m guilty of doing this. I’m talking to me. But I’m also talking to you as my sisters and friends, as the women sitting across the table from each other.
Not long ago, one of my precious friends had been hurt, and she asked me to pray for her. To this day, I’m not sure of the exact nature of the hurt, and I am glad of it. I don’t need to know. However, not having that information caused me to stumble upon this revelation: I love digging into your problem and telling you how I think it should be fixed. But it’s impossible to solve an equation with multiple unknown variables, so there I was, just itching to tell her what I think she should do next, and I flat could not do it because I didn’t have all the facts. I shot out some generic input that I thought might relate to her situation, and I sent along a couple verses that I thought might encourage (read: instruct) her.
I know that I prayed for her, but I can’t really recall what I said.
Fast forward to a couple weeks later, when my friend and I were discussing this issue again, and I actually told her how terribly tempted I was to try and fix this situation for her. What I didn’t mention was that I wanted to fix it by telling her what I thought she should do – even though I didn’t have the foggiest idea what she should do. Her response was to ask me to pray, and she even told me specifically how to pray.
How much energy had I spent wracking my brain for a solution when I could have been relentlessly bringing her needs to the Father in prayer? So I spent some time intently praying for her, thinking of her, and offering her no other input aside from my love and support. Days later, when she found freedom and joy in being able to move beyond the pain she had suffered, I had the privilege of witnessing her joy and rejoicing with her. And I was free to do all of those things because I wasn’t trying to fix her.
That’s right. At the heart of it all, that’s really what we’re doing. I’m not trying to fix your problem.
I’m trying to fix you.
And you’re trying to fix me. Because you love me. Because I love you. And because we all love a good redemption story, especially if we get to play a leading role. It’s that last bit that gets us into trouble. I can’t redeem you. You can’t redeem me. That’s not our job as women in community. Our job is to lift each other up, to support each other, to walk with each other.
To listen to each other.
I’m not suggesting that we should refrain from speaking Truth into each other’s lives. Not at all. In fact, one of my most favorite things about being in community with women is having the opportunity to share Truth with them from the Scripture that I think will encourage or comfort them. By all means, let’s keep doing that. I’m also not suggesting that we should ignore the Spirit’s prompting if we truly discern that we’ve been given a specific word for a sister. Some of the most encouraging things ever spoken to me have been prefaced with, “I believe the word God has for you here is…” Still, discernment is critical in this, and we ought to tremble at the thought of telling someone we’ve been given a word for them unless we truly have. (Likewise, we should be discerning on the receiving end of this.)
So, no. I’m not suggesting a gag order. What I am suggesting is that we should fight the urge that rises up in our chests and has us convinced that we have just the thing for whatever is ailing our sisters. I am the great physician of no one’s heart. Just look at how I’ve managed to butcher my own over the years. Lord have mercy if I try to perform surgery on yours.
Recently another sweet sister reminded me of the power of praying with someone in the middle of their pain. So many times we offer to pray for each other. And that’s great – we should keep doing that. But to pray with someone, right there in that moment? It’s a way of saying: “I’m in this with you. I will help you carry this hard and heavy and bewildering burden. I will speak for you when you feel strangled. When your confidence is shot and the throne of grace is miles away, I’ll approach both for you and with you. You are not alone and I believe there is a cure and I can’t give it to you but I will be here with you while you wait for it.”
So late last night when one of my dearest and oldest friends told me about this cavernous, deep grief that has her gasping for air in the middle of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and my heart ached for her and for my own inability to make it all okay, I remembered…pray with her. So I did. It didn’t fix her. Her grief is still there today. It will likely be around for a long while. But she at least knows that she’s not alone. She knows that someone else sees her pain and cares and is for her. She knows someone is in her corner.
And isn’t that what we’re all really looking for from each other, what we’re silently begging each other to affirm? Tell me I’m okay. Tell me my need is not repulsive. Tell me I’m worth fighting for, fighting alongside, fighting on behalf of…tell me I’m not alone.
Because when you tell me I’m not alone, oh, how you remind me that He is near.