Seated at a table for dinner — a family of four strangers would be our company for the evening. This precious Tennessee restaurant off the beaten path of a winding road held the promise of a home cooked meal and live country music.
Kind formalities and introductions were exchanged followed by a dash of awkward silence.
My girlfriend and I attempted our own private conversation as this family engaged in their own. At the end of the table sat the lovely matriarch of their group–grey hair and tender eyes, she was the first to reach out sweetly to us, “Where ya’ll from?” Followed quickly by “What do ya’ll do?”
“We’re writers.” I shared.
“What do ya’ll write?” She smiled.
My friend went first, “I’ve written a devotion book on grief…”
Before she could share any more the elderly woman’s face fell and her eyes grew wet, ” I really need that book.” She whispered.
We watched her fight back tears. “My husband passed away three and a half years ago and I can’t begin to explain the grief. We were married fifty-two years.” Her voice thick, she gently smiled. “If it weren’t for the Lord I wouldn’t have made it. I could really use a book like that.”
The rest of our meal she tenderly set her grief aside as she shared stories of the man she loved so dearly. Like a bottle of carbonated soda, her words bubbled over– she was so grateful for the opportunity to talk about him. The deep lines in her face smoothed by the joy of a lifetime of memories.
The hurting are all around. God places them alongside us every day. They disguise their hurts by smiles and kind eyes, all the while they’re numb as they walk and live and breathe. Their trials aren’t contagious, their agony will not spread, but it can be eased by a moment of our time.
Has your friend lost their job? Are they living under the smothering weight of illness? Do they have a prodigal child or a marriage that has shattered into a million tiny pieces?
Press through your awkward feelings and make a phone call, invite them to coffee, drop them a note, bring over a meal. You don’t need to say a word. Let them do all the talking, or none at all. Sometimes just acknowledging the pain is enough.
Lay down your life for a few moments. Lay it down for the sake of your neighbor. Set aside your desires and your to-do list and accomplish something even greater, to seek those who hurt and comfort them with the comfort you have been given.
Who sits beside you today? Whose heart beats in painful rhythm and sings the cadence of grief’s song?
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13