Where’s the Cheering Section for This Lonely Life?

“Each heart knows its own bitterness and no one else can share its joy,” says Proverbs 14:10.  I’m feeling it on a bone-crushing level.  I’m feeling it like an elephant is sitting on my chest.  I’m feeling it so intensely that if I don’t write about it now I just can’t move on and work today.

Truly the details don’t matter.  But just as Jesus asked his compatriots to stay awake with him in the Garden of Gethsemane (and they didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t)… 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.

Not all of us.  There are those among you that I marvel at.  I have silently watched a neighbor walk 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.  Shuffling wordlessly now.  And I have wept behind my windows over her perseverance, over the fact that she doesn’t exude one iota of what I imagine I would feel (TRAPPED!), and I weep more over my knowledge that many at her church had critiqued (and found wanting) her theology. Forget enlightened book knowledge for a minute.  She is love personified.  She is my hero.

But for me, I fear I am not a hanger-in-there when it comes to relentless sorrow. Casseroles, yes. If I’m cooking anyway. Maybe even a card on the anniversary of the sorrow.  But day-by-day being there for another… sadly, no.  Not me.  Yet.  God help me!

Joy… that may be an even harder place to join another.  Romans 12: 15 says 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 my father’s 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 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 don’t care what you want to do with your tombstone.  This is a BUSINESS!” Signed, sealed, delivered.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice.  I have such fervor and passion for this that I could explode today.  We are all out there trying so damn hard.  At whatever it is we are doing.  High school students grinding through their paces being assessed (generally as “not good enough”) at every turn.  Young mothers slapping bows on kids’ heads and taking them to play group hoping that their progeny’s behavior will not preclude them from being invited back to the circles they want to break into.  People running the gauntlet trying to kiss up to bosses who seem to hold their futures 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 because they are faithful and steady mothers or fathers. 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.

There’s the danger (as sometimes happens at our house where we have frequent welcome home and goodbye dinners for the revolving door of traveling children) that we can live in the zone of doing so much celebrating that the truly big ones get watered down.  But I’d rather err on that side.

I’m living in the loneliness (or “solitude” on the good days) right now of being so full of longing and desire and hopefulness for some visions I have to mature and bear fruit… and yet feeling that “no one else can share the joy.”  Or does.  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).

The trick is to not close off our hearts, stubbornly sure that no one cares (when in fact they might) and to remain expectant and open to engagement without demanding it at gunpoint.  

I’m sick of rushing around so that I don’t notice the things that others are quietly and joyfully bursting over (and could use a shout-out or a party for).  I’m 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 heroes became a hero the first day I met him.  We were in a group together. We had no personal interaction one-on-one.  But he walked up to me afterwards and said, “I don’t know you yet, but I like you very, very much.”  The point is not ME.  Perhaps you would have been in that group and thought, about me, “I don’t know her really but I find her extremely annoying.”  

The point was the guilelessness and the candor that opened the door instantly to a friendship that has endured.  The point was that I found his engagement with me heroic and it has inspired me to put aside my pride and do the same when I feel strongly.  Not cheap words.  Not words thrown away profligately.  But genuine appreciation for someone amazing.  Yes.  Speak it, people.  

And noticing when someone has been toiling without recognition (perhaps at cleaning the toilets in your favorite expensive restaurant) and being willing to be the recognizer.

Or having a party to celebrate someone’s book being published (especially when I wish it were my book).

And rejoicing with someone whose child has won an award when you are worried that your 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 its joy” concept in Proverbs.

These are God-given, 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.

Amen.  Sermon complete.

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~ by Cary on October 27, 2008.

2 Responses to “Where’s the Cheering Section for This Lonely Life?”

  1. I’m cheering alongside of you for your thoughtful, thought-provoking reflections. You encourage me and challenge me.

  2. I’m cheering too!!!

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