Leaning Out/Leaning In

I was talking with someone who recently began a battle with cancer. She shared that it is interesting to see who it is that leans in toward her in this, and who it is who seems to be leaning away.
Years ago, I read book called The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. The book is about a man who is facing death and all the people around him [including him] who can’t handle that. No one will let him be honest about what he is going through. He re-examines his whole life and finds it lacking—he was all about work and not family. And it makes you realize how much when someone else suffers, we want to avoid that because we don’t want to face our own suffering.
I wonder if that is why most of us lean out and away when faced with suffering.
I often talk to people who say they don’t know what to do when someone is facing a tragedy, even though they want to do something. I encourage them to just go over and bring something—a package of oreos, some toilet paper. It really doesn’t matter what you bring or say, it matters that you are there and that you are leaning in.
The most important part of our faith is that we believe in a God who leans in. God created us and even though we chose sin to distance ourselves from God, God kept on coming after us, until finally God came himself. Jesus leaned in and took on all of our pain, our tears, our struggles and our sin. And he died for us so that we would share his body and be his body for each other.
We are not God, of course. We mess up and hurt each other all the time. And even though it might seem almost impossible, even when we are going through a tragedy, we need to be patient with our fellow members of the body of Christ. The truth is none of us know quite what to do or what to say. And sometimes we mess up and say the wrong thing or don’t go when we should have gone. Or no one shows up for us when we really thought they would.
But I still believe so strongly that we need to err on the side of leaning in. That we need to pray that God will give us the grace and the courage to go where our neighbor is suffering and walk beside him or her. So make that call. Send that card. Bring that meal. Just sit and be silent. And pray that you can be forgiving even if you are suffering. When you lean in, you help your neighbor know that God has not left them alone.
God, give us all the grace to lean in!

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