Archive for December, 2012

Brokenhearted Mary

JesusTomb

Matthew 20 – 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  -ESV

Mary was in despair. We can only imagine all of the emotions Mary had spilling out of her. Fear? Sadness? Confusion? Anger? This may have been the darkest moment in her life.  When you weep, it’s not a controlled thing that is an appointment on your calendar.  There isn’t an on or off switch that allows you to calmly dab the tears from the corners of your eyes.  Emotion takes over, and there is nothing you can do but let it flow.

Earlier in this same passage, Mary Magdalene had discovered that the body of Jesus was gone, and she had not been able to make sense of it.  After running and telling some disciples who also came to see, they left her, and she was once again alone at the tomb without answers.  Mary was more than sad, she was heartbroken.  She couldn’t make sense of the situation, and the people she had gone to for help had essentially abandoned her without peace  in her heart.  Jesus was brutally murdered by the Romans (and still dead in her mind), and she could only assume that now someone had stolen his corpse too.  The insult on top of  the agony was just too much.

Have you ever wept?  Not just cried, but wept?  It’s the type of pain that is more than just losing control of the liquid spilling out of your eyes and nose.  Your entire body heaves in nearly uncontrollable fashion.  You do more than cry, you groan and your muscles ache.  Some people may even lose the ability to stand up or keep any food in their stomach, and essentially they become a very unflattering heap laying on the floor like a bag of convulsing human bones and flesh. When someone weeps, the pain is so real that your entire body heaves in distress.

This morning while spending some time listening to scripture, this little passage caught my attention.  Not only because Mary was in agony, but because of how the angels questioned her (I wonder why they were there), and then because of what happened next.  I love how Jesus met her while she was in emotional turmoil, spoke with her (I would love to know how different he looked to her), and gave her the honor of telling others of his resurrection.  Mary was not someone who at that moment likely looked like she was stoic and had it altogether.  But it was someone that loved him, looked for him, and knew she was lost and brokenhearted without him.  All at once he gave her hope, joy, and something to do to honor him which was of tremendous importance.

Matthew 20 –14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” -ESV

 

 

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Empathy is Painful

My wife had been speaking to me for a few minutes, and what she was describing filled me with nervous energy.  I had started with lots of eye contact, and I wanted to hear her.  But after a few moments I suddenly felt the need to listen while also doing something else.  Anything else.   Suddenly, the cords peeking out from behind the TV needed me to press them back into formation.  The pillow that had fallen off the bed needed me to put it back.  And needed me to fluff it.  The shoes on the floor needed me to move them to the closet, and a nearby shirt needed me to hang it while I was there. I was listening, but I wasn’t wanting too.  I couldn’t stand to hear how much pain she was in. I was subconsciously trying to be empathetic and escape at the same time.

I love my wife dearly, but this sometimes translates into being pained in my heart when I slow down enough to be fully present and contemplate the very serious and sometimes life-threatening ailments that have been a part of our life the past several years.  Her illnesses drain her physically and emotionally, and when you love someone…their real pain is often your real pain.  Hers is physical, but mine is in my heart.  And my heart breaks again, and again for her.  So though I wanted to hear her discuss what was very real and hard for her to be experiencing, I was also foolishly trying to protect myself from totally feeling it with her. It was an unplanned and ultimately failed attempt at a sort of guarded hybrid empathy.  It sounds stupid now but trust me, it made sense at the time.

After a few minutes she suddenly stopped talking for a few seconds, changed her tone, and passionately said “Do you understand how discouraged I am?”  There wasn’t judgement, though she could have also said that she wasn’t sure if I was really listening, or asked me to resume eye contact.  I stopped moving around, realizing that she probably felt like she was just talking to the wall.  I looked into her eyes again, and lovingly repeated back a quick summary of everything she had been sharing about the latest crisis her body was struggling through (I really was listening with my ears and heart, but it hadn’t looked like it!).

She thanked me.  I apologized for being busy while she spoke. And then I simply did the only other thing I could do at the moment, by giving her a gentle kiss and hug, and reminded her how sorry I am that she is in pain. I said, “I would take this pain from you if you could hand it over.”  She said, “I know.,” and there was a little more peace in her eyes despite the physical pain of her body.   At that point the conversation was over. We sat together silently for a few more moments.

Since I can’t take on my wife’s sickness for her, the next best thing I can do is to be compassionate and empathetic. I have not the gift of healing people like Christ did in his earthly ministry, but I can model the many times he lovingly took pity on the sick and needy around him. He was and is God, yet He modeled a tender heart, and spent much time with people that needed him fully present. He looked upon and felt their pain.  Of course, Jesus also took this to the next level in even taking on the burden of sin from those who trust him, by dying a guilty mans death on the cross.  Thankfully, death could not hold Him!

Practically, this means I can and should listen to Marque share about her serious ailments, even when it hurts my heart.  It means that I need to accept that my heart is going to hurt in her times of tender of sharing. It means I need to be fully present, looking in her eyes. Holding her hand. Sitting in times of silence when words will only agitate.  It means, I’m experiencing the “to have and to hold in sickness and in health” in a very personal and sometimes painful way.  To me, it also means that this regular experience is also one of the few times when I’m truly loving her and God with all that is within me.  Even when it hurts.