Thursday, July 24, 2008

Holding up

This is my favorite photograph from my brother's wedding reception. Baby brother, all hulking 6'3" athlete of him, is hoisted over the heads of his four closest friends. (Just so you know, they'd just finished giving him a wedgie, but still!) See how D is just lying there completely relaxed? How every bit of his weight rests on the outstretched hands of his buddies? These four men have seen him through the best and worst times of his life. One of them he's known since he graduated from college a decade and a half ago. He flew across the country to hold up D's ankles Saturday. The other three are true Nor'easterners, complete with accent. Two of them, the ones holding knees and shoulders, also held his hand (along with the ankle-gripper) when D's first marriage ended so disasterously a few years ago. These two men had a sense that their community was right for D, their friendship could help heal him, and God would meet him there. So D gave up everything (read that to mean us!)and crossed the country again to Massachusetts. The tallest, the one bearing most of the weight, is the Johnnie-come-lately to his circle of friends, but no less valuable for that. He has spoken wisdom and extended love to D. Ministered to him in countless ways.

These men hoisted D so easily, it took my breath away. This is it, I thought. This is Mark chapter 2, when the men dug a hole in the roof to lower their friend down to Jesus. These men would lower my brother to Jesus in an instant. They already have. In the last two and half years since D flew away from here, he has been met by God, a community, and the love of his life. And Jesus healed him. Really and truly. This is "Bear with one another." This is "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." This is "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." This is a living expression of the Body of Christ.

And you know what gets to me? There's no difference between being held up, and doing the holding for these five men. Sure, there's more work in the holding up, but those men are all loving it. They're all absolutely glad to be doing what they're doing. Given over to it. That's what it's about. In real friendship, the doing for or the being done for make not a whit of difference. Baby brother isn't apologizing because he's so heavy, and the others aren't fighting over who has to do the most work. It's just joy to be in it together. Being the body together. Some other time, D would put all his rather daunting muscle into it(and trust me, he has more than the others combined!), and he'd do his share of the heavy lifting! They all know it. But for this day, this day--they will hold him up, and rejoice in it.

And I love that this picture was taken at the best of times. We always think we only need to hold each other up when times are rough. Then we let go. We go it alone. But this picture is my aim--to never, ever go it alone.

I think--No, I know--that this is what Jesus was talking about when He told us to "love one another as I have loved you." Grab some feet, people, take hold of someone's backside. Lift them up, I say. Carry them with you.

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