For the last couple of days, we've been surrounded by the giants; that is, Beve's brothers. Friday night, Beve sat down on the couch and I swear my two-meter-tall, 250 lb. husband shrank to almost nothing beside the mountain of a man that is his next oldest brother. Saturday night, after dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant out in the county, SK took a photo of the three giants, and poor Beve was the little guy in the middle. These are practically the only men I know (since I'm not personally acquainted with any NBA players) who can make Beve look tiny. But these older brothers of my husband do it every time. They talk louder, take up more space, indeed, swallow up half the air in the room just by walking into it, are immovable objects in our narrow-halled house (I know, I tried to get by them when they were standing outside the bathroom, just shooting the breeze!).
I'm like an acorn among the the oak trees.
But more than that, I have to say (though perhaps I shouldn't), we just look at life so differently, that I'm often bewildered after a few days with them. The conversation runs toward information-exchange much of the time, if you know what I mean. "Did you know?" and, "I saw..." and the like, without the sarcasm or probing synthesis I cut my eye-teeth on. Or (at moments) toward spiritualizing without grounding that spirituality in the solid earth of the life we actually life. Life that had dirt in it. How can I give an example of this without pointing fingers I don't want to point? Because, after all, I'm also pointing fingers at myself. I've been guilty of this over-spiritualizing as much as anyone--maybe more. Anyone with a seminary degree has a BS in such things. Trust me, I've lived there.
Many years ago, a young person Beve and I were in relationship with confided about abuse in her childhood. After much counseling, she decided to tell her parents, and it was arranged that they come to our home for this conversation. As you might imagine the conversation was painful for her. Finally the truth came haltingly out. And almost instantly one of her parents began turning the most painful thing a person can survive into a spiritual lesson. The words spoken by this parent made our young friend's eyes glaze over with tears and even more pain, because there was so little connection between the words and the reality she'd lived. All those spiritual truths may have been true, but what was needed was to hear that she was loved, that she was whole in the sight of her parents and a treasure to them. And that they were present for her--that day and always. And maybe that they felt terrible that they hadn't known or been present when she needed them most.
We must, I think, ground our words about God and faith in the soil of life. The danger we have as Christians is separating what we know of Him from what we live on earth, and what we experience in faith from what others experience without it. Our biggest gift, at times, is simply to say, "Yeah, what is going on in your life stinks!" NOT to say God has a plan, even if WE know He does.
There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, which reminds me of another story from my past. When I was in college, a friend came to see me while I was lifeguarding at a pool in town. He told me that his mom had left his dad that day. I was struck dumb from the news. Though this isn't necessarily that surprising in today's world, it was my first experience of such a thing. In my entire life. And because this was so, I was absolutely speechless. Many other Christian friends, unfortunately, weren't struck quite so mute as me by the news, and spoke many platitudes to this friend about what God's plan, etc. in this terrible situation. And all these words, by all these very-well-meaning believers didn't help our friend. A couple years later, he told me that my silence had been one of the best gift he'd been given during those first terrible days. It was a sacramental silence to have just sat with me without words. But only because I was too dumb to think of anything to say.
I learned something vitally important from that, however. And have tried to practice it (though, by nature, I'm a person of words). When a person most needs solace, most needs support and encouragement, the first line is always silence. The Jews have it right, I think, of sitting shiva when someone dies. This fine art of sitting, simply sitting and grieving with those who grieve cleans out the pores of the notion that words will do the job that only silence can accomplish. This 'mere' sitting quietly keeps us from taking our words away from the ground of suffering and lifting them into some stratosphere where they touch nothing--particularly the person most in need of them. Grounded spirituality is what we're after, planted in the soil of life and rooted in the earthy truth of Jesus who walked among people, touching them where they lived.
Maybe the reason this is so hard for the giants is that they're so far from the ground...
But then, what's my excuse?