I went to midnight Christmas (Eve) service at a local church last night. The message was titled “God With Us.” During the service, they played a videographic showing a list of times God is with us: when we first cry, when we scrape our knee, when we first fall in love, when we have our first heartbreak, when we’re on the mountaintops, when we feel like we’re drowning. It was nice, but I was a little frustrated, frustrated because especially this fall there have been days and weeks and perhaps months that God did not feel with me. Nights that I felt alone, alone with my thoughts and my pain and my so-called inner demons. And I know that so many people experience pain so much greater that it isn’t fair for me to complain, but at the same time it’s also not entirely fair to invalidate one person’s experience just because someone else’s is more extreme.
And then I realized, God was there. While I struggled to interact with the world, my odd behavior confusing a number of people, He was there. As I curled myself into a ball in my friend’s embrace, wondering if this juxtaposition of chaos and emptiness in my mind was a foretaste of what Hell was like, He was there, even as I told them, “I don’t know where God is anymore.” He was there in the people who asked me if I was doing okay, even if I didn’t quite tell the truth. He was there in my friend who walked with me into the darkness for hours into the night, forgoing sleep and sanity and personal comfort for the disturbed (and probably disturbing) confusion of my mind and soul. Last night, I realized that this was more than just them being a good friend: this was God, acting through another person, reaching more tangibly into my life than I could have imagined.
And so I’ll leave you with the words of three others, relevant to my experience, and I think also relevant to this Christmas day.
“Meredith Grey: Cristina, I know you that don’t want to talk about it. But I’m here, so I just want to stay on the phone with you until you want to hang up. I’m here. I’m here.” ~Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy
“Contemplation, normally regarded as a private pursuit, needs communal support. We are most likely to risk its vulnerabilities and be faithful to its implications when we are embedded in a community that both evokes and witnesses our truth—a rare form of community in which we learn to ‘be alone together,’ to support one another on a solitary journey. We practice being present to others without being invasive or evasive—neither trying to ‘fix’ them with advice nor turning away when they share something distressing.” ~Parker Palmer
“You can flip the switch by standing at a safe distance, on the threshold, and simply reaching in the door, but to enter the dark you actually have to step inside. That may be real love, right there. The willingness to be present, knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do to fix anything.” ~Kristin Richard Armstrong