Last week, I was eavesdropping on a conversation in a public library while I was waiting for my tutoring student.
I knew quickly that the woman answering the questions lived with a chronic illness. She was describing in vague tones, how her poor health was affecting her entire life. She spoke of the struggle to still see what she had, not only what she had lost. She still had her husband and her part-time job.
The conversation shifted slightly when the older woman asked how she experienced God right now.
Her response was simple, but telling.
“I want to know that He’s looking out for me.”
There was a raw honesty in her pain and desperation. For this is what we all want. This is what we all forget.
Is he really a friend? Does he care? Will he show me that there really is light in this world, not just darkness?
The woman in chronic pain held back tears as she said, “it’s so hard to find daily support right now.”
As I listened, I got teary-eyed. I’ve had that exact conversation so many times. And yet this time being an observer, I experienced such appreciation and love towards both women.
The gift the woman with chronic illness gave was honesty and desperation. The gift the older woman gave was a calm, empathetic presence and knack for listening and asking timely questions. She gave the space for silent hope to be born. She is hopeful for the younger woman who can’t be hopeful for herself right now.
What I experienced in that ordinary moment of waiting was Christ on earth. Nothing less.
Two women both giving and receiving. Both women willing to sit in sadness, to accept reality. Yet in their talking, hope, this invisible force was growing. This space the women created was beautiful. A space that Christ can be seen for who He actually is. One woman at the end of herself, another willing to affirm silently to herself that this is really where life begins.
I was assured as these women left, that this space they created together, was actually the incubator for joy. Not culturally-defined joy with bubbly, extroverted personalities, and an overabundance of laughter (although none of these attributes are wrong!) But a deep-seated joy, that can only begin as one lets go. As chronic illness tends to strip away the people and work and facades we cling to, there is always the opportunity to begin again. To let go, to accept, and to begin again.
I am thankful for this moment of eavesdropping. To see how close the Divine was to these women, even though I’m certain that he felt so far away. I can only hope that some people experienced the closeness of God, as they witnessed me over the years angry and crying in many coffee shops across the city.
–For all those who have listened to me in my hopelessness, who hoped for themselves and for me.