The hardest part of being here is not being there. Not being at Woodleaf, in the Bay, on the sunny beaches of southern California, or immersed in our beloved community in Arizona. Besides the colder weather, an overbearing amount of fleece, sandals worn with socks, and the tendency towards rain-Seattle is not a difficult place to live. We have running water, we are well fed, and a language barrier is non-existent. This city is vibrant, beautiful, and its close proximity to the water is a major bonus. But being here, means we can’t be there.
More and more each day I am struck with the fact that we are all struggling. Struggling to hold our tongues, exude patience, reinvent ourselves, become more who God intended us to be, or even to get out of bed each morning. No matter what facades we uphold or smiles we paint on, every day, some person, whether you know them or not, could be facing their own personal natural disaster. The ground may feel like it is crumbling beneath them or they simply may have lost the ability to put one foot in front of the other. More common than not we run into these individuals in the market, sit next to them at dinner parties, and pass by them in traffic. Even still, these people could actually be the faces sleeping under our same roofs, the ones singing to the mountaintops in the front seat of our cars, whose numbers we know by heart, or whose picture is on our refrigerators.
In college, I was struck by a quote that said, “Be kinder than necessary for everyone is facing some sort of battle.” It’s true. For some those battles may be larger and lengthier than others- but struggling is all something we can identify with. Restlessness, brokenness, and heavy hearts are multiplied by the millions. We have all, if not in this moment, faced some sort of battle.
My battles and struggles have allowed me to really grasp the concept of suffering. I know too well the suffering of physical pain and the emotions of despair and loneliness that coincide with it. I have the days where I do not think I can make it out of bed and the days where I spend every moment just asking for God’s grace to get me through unto the next. Yet, through my battles I have never been alone. God has always provided someone to suffer alongside of me. Most often it has been my parents, my siblings, and Nate. Just this past week, I had a night where I was unable to sleep and unable to find any relief from the pain but I had Nate right there by my side. He was encouraging me, praying with me, laughing with me, and suffering with me.
There have been friends from near and far who have prayed for me over the years, sent an encouraging text, or thanked me for relying on God’s strength and allowing them to catch a better glimpse of Him. While there are days and moments that I wish my story would not have to include all that it has, in the overall scheme of things I give thanks to my God for suffering. My struggles, my heartaches, my pains have allowed me to relate to people, to place myself in their shoes, and to encourage them if by only offering a listening ear. I place high value in my relationships because I want to be a good steward of the people God has blessed me with. I believe that the best I have to offer in a friendship is to suffer alongside of someone. I think this is the greatest gift any of us can offer and that is why the hardest part of being here is not being there. Mainly because my desire is to suffer alongside of those that I love in a manner of close proximity. I want to be there for them in an instant by hopping in my car and driving to their house. I desire to buy them a meal or pour them a glass of wine.
Unfortunately, life has spread the people I love most far and wide. However, through the miles, state lines, and time zones I am learning what it means to suffer alongside of someone from a distance. It is setting in more and more that we are here and so we can’t be there. However, while God has us here it does not mean that my love, support, and prayers are unable to reach to there. This world is filled with suffering. Christ’s life was marked with suffering and I would not hesitate to argue that not every person has faced some sort of battle. But, the beauty in the breakdown is that we can suffer alongside of one another, shield each other from the storm, hold hands to offer hope, and with eyes of empathy affirm that the journey is hard yet worth traveling.
So, from Seattle, while feeling like a world away, yet simply just a little farther north, I am suffering alongside of you. I am suffering here with you, my brother in Arizona, whose heart is aching. I will hold your hand from here, my sister, who is facing the demon we both know too well. I’m right behind you my dear friend, who feels so turned around from this quarter life crisis. My head is bowed in prayer for you my brother, who believes God will punish him. I will remind you from here, that you are child of God, to my birdy whose misplaced her faith. I am loving you all from here and while I wish I could do it from there- know that you are not alone in your battle, your struggles will not overtake you, and that He has given me a gift by allowing me to suffer alongside of you. From here, to there our friendships will still remain, our doors will always be open, and if all else fails I can still hop in the car and drive like a renegade if need be. I love you, from here to there.