I was talking with a friend of mine recently and she is one of ‘those’ kinds of friends. You know the type. She knows how to ask the right question, how to listen intently and wait as long as it takes to get the real answer, the right answer and to make you feel safe enough that if you wanted to…you could cry with her. And it would totally be ok.
Unfortunately, those sorts of people are few and far between.
At the start of our conversation I decided to throw out a test question, to see if I had read her correctly and if she was indeed as safe as I thought. I asked it with some context that isn’t important here and also in a genuinely light-hearted manner, so it wasn’t quite as awkward as it will seem. “So… if I come undone today during our time together, that’s ok, right?” Without batting an eye, with a smile and gentle chuckle even, she replied, “You have complete permission to come undone.”
As I reflected on our conversation that day, I wondered why her words stuck with me. Could it have been her comfort with whatever form of emotion I chose to express? Her invitation for me to be as real or as vulnerable as I wanted? Maybe it was how she managed to create a safe place for us to talk and exchange more than just information. And I thought about how few places there are in my life where I have permission to come undone.
I found it sort of sad that somehow our emotions aren’t always as welcome into a conversation as our intellect or humor. What does it say about my normal conversational style and rhythms that I felt I needed permission from another person to express how I felt? Aren’t my emotions a valid and important part of who I am? And why is it that I am not always comfortable with this part of me or this part of others when it is their turn to come undone?
Jesus meets us in our humanity. This is the main thesis of the series entitled Being Human. There are things in our most fleshly, most earthly, most human parts that Jesus loves to inhabit, to speak to, to heal, to change, to redeem, to restore, to love. Jesus made us humans and He made us human. This includes our tears.
There are times we come undone and it is very much ok. Natural. Healthy. Those times when emotion bubbles and pours out of us. And while I can’t fully explain it, sometimes part of the undoing process must involve others – being with those who know how to guide us into and out of our undoing. Then we learn, when it is our turn, to walk others into and out of their undoing. While there is certainly a time for crying alone, I’m not sure that is how God planned it. It seems to me that when we learn to weep together, and this part of our humanity becomes ok in community, something powerful happens.
We connect. We learn to trust someone else with our pain. Shame dissipates. We humble ourselves with each other, cracking the door to greater relational depth. We learn to open our hearts in the presence of others, making peace with who God has made us to be, even when it is a bit messy. Or a lot messy. Jesus shows up and inhabits those moments, using us in each others lives to begin the process of ‘undoing’ what sin has done – and to begin the process of ‘re-doing’ us in His image.
So I’ve been wondering, when people are talking with me, am I a safe person? Am I comfortable enough in my own skin and with my own emotional health to invite others to be as real as they choose, to express whatever they feel with no fear of rejection or shame? Am I a good enough conversationalist that I can lead and/or follow people to talk about things that are important enough, where we get beyond just the head and maybe, just maybe, delve into the arena of the heart?
And am I willing to go first when appropriate?