There are pathmakers in our midst who are original and brave and confident. And then there are The Rest of Us who need people who have traveled our pathways before us. They bring comfort and sometimes they even save our lives.
When our church suddenly and cruelly lost a four year old on Mothers’ Day many years ago, the mother of this precious child said, “I only want one thing: I need to find another mother who has lost a four year old. I need to know that it’s possible to survive this.”
I have found great comfort in knowing women who – like me – lost their mothers to breast cancer just as they were just getting to know their moms as adults. When I lived in Virginia, there was a group of us who understood each other in mysterious ways because we all lost our moms to breast cancer as 20 or 30-somethings. I remember one parishioner in our Moms Dead From Breast Cancer Club dropping by my office one day. As she poked her head in the door, she said, “I couldn’t get you out of my mind this morning. Are you okay?” It happened to be the fifth anniversary of my mother’s death and I believe something moved her to reach out to me. She’d been there.
While I’m a big fan of The Incarnation, I also believe that God works through people who have experienced what we’ve experienced:
- The person who (maybe like us) lost her spouse leaving her with a young child
- The person who (maybe like us) has been living with HIV for a long time
- The person who (maybe like us) has had gender reassignment surgery
- The person who (maybe like us) has parented a child who had gender reassignment surgery
- The person who (maybe like us) has a spouse in prison
- The person who (maybe like us) has children of another race or nation of birth than our own
Yes, support groups are helpful but close relationships in which we can openly share the fears and experiences of our own intimate lives are invaluable. They make us feel like we are not alone.
Maybe you feel like “the only one” out there. But I’m convinced that God will use you to comfort someone else whose story is something like yours. You could be the only person who gets it for somebody else out there.
Image is the Coker Arboretum tunnel in Chapel Hill, NC.