That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. I am never listening to Christian radio again.
I said that three weeks ago, and I haven’t listened since.
Well, it’s not the music. It’s the garbage in between. Sure, some of the DJs are OK but some of the crud they have, like the “60 Seconds of Discouragement” as I call it, is just too much. But the final straw was a story by a woman who was advising people how to act around people who are going through cancer, either themselves or their loved ones.
She complained that when her son was going through cancer treatment people told her their own cancer stories. It sounded legit for about 3 seconds until I remembered what has happened to me through the years as I’ve had things, terrible things happen and people came out of the woodwork and shared their stories. These were people who sometimes their closest friends didn’t even know their stories. And the reason is, their stories are not the happy-clappy stories we like to hear in the church. Their stories are sad, filled with death, no miracle save, no supposed blessing. So no one wants to hear it.
These people wander alone in our churches. they have a smile on their face on Sunday because that’s the only acceptable way to be. Anything else will get them ostracized. Inside they are broken, inside they ache, inside they are utterly alone.
Then, something happens. I’ll use the example of Spock to explain.
On September 11, 2001, while the world watched events in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania unfold in horror, I sat in a doctors office and was told my unborn son had a birth defect. I would learn that his birth defect had only a 50% survival rate, and that even if he lived, he would have multiple and ongoing physical problems. I was, needless to say, floored. My first son had nearly died at birth, now I was being told that was going to happen again.
Now, I’m not the type to remain silent when pushed, so I didn’t. I joined a support group for his rare defect, it was so rare I could only find an online support group. I told my friends. And then it started…
The first thing to start was the annoying part. The people who knew nothing about the defect offering me advice and platitudes. All of which I could have done without.
The second thing was the surprising part. All sorts of people opened up to me about their own experience with a child who had died because of a birth defect.
Now, I could have taken this like the woman on the radio did who whined about it all being too much for her to handle. She didn’t want to know how these people had suffered because she had her own problems. But she missed the point entirely. People don’t share these stories when you are going through something similar to burden you, they share them with you so you know you’re not alone. And they do that because they were and still are alone in their struggle, because their story didn’t have that happy ending, that one where God swoops in with a miracle and saves the child. So no one wants to hear it, no one wants to acknowledge that each year their are dates on the calendar these people face alone.
How did I come to that conclusion?
Because there was a third thing, and why that woman didn’t complain about this, I don’t know, because if you suffer in the church, this will definitely happen to you…
The third and one of the worst things that happened to me were the people who stopped speaking to me. They avoided me. They ignored me. One “friend” summed it up perfectly when she called to talk about my older son’s upcoming birthday party while I was pregnant:
“I don’t want to hear about your unborn baby’s birth defect, or the fact that he might die. I can’t handle it.”
She couldn’t handle that my son was going to die.
And that, folks, is the problem in a nutshell. We have people wandering the church, claiming to be Christ’s followers, attending church their whole lives, telling the suffering that they can’t take their pain, they just don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to help the suffering bear their burden because it’s just too much for them.
It’s taken me a long time to see this, a long time to get pushed to the point where I understand that it’s not OK to be this way, it’s not OK to “protect” yourself from other people’s pain. Because there is so much pain, and in the church it is suffered in silence, and in loneliness. And that is just simply un-biblical. Jesus was a man of sorrows, closely acquainted with grief. His church is filled with people who have nothing to offer the suffering but advice and platitudes.
Knowing that, and seeing it clearly now, it makes me appreciate all the people who have simply stood by me. No advice, no bossy-ness, no demands, no telling me what to do. Just with me, understanding, even if they’d never been through it. Offering prayer without admonition or judgement. Giving help without attaching strings. Those people have become my inspiration, they have become the people I look to for my example of how to carry the burdens of the suffering.