You’ve seen her.
Cozy cardigan over a cotton tunic, skinny jeans and name brand running shoes. Hair combed just enough for the messy look to be fashionable. Just enough makeup to not feel insecure in the morning drop-off line at her kids’ school.
But you really haven’t seen her.
Because if you did your heart would break. Last night’s argument with her husband ended up in a sleepless night. A few hours later the toddler woke up crying. Another fever. That morning, her tween greeted her with silence, unfinished homework, and an unsigned permission slip for the field trip that day. The smelly sink disposal called for white vinegar and the main bathroom hamper overflowed with clothes. She forgot detergent during her last grocery trip.
She drove away from drop off with a beautiful smile and a wave to fellow parents while inside her soul was crushing her to death. With each heartbeat, the deep, torturing pain of hopelessness pounded against her dream of a life she would enjoy. A tear fought its way to the surface, only to be interrupted by the toddler’s feverish whimpers.
What would you say to her? What thoughts would you have when she is at the point where she whispers “I. Just. Can’t.” No religious verse can take away her present. A gentle squeeze of her hand may offer needed human touch, but still her present remains as it has for a few years.
The tragedy of emotional pain can happen to any of us. Unknowingly we have walked by the young woman whose boyfriend abruptly ended their relationship or the woman who finds herself in a place where her native tongue isn’t widely understand causing her to wander through her present all alone.
The dark night of the soul is an experience that lasts too long for most of us who’ve been in these shoes even for a moment. No matter what the status-single, married, with kids or yearning them, life can be difficult. When the fabric of our soul sheds, the danger signs appear but are unfortunately invisible unless we….unless she lets someone look deeply into her eyes.
How can we as a company of sisters help each other not fall into a living hell? Even the medical community recognizes that a prevention ethic is best. What can we do better so that one of our sisters knows that they don’t have to hide behind a smile and a wave?
Ruth 3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
The words “seek” and “security” give form to our compassion and empathy. Seeking involves deliberate action. I picture a person holding a telescope looking into the distance on behalf of someone else. The picture reminds me of Isaiah 21:6 which says: “Go, set a watchman, Let him declare what he sees.” Let’s discover the next steps of our sister’s life! Whether by prayer or research, we can find opportunities that our sister can take hold of to find or rediscover her value. She must realize that her present narrative is a roadblock versus a foreshadowing of her future.
Similarly we can carry vision for our sister’s life. This carrying is more than verbally affirming dreams lost by the wayside. It is stewarding her vision when she is down. The day she rises she will take it back. Ruth of this Old Testament story was a young widow. She was in a place of transition after the death of her husband, who was Naomi’s son. Ruth was personally aimless but relying on the strength and wisdom of her mother-in-law, who was also in a place of grief and transition. Age and experience is valuable. The years in which Naomi accumulated wisdom and understanding gave her the strength to carry vision for her daughter in law’s life. In current times, this means that older mothers should remember what life can be like for a younger mother. Altruism involves prevention. No woman ever has to get to the point of giving up. Ruth was childless and a widow. She had no acceptable status in her culture. We must be proactive with checking in with our sisters with words of encouragement and offers of practical help. If they can’t find a sitter, we can bring the coffee or tea to them. We need to discard pleasant surface conversations and sit in front of them at a function and say, “How are you doing with the things on your plate?” or “Is there anything that I can pray for you about?”.
Security is essential to wellness. We can guide our sisters to a secure place. Newness can make life topsy turvy for any human being. Is our sister newly married? What about in a new job or fresh out of college? Is she newly divorced? Let’s anticipate her struggle for this segment of her journey. I don’t mean suppressing her natural emotions or allowing her to become codependent on you. A listening ear is like a soft pillow to someone who feels like the foundation is shifting under her feet. Similarly, well-timed words are described in Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Every mother experiences something new every few years, a birth, entry to the school phase, puberty, leaving home. Too often, we, the sisters, wait for our churches, schools and community organizations to offer classes or events . We can be the class or event on cloudy afternoon if we shift our schedules and make space to serve and be what God envisioned for sisters to be. We must protest the dividing lines of economics,race and education and be a company of sisters. Even shared faith does not matter. Life challenges all people.
If we make this a part of our lifestyle, then we won’t see her, the one with the tear finally falling as they teeter on the brink of giving up everything on this side of heaven. Her pain and her woes don’t have to be medicated with the secret stash of liquor, drugs or the darkness of her bedroom. Sisterhood was created to keep our chins up when they begin cowering, our eyes fixed when they begin to wander and our hearts strong when weariness comes close. If you are Naomi, go find a Ruth and if you happen to be Ruth, don’t hide behind a smile and a wave. Let us see your eyes.