“Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church which accompanies them on their journey.”
When Peter was diagnosed with cancer last year, it was about two months after I had begun working with a new executive coach. Christo came highly recommended and even in our first few sessions, he was challenging me in a lot of different and productive ways. A few weeks after Peter came home from the hospital and things settled down a bit, I resumed my sessions with Christo. He was incredibly helpful in accompanying me through the many emotions I was experiencing. There were more than a few Zoom sessions that were primarily comprised of me sobbing and him just sitting with me, praying with me, offering an insight or a question. He was one of the greatest blessings that came during an extremely difficult time. As was the plan, our coaching engagement ended this summer and I didn’t hear from him until three months ago when he sent all of his clients a video message. His only child, two-year-old Blaze, had been diagnosed with leukemia. As I listened to his message, I was heartbroken and at the same time, absolutely convinced of why God connected us. I immediately sent a note offering prayers and a listening ear, offering to be there for him as he had been for me. Remembering how intense those first weeks were for our family, I didn’t expect to hear back from him and I didn’t. My family and I added St. Blaise to our nightly litany and just as I was thinking I should send another note to Christo to check in, I received a note from him. It was another video message sharing that little Blaze passed away in his arms on January 17, just three months after his diagnosis. As soon as I heard the words and saw his tears, I shut the top of my laptop. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t imagine that pain or hear that grief. It was simply too close. A few days later, I was looking through a little book in which I keep notes from meetings and I found some insights from one of our sessions in which Christo had been particularly helpful. I decided I needed to open up my laptop and finish watching that video. I needed to sit in his grief as he had sat with me. While gut wrenching, true to form, Christo and his wife ended their message with a proclamation that Jesus is alive, that Blaze lives with Him, and a reminder that we can all live in Christ too.
As I reflected on my reaction, I wondered how many other times I may turn away or turn off something or someone because I can’t sit in the discomfort. Whether it’s reading about a tragedy in some distant corner of the globe, writing off an angry voice in a meeting, or failing to reach out to a friend because I don’t feel like I have the right words, how often do I avoid that which leaves me feeling powerless, vulnerable, or uncomfortable? Rather than having to “do something” or “fix something,” can I realize that just the power of my silent presence may be more than enough for the person needing to be heard? As we begin this week, let’s not be too quick to turn away from what might make us uncomfortable. Instead let’s be the ones who can sit in someone else's pain with them and remind them that Jesus lives and that we can live in Him too. St. Blaze, pray for us.