On a road trip this summer with my family, we stopped at Panda Express for lunch because, well, the Lord speaks to me thru Chinese food. Ok, so maybe that’s not WHY we stopped but it doesn’t make it any less true. We parked, walked in just in front of the lunch crowd and waited. And waited. And waited. It was close to 10 minutes before a sweet young girl rushed over from the drive thru line and took our order. Someone had obviously not shown up for work. Now they were short-staffed for a typical lunch rush, and both staff and customers felt the absence. As I stood in line with a cranky toddler and a whiny 6 year old, I heard the Lord whisper “show up” and I was reminded once again that showing up matters.
I have been blessed beyond measure in this life with friends. Friends, that when you tell somebody about them, you say “she’s good people.” Most of these friends I have done life with for well over 20 years and those years have had some life in them. We’ve had moves and graduations and weddings and babies and houses to celebrate. We’ve also had marriages fail and fail again. And again. We’ve had babies die and babies leave and babies we never thought we would ever get to meet. We’ve had spouses get sober and spouses relapse. (Honestly, I’m not sure which one of those two is harder.) We’ve had parents with surgery and cancer and Alzheimer’s, oh my. And let’s just throw financial devastation in there for good measure. There has been a lot of life in our years and not all of it has been fun.
I have come to learn in these almost 40 years of mine that showing up is really 90% of loving people well. It requires sacrifice and it is most of the time uncomfortable. In the hard places and difficult seasons of life, it doesn’t matter what we say or what we do or what we bring or what we don’t. It matters that we show up. Showing up tells those we love that they matter, and that we are willing to get outside of ourselves to sit with them in their pain. And it means the world when their world is falling apart.
Jesus did it. He showed up when nobody else really wanted to stick around. In John 11, Lazarus has died and Jesus shows up. He tells the family to move the stone in front of the grave so He can go be with His friend. Mary says “Lord, he’s already been dead 4 days and it is all kinds of funky in there!” Isn’t that the truth?!?! Grief stinks and it usually runs off the faint of heart. But Jesus shows up and a dead man comes back to life. Sisters, it’s the same when we show up and grieve with those who are hurting. It breathes life back into them. Even if just for the hour, the day, the week. It gives them hope that tomorrow might hurt just a little less. And even if the pain doesn’t retreat, they know they won’t be alone in it.
Here’s the rub: showing up will never be easy and it will never be convenient. It is never fun to walk into a sister’s pain and let your heart break right along with hers. It takes courage and strength and crazy love to expose your heart to that kind of raw emotion. When Martha told Mary that Jesus was there, she ran out to meet him. When He saw her weeping, scripture tells us He was deeply moved and He wept with her. Showing up requires tears. It takes us being present in the places where we most want to run.
It also takes knowing The One who can put the pieces back together. We never rush into brokenness for brokenness’ sake. And we must NEVER assume that we are there to fix what has been broken. Just like people pleasing, fixing people doesn’t work either. What we bring to the table is a willingness to be vulnerable because we know that beauty comes out of brokenness. The beauty doesn’t make the pain disappear but it can, if you let it, transform your heart and life into something greater than you ever imagined. It takes you deeper into your love for humans and closer to the heart of God. That’s why He came, after all. He showed up as 8lb 6oz infant baby Jesus, lying in a manger because a broken, hurting world needed a second chance.