How many of us are ashamed of the chains of another person? Sometimes it’s a looking away or denial of the mistake someone has made and “paying for it” through imprisonment. But there are other chains, like mental illness, grief, illness, divorce, unemployment, and poverty.
II Timothy 1:16
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.
I was ashamed of myself today as I realized I had lost touch with a woman who lost her husband last year. When he died suddenly, I had every intention of reaching out, of staying in touch, of being present to my friend as she went through the grieving process. But I didn’t. And now it has been a year. What caused this lack of attention? I wasn’t ashamed of her pain, per se, but I was uncomfortable. Grief is palpable.
And then I thought of other women I have left to bear the chains of their sorrow, my dearest friend whose brother died suddenly in a car accident. I didn’t know what to say or do and so I did next to nothing. Another friend lost her husband to lung cancer and it was months before I even sat at table with her. She was bitter at the desertions, not unlike Paul who names Phygelus and Hermogenes [vs 15].
I have colleagues whose teen and twenty-something children have gotten caught up in dangerous and illegal circumstances that have put them in prisons and detention centers. I know these mothers sorrow and I know it is hard for them to talk about it. What am I doing to ease their pain?
Another blogger wrote of the isolation that comes from mental illness and how people fear it, not unlike an infectious disease. The very thing that is needed is an unfailing and understanding presence.
I know, I shy away from so many things I do not understand but I am caught short today by my frozen inaction. Even though I am not gifted in removing the chains of others, I can still give a cup of water and hold a hand. A pastor friend of mine once said that people in grief generally need little but someone sitting beside them. Talk is often unnecessary. But I am all about the talk and the words. Silence in a group is outside my comfort zone.
It’s back to phrases like “life is in the being not in the doing” or, we are human “beings” not human “doings.” Corny but all true. But all that “being” needs to be in a place, needs to be with others who are struggling with their current state of “being” and could use a little support, like Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses [Exodus 8:12].
For all of those whose chains I ignored, I ask you to forgive me. May this day be a reminder and a call to be present in the lives of those around me, chains and all.