Friday, July 6, 2018

Myth-ing out

Life is hard. It's so good to have wonderful friends and family who are there and who care. Sometimes, though, friends and family have no idea how to do that.

It's amazing to me how many of God's people miss out on opportunities to step alongside someone and help them through a rough patch, or a dark and lonely valley, just because of preconceived notions - or what I call myths - about basic things like life, death, God's will, and prayer. These myths, expressed in ways intended to comfort, actually do the opposite in many cases. 

Take, for example, the person who is terminally ill. Their family is dealing with the hard facts that they may not have much time left with their loved one. I have heard all kinds of things said to the families (and to the sick person) and quite frankly, many of them do more harm than good. 

Here's one example. One of the things I have heard people say is that "it's never too late; God may still reach in to heal, so keep on believing." While this is true, and it could happen, first of all, why would you push for a return to this earth when Heaven is so much better than here? And what gives human beings the right to dictate what God's will might be for that individual or family? Secondly, telling the family to keep on believing is kind of an insult. Think about it. If there were any more prayers to be prayed, if there was any more faith to be exercised, don't you think they've already tried praying and believing every single waking moment? Isn't this experience hard enough without the family living with not only grief, but guilt and shame you placed on them because they feel they somehow didn't do enough to keep their loved one with them?

Here's another myth - the assumption that the person has already died, it's just a matter of when they stop breathing. Kind of cruel, isn't it? but people couch it in religious terminology like "Praying for peace for you and yours at this difficult time." All it really means is that (a) the person is a goner, in the mind of the person saying this, and (b) the person giving condolences distances themselves emotionally and is spouting platitudes, which are polite, meaningless noises that they think people are supposed to say when someone is grieving. "Feel better," is what this amounts to, but the person almost always has no intention of being around before the grieving one feels better.

Photo "Sadness Woman In Friend's
by David Castillo Dominici
A third (and this one is completely false): "God must need another angel." People don't become angels; that would be a demotion. (Look it up. Angels long to have the relationship with God that we do by second birthright.) That's the first myth. The second myth is the implication that God TAKES someone away from us, which is the farthest from the truth. When a loved one passes away, God WELCOMES them Home. They immediately step into the next phase of Eternity - a richness of life and joy that we can only barely begin to comprehend. And He is WITH the people who are left behind, available for them to weep hot tears or sit in stony, silent, excruciating heart-pain, or anything in between, for as long as they need to. His patience, love, and kindness is measureless and strong.

I get why people say these things. They say them because human beings were never created for separation. People feel uncomfortable with the word goodbye, when they know that the goodbye is for what might be a very long time. That's as it should be, really. But my point is that those people who are going to be left behind need as much help and support as we can give them, in a real and tangible way. Are we really helping them by telling them these things? Or are we just helping ourselves feel better by convincing ourselves we've done our bit? Where will we really be when the harsh reality of life without their loved one hits them like a ton of bricks? Hiding safe behind our platitudes, or walking the valley with them - in person - so they can lean on us when they need to? 

I am talking to myself just as much as I am to anyone else. Even though I have known the loss of many dear ones, every time is at least as hard, and every time is different. I know that the terminal illness or loss of a loved one is messy, and it can be very uncomfortable to witness up close; believe me when I say that the person undergoing such an experience would love to be able to NOT witness it. But people sometimes need that other witness, that person who sits with them or hugs them without saying a word, whose presence is there, comforting without the need to say anything. Sometimes that means going for a piece of pie and an iced tea, sometimes it means inviting them over for an evening, sometimes it means letting them talk and letting them cry - and crying with them - and sometimes it even means sitting with them in the hospital ward rest area and missing your favorite sitcom.

It might be inconvenient. It might be uncomfortable. But to do any less would be missing - and mything - out.

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