Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Barricading, Boxes and Crying Strangers

“I don’t wanna be here I don’t wanna be here I don’t wanna be here.” Thus the refrain running through my head as I sat in church this past Sunday. I didn’t walk in with this feeling of geographic discontent, but it hit pretty quickly and just kept growing - I was suddenly and irretrievably peopled-out. I kept imagining a me-sized box sliding down over my head, barricading me from everyone else. I might have tried escape, but I was hemmed in on both sides by people at the ends of the pew. I closed my eyes, working on the toddler-worthy assumption that “if I can’t see you then you can’t see me,” and wished the world away.

When I opened my eyes again, I saw a woman in the pew in front of me - a visitor, I knew, since she had introduced herself during the welcome. And she was crying. This is not as outlandish as it may seem, since this was a service about healing physical and emotional wounds, but there she sat, this stranger, crying.

“Go to her,” I heard in my head. Ignoring that with some alacrity, I promptly closed my eyes again.

“Go to her,” I heard again, and this time I gave fight to whatever part of my better nature was prompting me: “She doesn’t know me from Adam, she doesn’t want some stranger hanging around her when she’s feeling vulnerable, she’s probably craving solitude right now just as much as I am.” Eyes still closed.

“Go to her,” reaffirmed the obnoxiously placid yet insistent voice, heeding my objections not at all.

Oh, fine.

I crept out of my pew, sat down beside the crying woman I didn’t know, and after checking with her to see if it was okay, put my arms around her. And I just sat with her as she cried. Eventually she started telling me of her sorrow, and eventually I found myself crying with her, and there I sat for the rest of the service.

She was visiting from out of town and I’m not likely to see her again. I have no way of knowing if I ministered to this woman or not, but I do know that she ministered to me. In sitting for just that moment with her sorrows and brokenness, I was called for just that moment to recognize and let go of mine. By sitting with a crying stranger, I felt the touch of healing.


  1. Wow! What a powerful posting! You truly do have your finger on your spiritual pulse for you to hear it so strongly despite your desire to fade into a box on your head. Me, on the other hand, I have felt the spirit/divine (whatever you want to call it) so lacking from my life lately. It seems these days that everything else has taken front and center stage: my health, work, relationship issues. I try to carry love in my heart for the people I know to be suffering, for my sometimes not-so-nice thoughts, etc. I want to be open to the divine, but I believe the spirit is rather silent for me. I read in Mother Teresa's bk how she struggled for years b/c she did not hear God's voice. Yet she persisted to be an example of love to her dying day. I'm not expecting to hear God's voice - maybe just a sign that I am part of something larger than myself. But if Mother Teresa can go on, then I must be able to take comfort in the appreciation of friends and strangers alike. And according to Buddhism, as soon as I desire something more, I will not find that happiness or release from desire.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Maybe the spirit isn't silent so much as speaking to you in different ways, such as through Mother Teresa's book.