The lighting was low and the room sterile. I reached out and touched her limp body, my fingers tracing the tiny bones in her hand. She was beautiful but broken. Her unconscious body radiated an almost angelic hue, but as I glanced towards her face it was varnished with bruising exposing her frail humanity. Gang raped and left for dead, this older homeless lady had been thrown away like trash. Guadalupe had come face to face with violence and as I recited Psalm 91, speaking tenderly to her in that hospital room, I slid gently into that moment and occupied her pain.
It's been an agonizing week for news. Rape, violence and senseless tragedy. I’ve spent too many late nights reading articles, sifting through debates and opinions, impact statements and interviews. Then last night I attended a vigil here in my own neighborhood, remembering the Orlando victims and listening to a hurting community intimately touched by the loss. Candles flickered and arms held each other. I told myself to pause for a few moments, to hold the fear and pain, lifting it up and laying it on my shoulders. Feeling the weight and letting it sit for a while.
Lingering with pain is complex, obscure and exhausting. Breathing the same air as grief causes my soul to flinch and recoil like a tender bruise. It’s almost unbearable for longer than a moment. Most of us prefer a post on social media, a prayer at church and then we move on. Just keep moving we tell ourselves. Just survive. But maybe it’s the moving that’s killing us. Perhaps the constant need to cross by on the other side exposes the lack of Samaritan blood in our veins.
Occupying the same space as another, holding their pain and pausing to just be with them means we have to resist the urgent demands of time. Loving someone means we do less. If we want to settle in with those who are weeping, we’ll need to plant roots, silence the noise and leave the clock at home. And instead of ticking hands, we’ll hear beating hearts. Theirs – and ours. With each beat we hear our collective humanity. Because which of us really takes the time to feel and mourn life's pains and tragedies? To acknowledge that some days we're barely breathing, crawling along dragging our broken parts?
As we position our hearts towards our hurting neighbors with hands outstretched, let’s live authentic lives. Let’s offer ourselves the same space to feel, to rage and to weep. Let’s not hold space only for others, but also for ourselves. Let's slow down, lament together. Allow our healing to trickle into the street. Remembering that we're all human, all facing the angst of life and doing our best with the weights we carry. And there alongside is Jesus. With the scars in his hands and the hole in his side. Reminding us that He came for this mess of humanity, He laid her upon His shoulders, felt the weight and left her there for eternity. He holds enough space for all of us.