Today at our Sister Circle, we gathered and read the seventeenth principle from Find Your Way Home, a compilation of stories surrounding the twenty-four principles for living in the grace-filled community of Magdalene, a place for women to rebuild their lives after living on the streets.
Remember you have been in the ditch.
We all know what being in the ditch is like, right? That horrible place where one feels trapped and covered up with life stuff that is hard to deal with? It’s important that we remember we’ve been there, so we can walk with the people around us who are there now.
As we went around the table, the stories poured out. Especially those of Miss G, who has been hurt by folks and shares her stories with passion and frustration. The stories of jobs lost because of injury, of being overwhelmed financially, of feeling lost and alone.
Because that is what being in the ditch feels like–being thrown away, in a pit, hopeless, feeling hurt or fearful, like there’s no way out, not seeing anything beyond the problems, being in draining relationships. People in the ditch make bad decisions, they are tired, and they can’t see beyond the darkness.
People in the ditch are lost.
And the only way out is to ask for help and then being willing to accept it. A person in the ditch has to learn to let it go and to share his or her stories. They have to be open and learn to trust to be able to take those steps out of the ditch.
This is so easy to type or say.
But not so easy to actually do. It’s hard to trust when you feel like people are judging you and your story. The only way to help people out of the ditch or to be helped out is to build relationships. If you and I have a relationship, it’s not so odd for me to call and check on you everyday–see how you’re doing, how you are feeling. But if we don’t, that just becomes a little creepy, right?
Relationships–the difference between caring…..and creepy.
My Sisters today talked about how to build relationships with others. Here’s what we came up with:
**Listening to others and hearing their stories
**Finding what we have in common with others
**Being a safe place for them to land
It is only through taking these slow steps that relationships are built, little bit by little bit. And it is only after the relationship reaches a certain level that enough trust is built so that one can help another begin to wind her way out of the ditch. All so painstakingly slow. When we’d like to just make it happen all in one large leap. Unfortuntately we can’t take it all in one large spoonful as my little guy did this morning with his yogurt.
No quick fixes when it comes to the ditches of life, I’m afraid.
And those ditches are tricky little boogers. They grow tendrils like those creepy trees from “The Wizard of Oz.” They grasp your ankles and try to pull you back down. They whisper that you’re not ready, that you don’t have the energy or worth to leave all the ditch stuff. And sometimes you are so tired that you just give up and sink back into the muck, the stuff that makes it hard to take even a single step.
One of my Sisters mentioned that therapy might help but she couldn’t afford it. Bless her. I shared with her that therapy has its place in getting out the ditches of life, but that the very best ditch diggers I’ve known were friends, sisterfriends. Folks who helped me out of the ditch with their kindness and compassion because they had been in a ditch before–once or twice or twenty-seven times. And because we had a relationship that was more precious than gold.
It’s the Christmas season. A time when folks around us are cheery and it feels like the whole world is happy, except for those who are in the ditches. As Miss G mentioned today, that makes things extra hard.
Here’s the thing. The main point of this season is RELATIONSHIP. It’s the reason it happened at all. Because God no longer wanted the kind of relationship that had existed prior to the birth of Jesus. God wanted a one on one, look you in the eye, wipe your tears, laugh together over silly jokes, break bread together, and sit with you in the dark kind of relationship. That’s why Jesus was born. To build a relationship better than had ever been before.
It’s a hard season to feel thrown away. It’s hard to think that anyone, even God, would want a relationship with me when I’m bogged down in the yuckiness of the ditch. And yet, God does. In the midst of the season’s busyness and shopping and celebrating, let’s remember ’tis the season for reaching out and getting to know people–to meet them where they are and accept them there, to become a safe place for them to share their stories and to rest. And one day, when they are ready and trusting, we can reach a hand out and help them lift themselves out of that ditch that threatened to overcome them. One day, it can happen.
‘Tis the Season for relationships. They are the greatest gift of all. Go out and put your heart into one. And take your time. Good things come to those who are patient. I know it’s true. My Mama said so.