These are our friends Misty and Steve. Last night we went out to dinner at a local restaurant that is closing after 32 years. The Glass Chimney and Deeter’s has been a fine dining fixture in our town, even as chains have erupted on every corner.
You Should Write A Book
Sorry Dieter (Puska, the chef) but my dining experience, while appreciated, was not made extraordinary because of the filet or the apple strudel. What made for an exceptional evening was the conversation we shared with our new friends. I have known Misty for a little over a year. Her husband Steve travels extensively and is not in town often so getting the four of us together has been a challenge. Somehow, it worked out that all of us were free Saturday night.
Before I go on let me explain that Bret and I have been blessed with astonishing friendships. The people in our lives amaze us with their incredible character, wisdom and most of all their compassionate hearts. I say this because we are not on some sort of “honeymoon high” with these new friends. We are simply humbled that once again God has seen fit that we enter into this friendship with a couple who know how to live life authentically.
If I could, I would tell you the first thing Steve told us as we waited for the table. We were dumbfounded by his transparency. Dumbfounded and honored that he would share two pieces of BIG news in his life. Hey, don’t hold back, Steve, I thought. While I see Misty nearly every week, we have only been around Steve a couple of times. And here we are holding this news and discovering more than just how many brothers he had or where he grew up or what he thought when he met Misty.
As we sat at our table in the corner (thank God because I think anyone within earshot would have been shocked or horrified – or both- with our conversation), each of us shared a bit of our own stories. All of them containing one consistent element: suffering. All of our stories were sprinkled (and that’s putting it lightly) with disappointment, deception and death. Heavy, I know. But it occurred to me that when you’ve gone through enough pain in your life, pain that you have chosen to face – chosen to walk through – you don’t have much room for fluff. Because of the suffering life has brought into each of our lives, whether we brought it on ourselves or it happened “to” us, we no longer play the “I’m okay, You’re okay” games… because quite frankly sometimes I’m not okay, and you’re not okay.
And that’s okay.
It’s funny that I should be writing about suffering now, when I am feeling more joy in my life than I have felt in months. Yet suffering, at least to me, doesn’t equal a dark cloud hanging over my head all the time. It doesn’t mean I am dying in a pile, although at times it does look and feel like that. Suffering can be something subtle like watching my husband struggle to walk across the kitchen and my heart breaking over his decreased mobility. Or it can be catastrophic like the death of a friend or my dad’s encephalitis this summer. But I will say that the theme of suffering last night ALWAYS lead us to the same place – and this is going to sound so churchy but it’s so true – it leads us right to the One who comforts, the only one who truly understands all of me – Jesus.
From my experience, suffering is the one thing that consistently brings me to the place where I surrender and say, “Jesus, here you go. Take this burden because I am bitter, or I am broken, or I am confused,” and I lay it down. Lately I literally open my hands, like I wrote in the helium balloon poem yesterday. There are so many Scripture references about what suffering does for us, for our character, for our hearts and souls. Without suffering we miss all of that. We run. We pretend. We medicate. We die.
After Steve told us about a particularly painful experience, I said, “You should write a book,” which was really a joke because the man has authored or co-authored about 100 books. Seriously. One of them was particularly healing to me after a major issue occurred in my life and I was able to share how that book stood out among the several others I had read on the topic.
As we parted ways, it occurred to me that while we spent the majority of the evening talking about some serious stuff, it didn’t feel too heavy or depressing. It was quite the opposite really. I felt blessed to hear their hearts and have them listen to ours. It also dawned on me that I didn’t walk away overly emotive or enamored. My MO, especially with new relationships, is to idolize people that I am drawn to.
Sorry Steve and Misty. As much as I admire you and love you both, I will not put you on the pedestal. I have learned that the process of looking up to you on that pedestal is not only hard on my neck, but when I have to push you down from it, it’s hard on my heart. So, I will continue to walk with you as God allows us time together and I think I speak for both Bret and I when I say, we will not only not put you too high, or knock you too low, but we hope to hold your hands, as you hold ours, through this life we have been given — with all its suffering and all its joy.
Now go write another book. How about: “There’s no glass chimney in The Glass Chimney, but there sure is a really pretty mahogany bar.”