There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.
In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”
It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group. After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.
But, oh, when I did! What relief! What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!
I’ll be the first to admit I’m sassy and sometimes salty.
Popping off a quick one-liner (sometimes at the expense of another) was a dinner table past time when our family included four teens.
But it’s one thing to have inside jokes with those I know well and quite another to blast a stranger or a social media only “friend” because they *dare* to post something that goes against my pet opinion or viewpoint.
One of the things I adore about the online bereaved parent community is how individuals overwhelmingly respond with grace, kindness, thoughtfulness and space for different experiences and opinions.
I wish the rest of the world operated the same way! Maybe we need to revive that old saying: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
Chole identifies several groups that were in proximity to Jesus as He was dying on the cross.
Perhaps two people were silenced by grief or gently sobbing.
The others were taunting Him, mocking Him and reveling in His [apparent] inability to save Himself or be rescued by the Father He claimed close connection to.
They had no idea that His death was a last act of willing submission and laying aside of His power, position and possible retribution against those who had put Him there.
Love held Him to the cross-not nails or impotence.
So today I fast criticism.
I will fast judging others based on half-truths or even whole ones that cast them into a role other than as an image-bearer of our God.
Every single person I meet is bearing up under some kind of burden. Every face I see has an untold story behind the smile, frown, scowl or tears.
And every single human being is known and loved by the God who made them and the Savior who died to redeem them.
Today, fast criticism. From the clerk moving slowly to the homeless vet on the streets, consider carefully that Jesus knows them by name. Today, seek to know more, assume less, and air prayers for Jesus’ ‘least of these’ boldly in the presence of your shared Father God.
Alicia Britt Chole
**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience. **
It’s funny how child loss has, at the same time, made me more yielding and more steadfast.
I give in without a moment’s hesitation to other people’s choice in where to go for lunch, what to do for birthdays, how to arrange this or that at church. My brain simply doesn’t have the capacity any more to argue over trifles.
But I will stand up to a lion for the sake of love or to protect a hurting heart.
There is so much going on right now in our country and our world that hurts my heart.
I could get on my soapbox and pontificate about what policies should be or what politicians should do but my tiny voice wouldn’t make a difference on the grander stage.
My world is pretty small in comparison to social influencers and the ones who want to be.
Even still, what I do and what I say each day matters.
It matters to my family and my neighbors.
It matters to the folks with whom I share social media space, the road and the grocery aisle.
So I make it a habit to extend and receive grace.
I extend it when someone else’s experience informs an opinion different than my own. I extend it when someone posts a meme or article with which I disagree. I extend it when I scroll past what I consider offensive-just ignore it and go on-instead of “taking them to task”.
I receive it when my friends do the same.
It’s not my job to police everyone else on the planet.
It IS my job to live according to my profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Grace-unmerited favor-poured out abundantly on me and available for me to pour out on others.