I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.
We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty. So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”
I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast. They don’t even care about themselves.”
You might guess where this is going.
Yep. Couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “Most young people feel invincible. They think it won’t happen to them. If they knew they might really die and all that meant, they wouldn’t do it.”
Which kind of slowed them down but didn’t stop them.
So I asked, “Is the guy OK?” Wanting a simple answer not an account of grisly details.
Instead, the main speaker turned to me and began to share all he could remember in the brief time he had to take notes as he was crawling slowly by the accident scene. (I won’t recount them here to spare hearts but let’s just say for those of us whose child left for Heaven by road accident, it was entirely. too. much.)
I looked at him and said, “That’s enough.” He kept talking.
I looked at him again and said, “That’s enough. My son was killed in an accident.” He kept talking.
I finally raised my voice, called his name and said, “That’s enough! Stop talking!” He turned away like I had lost my mind.
I followed him a couple steps and said, “My son died in an accident. I don’t want to hear those kinds of details. Didn’t you see that I was crying?”
His response: “Well you asked. No, I didn’t see you crying.”
Everyone heard it but no one was listening. Everyone saw it but no one was willing to come alongside and put an arm around me. Everyone knows about my son but knowing hasn’t sunk in deeply enough to grow seeds of compassion.
I was shaking and wanted to leave right then but didn’t.
I’m not so tender now at five years that simply hearing about an accident upsets me. My mind goes immediately to the family and I breathe prayers for abundant grace and mercy. I never want others to feel they can’t share genuine prayer requests or concerns.
But I do not want details. I do not want a blow-by-blow nor anyone’s haughty opinion that it won’t happen to them or theirs because they “take precautions”.
I am utterly undone that after years of gently trying to help the people I worship with understand the tender places in a bereaved parent’s heart, several of them stomped all over mine.
I know words slip out. I don’t want anyone to walk on eggshells around me.
But I do want to be heard.
When I tell you that I need you to stop sharing something with me, please just stop.
Are you going to burst if you don’t let the words out?
But you might well break a bit of my heart if you don’t.