Have you ever said the words "thank you" and known that they didn't even come close to sufficiency? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by someone's kindness, generosity, and other-centeredness that you were at a loss for words as to how to respond? Have you ever experienced the compassion of another person, knowing that you would never fully be able to articulate your gratitude or repay them?
Last week I took a risk. After a number of weeks away, we attended our Sunday School class.
We weren't taking time away from the class because morning snacks were discontinued (be honest, it's one of the things you love most about Sunday morning!), because they weren't, or because we didn't want to see our friends, because we do. We were taking time off because quite frankly, the pain of attending was outweighing the benefits. Try as I might to redirect my thoughts, I was more focused on the many pregnant bellies and new babies than on any of the social interactions or on the the message from God's Word that was being taught. I wasn't sitting in my chair, rocking back and forth with my fingers in my ears and quietly humming to myself or anything (which doesn't mean the thought hadn't crossed my mind a time or two), but I was one hundred percent distracted and counting the seconds until the closing prayer during which I would gently tug my husband's elbow to indicate that I was ready to escape before more social interaction would be required. And at that point, I realized, as hard as it was for me to admit (it was extremely difficult), that being in our Sunday School class was actually doing me more harm that good.
[Enter major feelings of guilt here.]
I felt bad. Really bad. And it took the love and counsel of 4 of my support mommas to give me permission to take a break from class. That if my husband agreed and we could find some alternative methods of worship and study, that taking a break wasn't the unpardonable sin that I had made it out to be in my mind. That it didn't have to be permanent and that for now, it just might be best.
But a week ago Sunday, I had a flicker of bravery. One moment when I woke up at 8:30 where I thought that I would like to go to class instead of big church (sorry, old habits die hard--it will always be "big church"!). And an hour later, I found myself sitting in class, clasping my husband's hand and trying to focus on the message. And when that moment came where the "Amen" was uttered and everyone around us began chit-chatting, I grabbed my husband's elbow and made a beeline for the door. But before I could, I was intercepted by a friend-- a precious fellow loss momma-- who greeted me with a smile and a hug and asked me how I was. It wasn't the kind of "how are you?!" where the subtext is "I'm asking you how you are because it's a social nicety but I secretly hope you say you are great because I really have more important things to be doing". Far from it. It was the kind of "how are you?" with the subtext of "I haven't seen you in a while and you've been on my heart and I really want to know how you are doing because I genuinely care about you." In fact, she may have said that out loud. At any rate, her warmth, compassion, and kindness gave me the boldness to really tell her how I was doing. Before I could finish telling her about the newest encouraging story from the ministry, two more girls had walked up and joined the conversation. It wasn't one of those awkward situations where you could tell one of them wanted to ask the first girl something or had an agenda--on the contrary. They intently listened and asked thoughtful questions--because they genuinely cared. I was 5 feet from the door--and this scenario happened two more times before I left.
I sat in the car on the way home, fighting back tears. My husband instantly grabbed my knee and began asking what was wrong and who said something insensitive and am I okay....... and I could barely get out the words. "I just. I feel so loved."
And it didn't end there. Last week, I got an email from one of the girls in our class, a friend, letting me know that she had knit fifty pair of baby booties for the boxes and would be bringing them to the party. What?! In all of her spare time as a grade school teacher (the job that NEVER ends!) she just whipped up 50 pair of the most adorable baby booties you have ever seen. What?! And then came the text from another friend from class who told me that she was so glad to have seen me there and to apologize that she didn't get a chance to chat with me because she had to teach a class 3rd hour. So in all of her spare time as a mom of two little ones, she took the time and felt the need to apologize to me because she didn't get a chance to come say hi face to face......what?! I was so touched by her kindness, by her thoughtfulness...
I have known many of these girls for about 4 years now-- some of them longer--but I will be the first to admit that I have not gone very far out of my way to get to know them or really even to reach out to them. It's not even like I have been sowing this type of selfless behavior all over the gals in the group--at best, I have been polite from a distance. And right now? The way they are reaching out to me? The huge effort. The sheer compassion. Selflessness. Genuine kindness. This is where the "thank you" just simply doesn't suffice. And so. I want to take this opportunity to thank these girls. In my own simple, meager, insufficient way. To let them know that their compassion has touched me deeply. Has made the difference between feeling like I can never return to the class, and feeling like I'm actually wanted there, in spite of my grief and (at times) hardness. That even though many times, they probably have no idea what to say or how to make it better, that they are trying. And. That they love me. Just. Wow.
And I will leave you with the message that arrived in a card in my mailbox yesterday. From another classmate. From a very sweet, very precious sister. These are the actions that speak louder than words. That make me want to come back. And that show me a compassion so real, that it is now being used to help me heal.
To these girls and the rest of you who have displayed similar actions with your cards, mementos, messages, and texts these past months: I'm sorry that I don't have better words to express my gratitude. I wish that you could just see my heart because I will never be able to explain it. I hope that when given the opportunity, I will show up for you the way that you have shown up for me. Thank you for loving me. And thank you for remembering my babies. These are the greatest things that you can do for my grieving momma heart.
"Dear Becky, I've been thinking a out you and praying for you a lot the last few days! I heard you threw the most gorgeous baby shower ever. I'm sorry I couldn't make it. I'm so challenged by the love, time, and energy you put into blessing your friend when it's a celebration of something you so desperately desire yourself. I'm really sad that we didn't get to celebrate your little one this last Sunday. There will forever be an unfillable hole in the nursery, in our class, at play dates. I'm sorry my little boys don't get to meet your babies and play with them. Please know they have not been forgotten and will forever be missed."