Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Gift of Empathy

Suddenly this is all too hard. I am tired of putting up walls. I want someone with the strength – and the honesty – to break them down.
― Jodi Picoult, Vanishing Acts
I find it a bit embarrassing now, that I cannot recall the specific moment when we went from being merely passing hallway hello friends, to the kind of friends who hold tight in the midst of a whirlwind; grasping hands and locking eyes; each urging the other to hang on. Just hang on.

Perhaps that’s the problem with getting two introverts together. Two introverts who have hidden sides that no one believes (or wants to believe?) and who have spent enough time living behind the façade of what should be (or what they would like us to be?) are tentative when testing the waters of friendship. Will this work? Can I trust? Will she understand? And then, the sudden dawning that happens across warm drinks as something breaks free and you look up laughing and say, “What? Not you too?!”

This is the kind of friendship that feels like it’s lived longer than it really has. It’s only grown through a matter of years, but each of those years could hold two or three on their own. We share the kind of time where we sit down for coffee for an hour or two, and then suddenly glance down as our husbands ring us both, delicately asking if we realize that it’s been four hours already, and are you thinking of coming home any time soon? In conversations, we’ve uncovered revelation after revelation of similarities – nothing I would have guessed or even been able to foresee. Our faith anchors us, and she often surprises me with a Psalm or a verse at just the right time – this is a friendship about details and being aware of God’s prompting to ask and check in.

I try not to live with too many regrets. I want to own my mistakes and move on. But I wrote the other day, while emailing her saying that I wished this friendship had started sooner; that we had found this kinship before walking into the desert where things were so hard. In her wisdom, she responded that God’s timing being perfect as it is, He allowed us to come together at just the right time – when we had common ground (hard and dry as it was) and could skip right over the shallow stuff and get right into the nitty gritty and have a friend who could understand, listen, and relate.

You see, she’s walked a desert of her own – one strikingly parallel to the one I was in – and we’ve been in this together. And one thing I’ve learned and come to cherish is the voice and ear of one who’s walking with you. People who love you and support you are tremendous and such a blessing, but when you are truly raw and drawn out, there is nothing more comforting than the understanding through experience of one who truly knows the aches and hurts of your heart, the stress of your mind, and the fear that wakes you in the early hours of the morning. Whether that desert be extended unemployment, illness, a death in the family, a loss of relationship, recovery from an assault, a family in crisis, or a combination of these, it is empathy that speaks to the brokenhearted like nothing else.
Photo by Rebekah Ellis

Not everyone who walks through a desert time will have the gift of a friend who has a similar situation. It will be a blessing if you do. Perhaps you’ll find someone who has been there before, and you can share you pain from the perspective of experience. And if you’re struggling with this now, consider that God may be preparing your heart to minister to someone who may be coming into your life, who will be going through something very close to what you’re walking through right now, and who you’ll be able to share with, and pray with, and encourage as they make their own way through the hard paths in the desert.

And for you, my wayfaring, desert-walking friend: I am ever grateful for the Lord’s timing in the crossing of our paths. You have been a refuge for me in the darkest of times; a shelter where I knew I would be understood – even when I have been at my most undone. There are things we have shared that cannot be understood without this walking, and although I would not have originally chosen this path, I would not undo it for all I have learned and for what it has brought. I stand at the edge of the desert waiting and watching. The light is lit. The path is marked. I know you are coming soon. I pray that His timing for your lives will be unveiled; that your time in the desert will come to a close; and that you will join me in the rest that comes in the oasis.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!


  1. Your opening quote reminded me of another song that has always touched me. Here are parts of it.

    "This is someone else's story, someone that I never knew
    This is someone else's body, am I getting through to you?
    If you peel away the armor, is something underneath?
    If you look below for hidden treasure, underneath another layer
    Are you hiding underneath the skin?"

    "There's a heart as cold as ice, in a vault that's made of stone
    Over years the walls got higher, over years the walls have grown
    Is there anybody in there, in this self inflicted tomb?
    If you peel away the layers, is there someone in this room?"

    I always feel that this singer is speaking of himself in the third person. The "someone else" whose story it is, is the facade he presents to the outside world. He has been presenting this facade for so long, building up the walls to protect his heart, that he wonders if he can find himself again. I don't know that this is what he intended when he wrote it, but that is how it strikes me.

  2. What a beautiful way to honor your friend and your friendship! Oh - and this? "this is a friendship about details and being aware of God’s prompting to ask and check in." So thankful for those kinds of connections that run deep! Love you friend and I am so proud of you for how you are unfolding your desert story in these #31days!

  3. In my own desert one of my most treasured gifts is that of friendship. Thank you for sharing this.



Thank you for the kindess of your comment. I pray your patience with the word verification. I've had such troubles with spammers lately. Thank you for grace. I look forward to reading all the comments and responding. I appreciate you!