Friendship - reaching across tables - girlfriends calling long distances to cry with one another - pray over one another encouraging words - Friendship - heart-felt silence - compassion buying a plane ticket - hugging sagging shoulders - wet collars from shared tears - Friendship - bringing meals when there is illness - emptied pockets - emptied calendars - emptied agenda - Emptied tear ducts -
It all started when I was reading through the Bible and found myself in Job, thinking about friendship, asking myself if I am like Job's friends, with all my Religiosity and opinions about fault. And then McKinney... and now 88 more people of the cross... and I don't want to be a Christian talker anymore! My brand of Friendship is too small, too self-absorbed.
It's time for Global Friendship - where neighborhood boundary lines stretch wide and far into the Muslim world, and into Texas, because people are hurting, and "Why can't we all just get along?"
There I was, smack dab in the book of Job, with all the unmerited suffering and spiritual attacks. Friendship, in light of global gaping wounds. Friendship. The sort that holds a woman up under the enormity of life, raises her again from the sidewalk to her full stature, lifts her when she's been bent low for a month of sorrowful Sundays. I don't care who's at fault. We all need to lift one another up.
Friendship is a great big word, sort of like "Neighbors." Religious people always want that word defined. "Who exactly are my neighbors? Who are my friends? Who must I love as well as myself?" Of course, Jesus answers that question with a parable:
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
It was the religious people who passed by a beaten and bruised man. Today there are religious people saying it again, over this video, over this epidemic of race that divides: "But she's not our sister, not our daughter, not our color, not our race, not our responsibility. She was cussing, disrespectful, when she should have respected authority." And weather I agree or not is not the point. You see, I can't help but think of Job and the way his friends came and wept, sincerely, or so it seemed for three whole verses and seven long days. Weeping with their neighbor, commiserating with their friend, until all their opinions exploded like bombs on barren, wounded turf. They had all the answers... told Job how he was disrespecting God, how he was getting only half of what he deserved!"
"Are these people really my neighbors?" Yes, but more than neighbors, we must become friends. The term Global Friendship comes to mind in light of all the pain throughout the world today. How desperately we all need one another's helping hand to get up off the cracked sidewalk.
Nobody needs our interpretation of cause and effect, they simply need our bleeding hearts, our friendship, without one spiritual word,
sharing their grief and binding their wounds.
Red and yellow, black and white. And in so binding up their hurting places we just might have the healing we're desperate for too.
It's easy to say, "I would have picked that girl up and demanded the beating to stop. Or laid down next to her, on top of her and let my tears mingle with hers." But I wasn't there and who knows what sort of neighbor I would have been in the moment, there in my bathing suit, with a video recording and a policeman raging. And maybe the video doesn't show the whole story at all. No doubt. But I don't want to be like Job's friends, with all the wisdom and none of the love.
When I read these words by Eugene Peterson, in The Message's introduction of Job, I had to wonder how religious I am, and if my religiosity stops me from radical real-life love.
"There is more to the book of Job than Job. There are Job's friends. The moment we find ourselves in trouble of any kind - people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way road kills attract vultures...
The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God's presence in our suffering but is also our primary biblical protest against religion that has been reduced to explanations or 'answers.' Many of the answers that Job's so-called friends give him are technically true. But it is the 'technical' part that ruins them. They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job's ravaged life-like labels on a specimen bottle. Job rages against this secularized wisdom that has lost touch with the living realities of God."
"Sufferers attract fixers the way road kills attract vultures."
Those words caught my heart and rattled me something fierce, "Maybe you are like them... not such a good friend... not a real neighbor." That's what I heard. I heard it clear, maybe because I wasn't talking.
Friendship knows when to shut her mouth and simply love.
Oh, how do we go from sitting and crying in the dust, tearing our clothes and mourning for seven long days, then suddenly stand up and make a religious case out of who's at fault?
Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering. (Job 2:11-13, MSG)
Let's not get up too fast, Christians - let us not get up out of dusty grief so quickly that we go to fixing our neighbors with our Christian-ese. Instead, let us keep on crying longer, caring more about the hurt in their hearts than if it was justified or not.
Does our religiosity stop of us from love?
We desperately want an action plan, don't we? When it's time to rise from the ashes we want to love like a friend, like a neighbor - though our skin is different our hearts beat alike, bleed alike, need to heal alike.
Today my offering is small. A blog post. And the overly available smile to every person I meet who looks, acts, speaks differently than I do. If his head is shaved and tattooed, you can bet I'm smiling and holding the door open. If her lips are a sin-stained shade of red, I'm touching her shoulder and complimenting her purse. Though their skin is ten shades deeper and darker than my own, I am cooing at their baby in the check-out lane, asking for his name and finding joy in the expressiveness of his big brown eyes. How beautiful he is. I want them to know that this white woman, this friend, finds their boy beautiful, there in our neighborhood Target. And the man out in front, with a woman fully wrapped, eyes averted, standing in his shadow, I try to reach out to her as well.
I try. Try to love more than have opinions. Friendship.
Is it enough? For me, today, it is all I have to give to bind up the wounds of my African-American Sisters, my displaced sisters on the other side of the globe, the white women around me who are not necessarily part of the problem but neither do they know how to be part of the solution either.
And then there are those 88 more people of the cross are taken by ISIS, and again the question begs, "How can I be their neighbor? Lift them up? Bind them up? Do more than talk? More than cry one moment and expound religious ideals the next. How can I love the afflicted today, as the Samaritan would love? As God would have me love? Pouring out and falling down, crying out, and giving to causes and being the ministering hands and feet beneath ruble in Nepal and on American streets, and in the face of terror and those terrorized.
Global Friendship requires more than Religious Speak of me today. I've spoken enough.