I’m excited to share this guest post today by Cindy Brandt. She’s one of my new online pals whose writing leaves me refreshed. She’s gentle, sensible, and bold – an inspiring combination! She’s also authored the book, “Outside In: Ten Christian Voices We Can’t Ignore.” It’s a book that challenges the Church to intentionally listen to “stories from the edge” and offers practical tips to create richer community. Enjoy this sample of her writing!
I am a city girl. Born and raised in big, bustling city life of Asia. I walked on busy streets, narrowly missing reckless cab drivers, ate noodles with friends in alleyway hole-in-the-walls, and watched the sun rise each morning over thick smog tinged with the pollution of city activity.
Then one day, I found myself in midwestern United States, an upper-middle class suburb of Chicago, home to the alma mater of an evangelical hero: Billy Graham. I pursued this academic institution because I was told it was where I could learn how to learn as a Christian. I shared common faith with this community, but my faith was just about the only thing we shared. I looked different, ate different foods, spoke a different language, valued different things, everything about me was different, different, different. It was, and remains, one of the most lonely and isolating times of my life.
I strove to make connections, desperately needing a balm to soothe my aching homesickness. But as a small minority, it was a struggle for me to find much common ground without losing my distinct cultural identity.
But as we know, difficult times can teach us valuable lessons. And I emerged from that experience with a clear realization about some fundamental needs we have as relational human beings. That we have within us a deep desire to connect with others while maintaining our unique individuality.
I think this need is particularly pronounced in times of profound loss and grief. My friend Iris, who lost her two month old baby boy, said it bothered her when people tried to comfort them using unhelpful cliches. But when people stayed silent it felt like a slap in the face. She says,
“Grieving people are hard to please. We desperately needed consolation, but we needed it in a way that would bring healing instead of harm.”
Sudden loss or prolonged suffering sends us floundering, desperate to be tethered and held by community. But the community has to hold a space that allows for the diversity of individual grief.
When we offer connection that requires the hurting party to act in a prescribed way, we are further victimizing them by robbing them of their unique expression of their grief.
In this helpful article by Heather Plett, she gives us eight tips on holding space for others. The one piece of advice that jumped out at me was this:
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