It’s another Friday night. The lights are dim in the room, and yet it feels like all the lights are on her. She’s left feeling exposed. She’s curled up in a ball, holding her knees to her chest with her heart racing as if she was white-knuckling down the highway. Her eyes swollen with tears of shame, hair sticking to her face, lips quivering. In between teardrops, her gaze shifts around the room in a panic as she hears the faithful footsteps of her parents coming up the stairs. She tries to hide the tissues, stuffing them underneath her comforter or throwing them across the room in the trash can. Beginning to wipe her eyes ferociously, she tousles her hair out of her face, rushes to the locked door to greet her parents with a shaky smile. She unlocks the door to see her parents crying. They look at her confusion and, with tears running down their cheeks, extend their arms for an embrace. The young woman holds back at first, unwilling to move forward and release the stiffened arms at her sides. But the parents pursue her with their comforting presence. And as they hold her, her body relaxes. As time goes on, the line between where her parents’ tears end and hers begin becomes blurry. As she rests her head on their chests, she looks up at them, and they to her. “We are here with you,” her parents say.
This is a fictional story, with themes that can resonate with us throughout time. Even though you might not be a woman, or have cried on a Friday night, or have had parents like these, we can all relate to this story in some capacity. At some point in our lives, we have felt the weight of the world on our shoulders, leaving us heavy and distraught, or isolated and lonely amidst the pain of the world. Perhaps you have felt the need to appear “ok,” quickly wiping away the tears—even around those who know you best. Maybe you connected with the part of the story where the parents embraced their daughter. Or maybe you were the one being held. We might not be in this story, but we know this story.
This is like the psalm that we read for today. We aren’t Joseph, living in Egypt or Israel. But we are a people who know what it’s like to feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, to be in pain. No matter what denomination, religious background, gender, race, sexuality, economic status, or ability, we are a people who know suffering. So it comes to us as a surprise, when we hear those “gentle whispers” from God saying, “I got you out of a bad place.” In other words, “I saw you, I heard your cries, I am here for you, and I love you. So much so, that I will hold you as I rescue you.”
In this passage, God isn’t some far-off distant being orchestrating all of creation from afar. No; God is right there with us, suffering with us, holding us as we loosen our grip of “appearing ok,” and crying with us. This is compassion. God suffering with us. So that, as God suffers with and for us, we might experience an even closer glimpse of communion. In God’s compassion, there is communion and connection. Like the faithful parents and the child crying together in unison, so much so that their tears are blurred together, so is God’s suffering with us. When we open ourselves up, and let ourselves experience our suffering with the deep trust that God is with us, we are invited to a deeper union with our Triune God.
In what ways are you suffering? What does it look like for you to see God as one who is suffering with you? How does that change your view of God? Or how does that change your view of yourself?