Summer’s high-pitched crying stole my ability to think. I grabbed my stress ball, plunked down in the rocking chair, and continued to rock my inconsolable baby while allowing every ounce of frustrated energy to pour through my hand and onto that stress ball.
I was beyond depressed. I was angry with the Lord. I felt like He had dealt me the worst hand. No matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work to calm my baby.
Of all the 1,982 recommendations that flooded through Facebook, text messages, room #13 of our Pediatric clinic, and the empty, tired spaces of my mind, nothing seemed to work. I had postpartum depression, insurmountable sleep deprivation, and an inconsolable baby. My relationships and my marriage were beginning to show the bumps and bruises procured from this trying season.
Laying her down in the crib, I walked downstairs for some much needed quiet. Upon getting to the top of the staircase, I peered down to see an oddly placed rock with the word “persevere” written on it. The stone had been left on a shelf-like ledge near my staircase. At first I stared at it, wondering where it came from. But in my fatigued, fragile state – I just drank in the words with my eyes and began to weep.
It was not until one year later that I found the energy to solve this stone mystery. Who left this rock that remains on the ledge of my staircase today? A stone that presented a subtle and powerful reminder to me every day I descended my staircase for one year. A stone through which God had spoken quietly and mightily to my heart every single day for 365 days.
I walked downstairs to find my friend, Nay, sitting on my couch. I asked him about this rock and its mysterious origin. He confessed to leaving the stone on my ledge. He left it in the midst of a season during which presence, affirmation and love were what my soul needed most. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I needed the presence of a faithful friend and affirmation of my hardships in order to allow God’s Truth to infiltrate my heart.
In the trenches of early mamahood, as I battled postpartum depression and all of the challenges our story included, I would not have responded well to a friend who threw Scripture, sermons, suggestions and books at me in reaction to my depression and hardship. In fact, I would have grown cold and quiet. I would have felt ashamed, unloved, unknown, and misunderstood. I needed a friend who would sit with me in the trenches and say, “Yes, this is abnormally difficult and unfair. I hate that you have to go through this. I cannot imagine what this feels like every day.”
I have been blessed in this season with a community of close friends who have not thrown rocks. They have set with me in the trenches of hard. They have listened and bypassed their “answers” and “suggestions,” choosing, instead, to emotionally and empathetically connect.
They have not preached at me, though some of these friends are pastors. They have not counseled me, though some of these friends are counselors. And they have not coached me, though some of these friends are coaches. They have simply come alongside me in my story and affirmed the hard places, and they have left rocks with subtle, powerful words of Truth on them all along the way.
As I come out of this season, I’m realizing that perhaps one of the most impactful lessons I learned was one in friendship. Nay, among others, have reminded me of the importance of allowing our friends to experience the hard in life without trying to convince them that hard isn’t happening.
Perhaps, instead of impulsively responding to a friend’s hardship with a challenging message or Scripture, God is calling us to sit with them for a while. To listen and empathize. Perhaps He is asking us to do their dishes, watch their baby, mow their lawn, take out their trash, or bring them some wine and chocolate rather than text them a verse in the midst of their battle.
I’m reminded of a moment during my labor with Summer. It had been 8 hours since I had eaten and the midwife insisted I was showing signs of low blood sugar. She and Ryan begged me to eat peanut butter, toast, anything! Even bringing such foods to the side of the jacuzzi tub. But, I was in the zone. Focusing on one contraction at a time. I did not have space or the appetite for food. Four hours later, they all but forced a Popsicle into me. And 2 minutes after that, the Popsicle was regurgitated. After changing positions and walking the halls, 4 hours later, I was able to stomach some honey. But I initiated this snack and I controlled the amount and the pace with which I consumed it. I knew I needed a nutritional boost all along, but my body was not ready to absorb it at certain points in labor.
Sometimes life’s hard is simply too loud and unbearable to digest a verse in the midst of labor. Sometimes we need to squeeze someone’s hand and just breathe with them.
Of course, there are moments God opens the door for us to speak into our friends lives with words of correction or edification. Scripture is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). It is always relevant (Isaiah 40:8). It is our Spiritual weapon (Ephesians 6). We are supposed to share these words with one another over and over again (Ephesians 5) as it God’s powerful gift to us.
Tragically, though, It seems that often we can be quick to quote a verse, and slow to do what it says (James 1:22). It seems we forget that the Kingdom of God is not found in wise and eloquent words, but in His Power (1 Corinthians 2:4, 4:20).
The pressure to say the right thing is off. The pressure to share the right verse is off. We need simply to be powerfully present.
In regards to sitting in the hard and remaining empathetically silent, I am specifically referring to friends who are dealing with a challenging season such as depression, anxiety, death of a loved one, miscarriage, job loss, divorce, etc. Remembering that sometimes the greatest gift we can extend is not our answers or eloquent words, but our presence. And God’s presence in us.
So, I pray in my coming days, that I will be a friend who leaves rocks rather than throws them. I pray I will have wisdom to understand what my friends need. I pray I will tend to other people’s wounds with kindness, sensitivity and humility. I pray for grace to love sacrificially the way my friends have loved me this year.
I needed to add to this story for the sake of being transparent, and showing the power of leaving such stones. There were days when this rock, quite literally, saved my life. I’m devastated to admit that in the darkest and more trying days of PPD, I considered taking my own life. When I walked past this stone, I was brought to my knees. In my drowsy and tearful state, I flipped to my concordance (the section at the back of the Bible that guides you to specific words used in Scripture) to find the areas “perseverance” was mentioned in Scripture. I had the most intimate, heart wrenching, and life saving conversations with God. So, as I celebrate the friend who left this rock (Happy Birthday week Nay!)…and the life I get to live today, I’d like to reflect on the verses the stone carried me to…
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” – James 1:12
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all of the saints…” Ephesians 6:17-18
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:25