Sometimes mornings seem ordinary until they’re not. There was nothing different about the air, nothing special about the sky, but there was something subtly wrong with her smile.
I asked if she was ok. It’s what friends do when they sense there is more beneath the surface. It’s what they do when they care.
Her response desired to halt further probing, “I’ll cry if I talk about it.”
Unless you actually want to see your friend cry, you stop asking, for a little while anyway. And you wait for the right time or the right place for a heart to unburden itself. Our conversation quickly turned a corner to generic topics. It was an obvious and awkward shift, but obvious and awkward expressed concern and care today.
Before our visit ended, she shares her news. Disappointment, sadness, and even a bit of frustration peppers her story. I listen and search for words to comfort and soothe, to make the impact of her struggle less weighty. But cliché responses have no place in true friendship. Their arrival is an intrusion. My mouth remains closed and I continue to listen. Even when she stops speaking, I listen. Sometimes it’s just nice to be heard. Sometimes the talking is the comfort while the listening soothes.
She grapples with the possible reasons for this current life challenge. As her mind strains to understand, mine does too. In our talking, there is this knowing that we will not understand, not fully. And the best use of this struggle is allowing it to redirect us.
This redirection happens as she shares a verse that comes to mind.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge to him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5 - 6
Our straining to understand, our attempts to solve this unsolvable riddle, ends. Her circumstance doesn’t immediately change, her reality is still very real, but the surrendering of it comes as she decides to trust in the Lord, trust in the one who knows, trust in the one who makes paths straight. She smiles and I nod.
Listening was the remedy when my words failed. My listening created space that allowed her to listen to the one who had words full of comfort. I’m glad that cliché words didn’t fill a space that belonged to the life-giving Word.
And I think how beautifully the right words turn a soul, comfort a heart, and ease pain. And I marvel at how they come when we take the time to listen.