When I was growing up, Mom and Dad were always trying to teach me how to share. I shared a lot with my little sister: a bedroom, a bathroom, the back seat of the car, the chores around the house, the chickens, and ducks, and the dogs we raised. We shared friends and activities. (After all she was only 3 years younger than me and she had to play with someone!)
Years later, we still share. But it is not stuff—the things—that we share as much any more….it is life itself. We share the ups and the downs, the burdens and the joys. I’m blessed because I not only have my sister to share life with, but dear friends—friends that know the best and the worst about me—and yet they still love me.
I think that makes life rich. It is not the stuff we own that we share—it is the burdens and the joys that we share.
When you have lived as long as my friends and I have lived, you get the chance to experience the best—and the worst—of life together. You witness the births of children, their growth, their graduations, their weddings. Jobs and career changes that bring great opportunities. Building and buying houses. Days and weeks and months and years of joy.
And along the way, we have experienced tragedies: serious illnesses, deaths, kids that go haywire and hurt themselves—some even hating themselves; rough patches in marriages, marriages that don’t survive the rough patches and crash on the rocks of unfaithfulness and deception, businesses that started so positively and then are destroyed by cruels twist of fate.
Life has a way of mixing it up. It is never ALWAYS easy or ALWAYS hard. Seasons come and go. Circumstances change. Life happens to all of us…if we live long enough.
I have learned that moments—whether good or bad—are always better when I share them with others. Romans 12:15 in the Message Bible says it best: “Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down.” Sharing life with friends—both when it is happy and when it hurts—makes us all richer. We realize we are not alone; that none of us are perfect; That each of us are human—and that means we struggle. Each of us have joyful moments—and painful moments. Real life always has both. And that company on the journey always makes the journey more fun.
So how do we share life with one another? How do we learn to risk sharing? How can I be a safe person with whom a friend can share? While it is risky, it is really not hard. It is something we can all get better at.
- Make time for one another—Relationships matter. We are wired for relationship. It is in relationship that we experience love—the love of God that values one another, right where we are. Making time for one another means we say no to some things we think we have to DO in order to BE a friend and to deepen those relationships. Seasons come and go, but some relationships last for decades—only if we make time for them.
- Be present--I think the biggest battle we face today is exchanging screen time for face time (and I don’t mean Apple’s app!). I call it being PRESENT---not just physically, but emotionally. Engaged. Connected. A mind cleared, technology set aside, and a spirit that is open to meet our friends right where they are. I think we mistake the idea that this has to be a loooooonnnnngggg time. It is amazing what can happen in just a few moments, if we truly stop and engage with someone—in joy or sorrow. It is those few moments that we give another person, where they become the center of out attention, that can make a difference for a lifetime. Their words, their emotions, their situation—we enter and experience it from their angle. It doesn’t take a lot of time—but it requires that we stop everything else and are present with them.
- Listen—One word that makes so much difference in our friendships. Do we listen? More importantly, do we listen to understand…or do we listen to respond? You and I can both tell the difference when we are with someone who listens to understand. They aren’t evaluating our words or preparing a recommendation on how to do life differently. They are there to understand…to hear our hearts. To see life from your angle. Only when we listen to understand are we prepared to share someone else’s joy or sorrow.
- Express empathy—This is the moment we get to be with our friends in their moments. We need to laugh with them…laugh until we are crying when they are sharing a joyful moment. Smile big—until your cheeks hurt. Jump up and down, run around in circles, and shout for joy. Do whatever is appropriate for the moment and the circumstance. But If they are sharing a burden, let your face show your concern. Lean into their story. Be with them in the moment. We don’t have to solve it or fix it….unless they ask us to. But in most cases, they are not asking us to fix it. They just want to be heard and understood. It is amazing what touch can do when a friend is sharing a burden. A touch on the hand or the forearm or the shoulder, or a hug, or standing by their side. Words say little in difficult moments; physical presence matters more.
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
(Galatians 6:2-3 NLTse)