It must have been about the 38th hour of that 24 hour day, and by that time, just about everything seemed ridiculously hard. I don’t even know how long I had been standing there, trying to get the plastic lid to fit down over my soft drink. The young woman moved up next to me and said, “Having trouble?” I suddenly realized that there were indeed other people on the planet with me, and two of them were waiting patiently at the soda fountain for me to finish so they could fill their cups and move on.
“Oh, I’m sorry “, I said, “Can’t seem to…”
She moved a step closer. “You need some help. Your hands are shaking.” She reached over and snapped the lid on my drink. Easily, like it was nothing rather than the rocket science it clearly was.
“Thanks. One of those days. Have a good -“
“Are you okay?” She looked me straight in the eye. She actually wanted to know; invited an answer.
“No, you’re not.”
“Actually, no, I’m not. I buried my partner of 20 years today.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. You need a hug.” She pulled me into one before I could respond. Strong, genuine.
Suddenly she pulled back and looked me in the face.
“I’ve seen you. I know you. Don’t I know you?”
She nodded, sure now. “Yes. I do know you. I’ve seen you at MCC.”
“Ah, church. Of course. I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you. I’m Lisa.”
“I’m Jamye. Where are you headed now?”
“Some friends are waiting for me.”
“Good. You shouldn’t be alone right now. And you should probably eat something.”
“Yes. I will. Thanks for helping me.”
“It will get better, Lisa. You’ll be okay. And we’re here for you.”
“Thank you. See you Sunday?”
“We’ll be there. I’ll pray for you.”
And just like that, I was part of the world again. Not fully participating, but a part. For days, I had been cocooned in the embrace of friends and family – insulated, safe, but apart. My broken heart cradled tenderly in the suspension of earthly time that happens when we get very close to the veil that separates this world from heaven and we have one foot in each place. That place where you realize that nothing really ends, but that life as you know it is gone; nothing will ever be the same again. Where nothing feels familiar because this world is not our home. Now, suddenly, I was back. Like the man whose friends carried him on a mat onto the roof of someone’s house and broke through that roof to lower him to Jesus for healing. Carried and supported when I could not get there on my own, by three words from a near stranger – “I know you”. And she did. Not “me”, per se, not that my favorite color is blue or that I like my grits with ketchup and Chalula sauce, but the more real part of the “real me”. God within me. I am certain that Jamye had no idea what he words meant to me. How healing it was in that moment, just to be known, and loved- exactly as I was- weak kneed with my cheese about to slide off my bread.
My friend, Yvonne Barth says it this way, “In Jesus, as it is in heaven; in me, as it is in Jesus.” Heaven – that fully Divine part that I cannot even fathom in its fullness and glory, distilled, compacted, de-brillianced so that I can bear to look up on it and live – that is Heaven/God in Jesus. And that is the part that Jayme saw, the part that she “knew” in me. In Jamye, as it is in Jesus, in me, as it is in Jesus.
Because the Jesus in Jamye knew the Jesus in me, the words I needed like daily bread in that moment could be said with the true authenticity: “It will get better. You will be okay. And we are here for you.”
We know you. We know your shaking hands and your feet that ache from dress shoes worn all day, and your puffy, tear reddened eyes… we know you. And we are here with you – for you. This, my friends in Christ, is Jesus with skin on. This is what it means to “share Christ” with others. It is not about “you must be” or “you must go” or “you must do”. It is about “We are here”, “I am here”. And because He has known me first, “I know you”.
(It was Jamye who inspired the “Be the Stranger!” post. She certainly is a great stranger to many people and by now a dear friend.)