Today, my mentor/dear friend/sister is leaving to go overseas for a couple of years. I am totally, totally excited for her…..and absolutely devastated at the same time. Last night, the following interaction occurred between me and Chelsea over text about this situation:
Me: ='( ………..I’m sorry I’m such a mess over this.
Chelsea: You mean, it is painful to love someone so much?
Me: =( Yes.
Chelsea: How about not apologizing for loving someone with your whole heart, so much so that a change like this is really hard? That’s human, sister.
I couldn’t help but laugh in the midst of my tears. One of the scariest marks of my friendship with Chelsea (and, to be honest, one of the best) is our willingness to confront our inner narratives with each other—in other words, having real conversations about what’s going on for both of us.
It’s funny how quickly I start to become ashamed, especially when it comes to “getting emotional.” My own life experiences, particularly with my parents, taught me that it wasn’t ok to cry. Crying was a weakness, a sign of being immature, of not being strong, even of being “bad.” And it didn’t matter how serious the reason was…….whether it was crying because I lost my favorite sweater, or because of my abuse, crying was indicative of something being wrong with my heart.
It’s been a slow, painful journey of unlearning that inner narrative. My mentor is one of the key people who has been with me in that process. She has sat with me when it’s taken me literally an hour to tell her what’s wrong because I kept having to filter and re-filter my emotions so I wouldn’t break down. It takes tremendous patience to sit in front of an ice block and watch it melt.
Her loyalty and faithfulness to love me, even as I sat frozen in my shame, has truly been a profound force of healing in my life. And now, she is leaving. She’s not really leaving me—we’ve had numerous conversations about how we’re going to stay in touch, and how we both very much want and are committing to continue to be in each other’s lives. But the reality is that we won’t get to spend time together the same way…..and she won’t be just a few minutes’ drive away anymore. To say that makes me sad is a profound understatement—-it’s a sadness for which I can’t find words.
So I cry instead. And I cry (or at least I try to cry) without apology—and in doing that, I acknowledge the depth of love I have for my mentor, instead of keeping it under wraps. And that act of crying becomes a invitation for others, not only to enter into my pain, but to enter into their own. It’s interesting to me that the shortest verse in the Bible says “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). For some moments, that’s all that needs to be done–in fact, that’s all that can be done—sometimes crying is the only good and decent thing to do. I think that it actually honored Lazarus to acknowledge that even God Incarnate wept in the face of his passing—before any other words, before a dead man was raised from the grave, the first offering Jesus made in response to the death of his friend was tears.
For those of you ashamed to own your humanity, own the image of God in you, and own the depths of how much pain or sadness or despair you may be in: stop apologizing. Just cry. You are much closer to being like Christ in those moments of unabashed grief than in moments of trying to minimize or ignore it.
Go on. I dare you. Share your good, tear-softened heart with a safe person in your world. And watch the ice melt together.