I’ve felt the build-up of weight, the turning cogs, when someone shares bad news. I’ve got a healthy dislike from clichés, so they and I have kept our distance, but I have pounded on pressure about having the right response. I’ve wanted to know what to say to ease the pain. To make things better. To encourage or validate.
But God? He told me this as I was contemplating what He wanted me to share with a particular patient, and it has changed everything…
You don’t need to know the right thing to say as much as you need to know how to love.
Yeah, no situation is too scary when all you need to do when someone is sharing their inner shards is pause and remind yourself to focus on loving them, listening to them, understanding them, not responding to them. I don’t need to worry about if what I’ll say will be the one thing that changes the life of that patient struggling with addiction. I let God’s love be the one thing that changes the life of the woman struggling with addiction. I don’t worry about some sterile words as much as tangible, palpable love.
It turns out that you can sit without fear with the woman whose bone scan lit up like a Christmas tree of relapse and just love before working on toileting transfers. It turns out that you can love your way through settling a dispute. You can sit and ask questions while you hold the hand of someone handing you their breaking heart. Authentic love heals in a deeper way than empty words ever can, than acting every can, than well-intentioned divided attention to response ever can.
I thumbed through the little book years ago, underlining and writing in the margins. Why did it take me so long to really know? To really get?
What we see, and like to see, is cure and change. But what we do not see and do not want to see is care: the participation in the pain, the solidarity in suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness. And still, cure without care is as dehumanizing as a gift given with a cold heart.
I would like to reflect on care as the basis and precondition for all cure.
-Out of Solitude by Henri Nouwen.
I don’t want to forget this. It’s the primary reason why we’re put on this planet. To know and love God, and to share His love.