Sometimes you have to stop reading and writing and posting about community and get down in the middle of it. Sometimes it’s girls’ weekends and drinks by the pool but sometimes it is something very, very different. Sometimes “loving your tribe hard” can break your heart. Sometimes living Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” minors on the rejoicing and majors on the mourning. Sometimes it’s not so cute, and fun, and awesome.
I have been on the fringe of tragedy a little too often lately. Like, family-shattering, life changing, devastating tragedy…. Like the kind of tragedy that, even though it is not your own, keeps you up at night with the thought of “what if it were me?” Like the kind of tragedy that punches you in the gut and takes the wind out of you for a long time. Like the kind of tragedy that makes you want to grab the remote of life and rewind, for goodness sake, or just turn the whole horrible thing off. Like the kind of tragedy that pushes all of your worst fears to the very forefront of every unanswered phone call… and you can’t tell me not to worry about it because I just watched it all happen. It did happen. What do we do with it? How do we walk out the hardest of hards with one another?
When we look to the culture of women celebrated or at least made famous today we see shows like, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” or “The Real Housewives of ______.” Although I may have paused on one of these for a few too many painful moments, I cannot say that I have watched either much. But I can see, from headlines and social media, what they are all about. You know too. Women who are all about themselves. Women who will get what they want no matter what. Women who will put you down to lift themselves up. Frenemies…. What the heck is a frenemy? Who are these women? Why do we want to watch as they back stab each other in their fancy clothes and huge hair? Why can we not look away as their lives, relationships, and Botox unravels? What does this say about us as women?
Do you have Bible crushes? I know I’m a total nerd but I so do. As far as the men go, it’s Joshua all the way for me! Give me some Jericho marching, “as for me and my house-ing”, “be strong and courageous-ness” all day long. But my girl-crush is precious Ruth. Now, you want to talk about a lady that knew how to walk along someone in the midst of tragedy? Our girl Ruth. When her mother-in-law Naomi lost her husband and both her sons (Ruth’s husband included) in a foreign land, Ruth declared that she would travel back to Bethlehem with her. When the women arrived back “home” to the whispers and gossip of The Real Housewives of Bethlehem, Ruth immediately did whatever she needed to make sure her mother in law was provided for. She gleaned the fields behind the workers, even thought she was shunned and an outcast. Her hard work and loyalty caught the eye of a rich land owner named Boaz and eventually he did whatever he had to do to gain Ruth as his wife. Listen, this woman is in the genealogy of David, therefore Jesus. Why? She did not do drama, she did not quit, she did not shy away from grief, and she literally worked her fingers to the bone when the time of tragedy was upon her. The blessing was in the work. The work brought the blessing.
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14)
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13)
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10)
“Christ has not body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” (Teresa of Avila)
Work. There are times of prayer and notes and lovely thoughts. And then there are just straight up times of work. What do Real Housewives of the Church of Jesus do when tragedy strikes their tribe, their community, their Spiritual family? They do the work. Here is the deal, a family mourning needs to eat real meals. A house full of devastated family members from out-of-town needs a real vacuum run. A lawn left un-mowed by tragedy needs a real lawn mower. Crying eyes need real water-proof mascara bought for the day you never wanted to live through. It’s not always warm and snuggly and Facebook worthy, but this is real.
Last week, in the midst of this tragedy, I sent a simple text to a tribe member several steps closer to the heartache than me. “Hey, I’m at the store. Do you need anything?” Yes, she did. How thankful I was to be able to meet a real need in that moment. So, I got the requested items and some flowers and a bottle of wine because flowers and wine makes everything a little better. I met another dear friend over there and we unloaded the car and headed in. In the midst of her serving and meeting needs on the front line, her own home had been a bit neglected. While she was on the phone working to make important arrangements, my friend and I rolled up our sleeves and started washing countertops and sink-fulls of dishes. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know where they all went or which soap she liked to use on what… There was a real need and we met it. Then, we prayed together. She needed prayer. We needed to pray. The physical need was met so we sought to meet the spiritual one. As we prayed together, we heard the click, click, click of a camera going off. Her 4-year-old was taking pictures of us in this act (73 to be exact). Later she sent us a few of these snapshots from her phone and we made the comment “Real Housewives of Midland, Tx.”
This is how you walk the hardest of the hard with each other, in living rooms surrounded by full laundry baskets and tissue boxes. You roll up your sleeves and sacrifice your day and wash the dishes of a friend who cannot. You make a bed and make a grocery run. You bring a meal and some company. You pray and cry and do the work of what this kind of grief requires. I am the least of these. I am humbled and learning from those that are so much better at this work than me. I think we all serve in the ways we would want to be served if it were us and we probably fail there. I have. But you come back and do the work.
Why would we waste one more moment watching women tear each other apart, use each other, hurt each other? There is so much real work to be done, both in the rejoicing and in the mourning. There is work to be done in birth and death, in raising kids and sticking marriages out, in enduring in-laws and caring for aging parents. After seeing the rather unflattering pictures of us on that living room floor on that rainy, sad, Tuesday morning my immediate text back was “DELETE THESE!” But, do you know what? I’m glad we have them. I’m glad to share them. (I’m glad my friends let me). Here is a tiny slice of the least of these desperately wanting to do the good work. Can we make this what “Real Housewives of _____” are all about? Women for women? Women willing to wade through the hardest of hards together? Women who are willing to stop reading, writing, posting, wishing for real community and brave enough to do the work to get there? Let’s celebrate that, Girls. In the midst of our tears or joy, let’s be a generation of Ruths willing to work hard for the good of each other.