Living Tender in a Sandpaper World

A picture of my friend’s blue-eyed baby girl hung on the wall as we sat at her kitchen table and caught up on life since I’d last hugged her neck four years ago. Last time, I met her for a hurried lunch as I passed through Nashville. This time my sister was with me as my relief driver on a quick up-and-back work trip, and my friend opened her home to us for the night. My sister sat there asking gentle questions about the little beauty on the wall, and the ache in my chest was no less than it was the first time I heard the story.

A sudden seizure. Scans and tests and answers they didn’t want. Last memories, a fast decline, and a tiny grave just days before Christmas.

My friend talked softly about the community that had come around them as they grieved. One young woman in particular, their daughter’s favorite preschool teacher, became a fixture in their family as they picked up the pieces and tried to move forward.

And now there’s a cross beside I-40 on the way out of town where a car wreck last September ended her life, too.

Her gravestone sits just feet away from her little friend’s.

That night as we got ready for bed, my sister shook her head and whispered, “Too much.”

Too much.

How can one family endure so much loss and keep moving, keep stepping up the stairs their baby had just learned to climb, keep driving past that flower-draped cross by the highway?

Some days the amount of suffering I see leaves me feeling scraped and exposed. Our tender souls weren’t made for this sandpaper world. We weren’t meant for burying family, or battling illness of the body and mind, or watching people we love be wrecked by sin, or losing dreams like ash in the wind.

There are times that I’ve wanted to go into emotional hibernation, just fold into myself and let the days drift by without feeling reality. But I can’t. I won’t.

Because if I close my heart off to the ache, I won’t feel the beauty either.

My friend wakes up every morning and walks past her baby’s picture. Her son thunders wild and happy down the stairs where his sister toddled, and there’s cereal and laughter and plans for the day laid out like stepping stones of hope. And she keeps showing up whole-hearted in the only way she knows how.

Anchored in the knowledge that she is held here by the same Jesus who holds her people in Heaven.

She and you and I can afford to live tender because we’re loved by a God who gets it. Jesus has laughed loud, wept hard, and ached deep over the broken pieces of this place He created. All the things that scrape us raw pierced Him through, and His scarred hands are big enough to gently hold every bit of our joy and pain.

And we can rest there, knowing that there’s a day just over the horizon when loss will lose its grip on love and fall away forever.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)

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