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May 2023

Bearing Witness

During last month’s spiritual direction session, my Spiritual Director gave me an incredible gift – the gift of being witnessed. She heard what I had to say. She received it as if I were giving her the most precious gift imaginable. She held space for my story. She sat with me in the suffering. She didn’t try to make the suffering go away. She didn’t try to make it better. She didn’t tell me to just pray about it. She cried with me. She acknowledged the great accomplishment it was that my body had been able to hold such suffering for so long. She bore witness to what I, myself, could not bear to look at alone. In the scriptures, we learn of many moments when God is with those who are suffering and facing challenges of many kinds. When Joseph, son of Jacob, is unjustly imprisoned, the Lord is with him; he is not left alone. When Elijah is depressed to the point of wanting to end it all, God sends an angel to meet his basic needs of food and water. I have to believe that as young Mary and Joseph fled the “massacre of innocents,” hoping to save infant Jesus, they clung to the memory of God’s previous faithfulness to them. The gift I received from my Spiritual Director also reminds me of Jesus’ tears. Remember when Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, dies? Jesus goes to his friend’s home and finds extended family and friends there, grieving together. Jesus, too, is moved to tears as he witnesses the great loss. He shares in the anguish of those he loves. Not that I was looking to be, but I feel less held down by the weight of what I shared with my Spiritual Director last month, simply because she witnessed and received it with honest compassion.

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