Needed: Soft Place to Land
September 10, 2014
By Laura DiFatta
When I was nine-years-old, my parents decided it was high time our family got in shape. Together. So my parents made a plan—an ambitious one if you ask me—that we would do some sort of work-out (together) early every morning before work and school. Did I mention that was ambitious? Well, the first day of the work-out plan came and we four—my parents, my younger sister and me—set out on our bikes to ride for a while. Just down our street was a subdivision consisting of one street that ended in a cul-de-sac. We would focus this first early-morning effort there. About 15 minutes into our ill-fated journey, I was cruising down a hill, wind blowing through my hair, when a pair of vicious dogs came out of a yard at full speed like torpedoes right at my leg or tires…whatever they were aiming for, they meant business. Well, terrified, I lost control of my bike and without slowing at all, I crashed sliding forward and sideways on the asphalt. It was ugly. And there ended the Great Morning Family Workout Plan. I had open cuts and scrapes for weeks. And I still have a scar on the inside of my right arm near my elbow to remind me of the nasty business.
Fast forward to this past April. Ken and I rarely go out of town alone. Rarely. But one weekend things worked out for us to get away and most importantly, both grandmothers could come here and keep the boys. Well, my middle boy got a spend the night invitation from a friend, so we said he could go. Early the next morning, we got a voicemail from my mom: “Nothing’s wrong, but call me when you get a chance.” I knew from “nothing’s wrong” that something was wrong. Turns out, while at the friend’s house, my son and his friend had gone long-boarding—a long board is a longer version of a skate board. Feeling the need for speed, my so—who does not own a skate board of any kind rode down an impressive hill on the long-board, wind whipping through his hair, when suddenly, he lost control and crashed, sliding forward on the asphalt. It was de’ja vu! The long-distance report from the grandmothers: it was ugly. He was scraped up pretty badly in multiple places. His shirt was torn, his head was bruised in spite of his helmet (the helmet that he had chosen to wear in spite of his friend assuring him he wouldn’t need it. Thank God!!) One of the worst, deep scrapes was on the inside of his right arm near his elbow. We now have matching scars.
This is a simple illustration of a time I was able to identify with my son over something we had both experienced. As I dressed and redressed his wounds over the next couple of weeks, he was comforted to know that I really understood it hurt. I was able to show him empathy—an understanding based on shared, similar experiences. Somehow, that knowledge helped him trust me as I bandaged him up.
Just yesterday, I had lunch with a friend. I poured my heart out over some challenges that I’ve experienced over the past few weeks that have left me feeling scraped up on the inside. Life can be that way can’t it? Since 2010, when I’m feeling rough, I say to myself, “well it’s not heart failure hard,” in order to gain perspective. But, goodness, life can feel really hard even when it’s not a crisis situation, right? Especially when the issues are layered: transitions, sickness, fatigue, very busy schedules, altered expectations, disappointments, etc.
My friend was a soft place to land. Because I know she loves me and most of all she loves the Lord passionately, I trust her heart and her motives when I share with her. She is the kind of friend I can trust to tell me not necessarily what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. And she always points me to go deeper with God. Always.
Another reason that I feel comfortable sharing is that she is willing to share the gift of empathy with me. That really requires humility and vulnerability. Although we don’t have mirror image families and challenges, we can still share the gift of empathy with each other over our struggles and challenges that are a part of life on earth, while encouraging each other to have a Christ-focused perspective.
I cannot say enough about the gift of empathy. It is a hard-earned gift. And it is one that I appreciate deeply from others and also one that I am grateful to be able to share. I believe it is another way that God shows Romans 8:28 to be true, (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose,”) because everything difficult that each of us goes through as believers in Christ increases the empathy we can give others in their need. Using the gift of empathy, we are able to be more useful in God’s hands in encouraging and comforting others as God gives us opportunity to and as we are willing.
The apostle Paul talks about the gift of this comfort–which I think can be described as a form of empathy—in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Do you see the description of God there? Our holy, powerful, Creator God is described as the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. And Jesus—the perfect representation of God—is described in Hebrews 2:14-18 as sharing in and suffering in our humanity so that he became a merciful high priest in service to God, conquering the power of death and the enemy of our souls and setting free those who were slaves to their fear of death! He understands our struggles! He is an empathetic Savior! And His empathy is powerful and freeing!
We have a role: to remember—and to remind others of—our identity as members of Christ’s family and to live out that identity and to remember every single day that we have a Savior! He saves and gives new life in the common, nitty-gritty as well as for eternity. That is one of many reasons I read the Bible every day—to remember! And we are to also daily bear witness—through our seasons of struggles and our seasons of pain as well as our seasons of joy—to God’s character and His promises to us, His children.
Yesterday, my friend reminded me of Psalm 63. I read it this morning. It is a beloved passage. By reading it, I was reminded of the kind of heart passion I want for God. I was also reminded of His great love; a love so great it is described as “better than life.” Will you go there soon and let your soul soak this Truth in? You just might be the next one to share it.