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Jan Meyers Proett

Mining Stories, Crafting Words, Loving Living Things

Jan's Blog

Blog

Suffer the Lack

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 4:50 PM
A friend of mine died a while back.  She took her life. 
 
It’s impossible to capture her wild, flamboyant, exuberant, troubled, thoughtful, generous life.  But all of us who gathered for her memorial service tried.  We brought bits and pieces, shadows and rumors, of her.  We heard her laugh.  We recalled her kindness. And we lamented the insidious, heavy visitor that tracked her, catching her, pulling her under.  Depression is so cruel.
 
The service gave me a gift, one I didn’t know I needed.  It was the gift of  honoring seasons of friendship, and honoring limitations.  It was a breeze that slowly unfurled the subtle shame I had been carrying, even as I drove to the funeral.  I knew the shame was there, but couldn’t articulate it clearly.  During recent years as I stepped into a new era - new marriage, learning and loving my step-daughters, new town, maintaining my calling - I have felt self-focused, unable to keep up with the needs of those with whom I have history, those I genuinely care about.  I felt ashamed of my silence, my absence.  I suppose this is where shame is exposed as predominantly self-focused or prideful (how could anyone think they could love all people, perfectly?), but when it is born of the conflict with genuine love, it is a bit of a mess. 
 
I loved my friend, and had an intense season with her, years back.  Her bellowing laugh filled that season, but also middle of the night calls of despair, doctor visits, relentless prayers, fights for life itself.  And then, in a blink, many years went by without much contact.  My friend’s death punctuated more than my unplanned silence in her life.  It invited a musing about the seeming string of friends I have left behind, friendships untended, not pursued.  I say ‘seeming’ because I know the truth about how my heart holds those friends – cherished, with great affection.  So how did that fit with being out of touch? I felt sad and justified at once, but with a slight shadow on my face.
 
The pastor who spoke at the memorial service is someone for whom I have great respect.  I paraphrase, but this is what she said:  we all did what we could for our friend in our own way, in our own season, we all gave what we could give, we all did our best, and we all failed and none of us failed. 
 
The breeze came.  And with it a few reminders that set my heart free.
 
Community.   What a loaded word.  The thought of it makes me happy, and makes me want to run.  I smile because it is the thing that always makes up for my lack.  It makes me want to run because it exposes what I lack.  And I make it more than it is supposed to be.  Sitting in that memorial service with so many who loved my friend before, during, after, simultaneous to my season with her, reminded me that community is imperative, and saves everyone who is a part of it.  She could not have fought her battle without any one of those people.  And every one of those people could not have fought, over time, without the others.  Our friend’s life fostered that community.  God’s love expanded that community.  The community was enough, and of course it failed. 
 
Limitations.  This is similar, but important.  The Hebrew word Shabath is of course the notion of Sabbath.  Rest. It has a multi-tiered meaning:  ‘cease or desist,’ ‘to stop,’ ‘to take a break.’  My favorite, which will be no surprise, is ‘to celebrate,’ which means to have a party as we admire what we, and God, have created.  But there is another tier to the meaning of Shabath: ‘to suffer what is lacking.’  Think about that for a minute.  When you think about taking just one day away from all that pulls on you, shabath is exactly what is being asked of your heart.  Jesus, in his love, is saying, “Please allow something to be lacking.  For just a little while don’t consider yourself imperative to the progress of the world.  And don’t consider yourself complete without me.”   As Sally Breedlove says, “We find rest in the incompleteness of what is and as we trust what is needed for the future at the proper time.”    As I wrote in Listening to Love, I often “refuse to suffer what is lacking , because I figure nothing should be lacking as long as I’m around.”  Yeah, no pride there.  As I suffer what was lacking in my love for my friend, I find rest.
 
I still hope to be a better long-term, historical, loyal person.  But today I am glad I knew my friend.  I love what we had, when we had it.  She was my friend in death as much as my friend a while back.  I loved her.  I am grateful to say I failed, and by grace, I loved her well.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Categories: Friendship, Community, Limitations

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21 Comments

Reply Lee Ann Foster
9:42 PM on September 12, 2012 
Jan, such a beautiful piece. I have found my birth family and my birth mother is of Jewish descent, but a Spirit filled believer. For 6 years I have been immersed in a Spirit filled Messianic congregation celebrating the beautiful rhythm of the feasts and festivals and the joy of weekly Shabbat with such a dear community. This speaks well of what I experience as we celebrate admidst the incredible brokenness and struggles. Thank you for, as always, putting such poignant and truth-exposing words to such realities in our presently dirty kingdoms.
Reply anna
10:21 PM on September 12, 2012 
Thank you Jan.
Reply Rick Cruse
10:36 PM on September 12, 2012 
Hi Jan. I appreciate this as I'm part of a groups seeking to place the most vulnerable homeless into their own homes. Our first resident, housed just before the end of 2011, died a few weeks ago, back on the streets. Part of the reasons for his being back on the streets reflect our failures/inadequacies.

Yet, and I believe this is also true, I would add to the pastor's words: "...we failed [and we didn't fail]." To claim total failure on our part removes the responsible uniqueness of the individual, even the severely depressed individual, to exert some level of control over his or her own life. To claim her death is a failure on your/other's part alone is to make her less than a person. Ultimately we can't and shouldn't try to control all the decisions of another. We live in a broken world, as you know so well, and a broken world. a defeated yet still-present enemy took her life.
Reply Susie Shaw
10:50 PM on September 12, 2012 
aw Jan I love your heart. you so honestly express the working out of life in Him. hugs,
suz
Reply Jan
1:29 AM on September 13, 2012 
anna says...
Thank you Jan.

Anna. You are welcome.
Reply Jan
1:33 AM on September 13, 2012 
Rick Cruse says...
Hi Jan. I appreciate this as I'm part of a groups seeking to place the most vulnerable homeless into their own homes. Our first resident, housed just before the end of 2011, died a few weeks ago, back on the streets. Part of the reasons for his being back on the streets reflect our failures/inadequacies.

Yet, and I believe this is also true, I would add to the pastor's words: "...we failed [and we didn't fail]." To claim total failure on our part removes the responsible uniqueness of the individual, even the severely depressed individual, to exert some level of control over his or her own life. To claim her death is a failure on your/other's part alone is to make her less than a person. Ultimately we can't and shouldn't try to control all the decisions of another. We live in a broken world, as you know so well, and a broken world. a defeated yet still-present enemy took her life.

Hi Rick,

Yes, absolutely yes. Perhaps the blog didn't capture it perfectly, but the overall message of the service was 'we all failed and we didn't fail.' Absolutely. That is what was so freeing.

Sorry to hear about your first resident. Heartbreaking, with all factors that lead to such loss.
Reply Jan
1:36 AM on September 13, 2012 
Lee Ann Foster says...
Jan, such a beautiful piece. I have found my birth family and my birth mother is of Jewish descent, but a Spirit filled believer. For 6 years I have been immersed in a Spirit filled Messianic congregation celebrating the beautiful rhythm of the feasts and festivals and the joy of weekly Shabbat with such a dear community. This speaks well of what I experience as we celebrate admidst the incredible brokenness and struggles. Thank you for, as always, putting such poignant and truth-exposing words to such realities in our presently dirty kingdoms.

Lee Ann, What an amazing story. So few of us ever get to feast in such a way. Enjoy!
Reply Jan
1:38 AM on September 13, 2012 
Susie Shaw says...
aw Jan I love your heart. you so honestly express the working out of life in Him. hugs,
suz

Thank you, Susie!
Reply Mary Chapman
1:57 AM on September 13, 2012 
Jan: such beautiful words, both soberingly heavy and simultaneously freeing; I am sad for the loss of the life of your friend, and I echo Rick's comments above. I am more aware today of my own failures to love and impossibility to "be there" as much as I'd like (pride), as well as reality that community is real but often we have to ask for it, especially if we isolate. I smile as I remember how God used you in my life, and I am very thankful for being able to read your thoughts today, knowing for that season He blessed me with your friendship.
Reply Jan
2:44 AM on September 13, 2012 
Mary! So true - it is impossible. And yes, we have to seek out community. My friend had done that. She cultivated a huge community both by being genuinely thoughtful (I felt truly considered by her so many times, and she was a true support to my brother when he was dying), and by sharing her struggle with people. Actually, her thoughtfulness was a lot like yours! Again, the freeing thing for me is the acknowledgement that we all loved her well - we all failed, we all succeeded. So good to hear from you.
Reply Jan
2:54 AM on September 13, 2012 
Rick Cruse says...
Hi Jan. I appreciate this as I'm part of a groups seeking to place the most vulnerable homeless into their own homes. Our first resident, housed just before the end of 2011, died a few weeks ago, back on the streets. Part of the reasons for his being back on the streets reflect our failures/inadequacies.

Yet, and I believe this is also true, I would add to the pastor's words: "...we failed [and we didn't fail]." To claim total failure on our part removes the responsible uniqueness of the individual, even the severely depressed individual, to exert some level of control over his or her own life. To claim her death is a failure on your/other's part alone is to make her less than a person. Ultimately we can't and shouldn't try to control all the decisions of another. We live in a broken world, as you know so well, and a broken world. a defeated yet still-present enemy took her life.

Hi again. I revised my paraphrase of what the pastor said, to lessen any confusion as to the freeing aspect of what she gave us.
Reply Gail Nuth
12:00 PM on September 13, 2012 
Thank you for those thoughts. And by the way, I'm glad I had a season with you as my neighbor (both figuratively and literally!)
Reply Anne
1:25 PM on September 13, 2012 
My best friend took her life 6 years ago...anniversary of her death will be later on this month and still that shadow of shame comes back at times, briefly and unexpectedly. In life she would often make a point of saying "You're forgiven!" in death, I know she says the same through tiny, hidden ways that I can feel in my heart. One way is throught your beautiful words here. Thank you
Reply Jan
1:48 PM on September 13, 2012 
Gail Nuth says...
Thank you for those thoughts. And by the way, I'm glad I had a season with you as my neighbor (both figuratively and literally!)

Anne,

I am glad the words helped to bring that grace to you, again. Such a tender battle. Your friend had a good friend in you, your care for her is still obvious.
Reply Jan
1:49 PM on September 13, 2012 
Gail Nuth says...
Thank you for those thoughts. And by the way, I'm glad I had a season with you as my neighbor (both figuratively and literally!)

Neighbor. Friend. So good to hear from you. I, also, am glad for that season next to a very special woman.
Reply Lisa Puckett
9:40 PM on September 13, 2012 
Thank you Jan for this encouragement amidst such sadness. I've returned to COS this week to complete our move to Boston. In the midst or our joyful/sad transitions, I've just learned that of a neighbor's suicide last Saturday. I am heartbroken to imagine her struggles and those of her family. Your writing is encouraging and I hope will bless others in the neihborhood as they walk where I can not.
Reply Heather Pike Agnello
5:17 AM on September 14, 2012 
Jan, This was very helpful for me, as I think of a friend I lost, of how I failed her and of my own season in her life, as well as the scores of other friends I have failed deeply and loved well through the years. What grace to know that we'll know each other forever, isn't it? Thanks, again, for pointing me to the freedom of suffering the lack. You're a good friend.
Reply Jan
1:50 PM on September 14, 2012 
Lisa Puckett says...
Thank you Jan for this encouragement amidst such sadness. I've returned to COS this week to complete our move to Boston. In the midst or our joyful/sad transitions, I've just learned that of a neighbor's suicide last Saturday. I am heartbroken to imagine her struggles and those of her family. Your writing is encouraging and I hope will bless others in the neihborhood as they walk where I can not.

Lisa, I'm so sorry about your neighbor. Yes, letting the others be there when you can not is... hard! I hope your move goes well. Colorado Springs' loss!
Reply Jan
1:52 PM on September 14, 2012 
Heather Pike Agnello says...
Jan, This was very helpful for me, as I think of a friend I lost, of how I failed her and of my own season in her life, as well as the scores of other friends I have failed deeply and loved well through the years. What grace to know that we'll know each other forever, isn't it? Thanks, again, for pointing me to the freedom of suffering the lack. You're a good friend.

Heather! You are a good friend, too. You always have been. Miss you!
Reply Tracy
7:48 PM on September 17, 2012 
Jan,

Your words about the loss of time and connection with those who have been and remain dear in the face of starting something new certainly resonated with me. The shame you described and the struggle to articulate it, also found a place of connection in my heart.

I am thankful for your writing.