I know, I know: bubbles… huh?
Stick with me.
This year, I’ve had lots of time to think. Our own family has experienced great loss, and – most recently – a devastating injury / concerning diagnoses for my father. We’ve had a lot of unexpected life surprises (some are awesome: a new sister! Some are less exciting: children struggling with anxiety). Our friends have experienced the same.
While it feels as though many of us came out of 2020 relatively unscathed, 2021 has just been hard for so many people.
It makes me wonder if there’s a better way.
When I’ve been struggling, so many friends have lovingly let me know they’re here for me (and I know with certainty they mean it). I’ve passed the same sentiment on to those around me going through hard things. We mean it. We say we’ll pray and when we think about it, we do. We mean the words and care we pass on to those far down in the deep end.
Bubble Culture has Impacted All of Us
But something else has stuck with me. Some of my friends, neighbors, and those around me, have gone farther: they’ve stepped inside my bubble.
We live in a culture that tells us we can do anything we set our minds to.
We work hard to achieve our dreams.
We set goals and we run full speed ahead.
We aspire to greatness.
But in this aspiring, are we also setting ourselves up for failure, for heartache, and for pain?
See – when we believe that we can achieve anything WE want, we start to depend an awful lot on our own selves. We stop leaning on those around us (the world tells us that they’ll just let us down anyway), we lose sight of scriptural truth that we were never created to be independent beings in the first place, and we start a cycle of inward striving and running and racing. We. Go. Hard.
But then, when something stops us in our track – illness, job loss, unexpected deaths, financial hardships, emotional pain, or otherwise – who do we have to lean on? We only have ourselves.
We build up bubbles around ourselves that are awfully hard for others to break through. We make them bigger and bigger and bigger, but we stay inside, alone.
Unless someone is willing to step inside our bubble.
They don’t need to pop it (let’s get real, when has telling someone to just work a little harder or ignore pain actually helped anything?). They just need to come along side us while we’re stuck.
Personally, in our family’s time of crazy, the ones who have told us they’re here for us have been AMAZING – we are grateful. But those who’ve stepped inside our bubble – unobtrusively, yet, without invitation – are the one’s who’ve been life-changing and life-sustaining.
That’s because sometimes when we’re in the bubble, it’s hard to see what we need to do to deflate it a little bit, to lessen our own burdens.
Those who’ve stepped inside our bubble are the ones who’ve been able to objectively look at what we’re going through, step inside our home, and point us to scriptural truth for how we need to move forward. They’re ones who’ve dropped off the most practical gift cards ever on the front porch as a gift for MY MOM, without me asking for it. They’re the ones who’ve told me we’re going on a walk together, whether I feel up to it or not. They’re the ones who’ve been willing to discuss their own lives, while leaving space in case my introverted self feels like opening up or not… the ones who’ve made themselves comfortable inside my bubble of (sometimes) ugliness and hurt, allowing for the honesty required to build back up. They’re the ones who tell us they’re going to the store and ask what we need, making it clear that if we were to go on our own right after they’d probably be insulted.
I’m not so sure I’m always as good as what I’ve seen modeled in my own life, for those around me.
Is it because I’m uncomfortable with silence? Maybe. Because I’m scared I don’t have the words? Also maybe. Because I’ve been striving in my own life so much that it’s hard to shoulder someone else’s burden? Also a possibility.
I’ve tried to break through these walls in the past year or so when friends have found themselves in the deep end of life… and maybe you have to. But, I bet we could be more intentional about it. I think that if we become people who step into the bubbles of others, that we’d start to see world-change… hearts would start to soften in a way we all need more than ever.
Think about it: Jesus was a bubble stepper. He was good at seeing pain (of course: he was one with the Father), at calling it what it was, and at fixing. And while we cannot fix the pain out there – we are not him – we sure can go to him in prayer on behalf of others while pointing them straight to the source of the only true healing this world has to offer.
We’re Called to Be Light Bringers
If we call ourselves believers, then we are meant to reflect the light God has given us to those around us. Not to store it in our own hearts and homes. Y’all: we’re meant to shine.
And while shining is great when life is fun and everyone is smiling, we’re also called to bring light to the darkest of places.
That means that when our friends, our neighbors, and those around us are struggling, we’re not meant to wait on the sidelines and hope they come to us if they need us: we’re meant to jump in wholeheartedly, even if it hurts.
That means that we must foster relationships that allow for this kind of openness. If we haven’t created opportunities for connection, when things get hard for those in our circles, we might not even recognize it. Our homes, our porches, our sidewalks, have got to be places that make others feel welcome.
Then, when the hard hits, we have to be willing to step inside bubbles. Not in a way that’s frustrating, or full of the right words – or even words at all… sometimes sitting in silence is what helps shoulder grief best – or unnatural (someone else’s pain can never become about us). But, in a way that’s life-breathing and life bringing.
It might require dropping of a simple meal or gift card, even when someone says they’re okay (NOT however when that person tells you they have so much food that they can’t keep up or even put anymore in their fridge 😉 ). It might require telling a neighbor that you’re going on a walk and you’d love for them to join you. It might mean offering prayers and then getting pretty darn intentional about following through.
There’s no “prescription” for coming alongside someone in pain. Each circumstance and each individual is so very different (which is why relationship-building before a crisis hits matters so much – it allows you to know how to care best for someone). But, when we’re willing to get messy and open our hearts up to the pain someone else is experiencing, we make room for God to do some pretty amazing things, while making real, positive change in the lives of those around us. We start to be able to shine our lights a little brighter, even in the darkest spaces.
What bubbles are you stuck inside in your own life? Are you allowing others in? Have you even shared what you’re carrying? Do you have a space where you can?
What about the bubbles those around you are stuck in? Can you see hurt? Can you think of practical ways to provide even a few minutes of relief?
Is your home a place of welcome? A place where burdens can be shared? Even if you don’t have any friends with immediate needs right now, taking steps to open up your life and share it with others today might just be what it takes to make a giant difference tomorrow.
Let’s be people willing to step into the hard and into the hurt. Imagine the possibilities!