I remember feeling lost sometimes in India.
I was wandering around one day, looking for ways I could help, when one of the women in charge came up to me, pointed to a woman in a hospital bed, and handed me a washcloth. She nodded like I had done this a thousand times before.
My face probably looked a little puzzled as if to ask, Uhhh, what? but I think I nodded. Sometimes I find myself doing that- nodding, when really I’m lost. I should probably stop that.
I stood there for a minute, trying to figure out how I thought a bed bath should be done. I was the only volunteer in the room- no one else to ask.
Before I knew it, she had brought me another volunteer and asked me to show her how it was done! I tried to object and let her know that I didn’t know what I was doing either, but she was gone.
So there I was, with this expectant helper looking to me for guidance, and a woman in a hospital bed in front of us with IVs hooked up to her. No idea what to do.
Thankfully, another woman came alongside me.
The first words out of her mouth were have you never given a bed bath before? She saw right through me. I noticed she was much less hurried.
I shook my head and she proceeded to show me how to do it, explaining each step and why it was done the way it was. You clean this first, change the sheets this way, make sure to smile. She was so nurturing, even while giving a bed bath.
I would have totally messed it up.
Not that I would have meant to, but I just hadn’t been taught. I would have been too gentle with the wash rag, not wanting to hurt her fragile body. I would have had no idea what to do with the powder I was given and her body would be hurting by the next day in the hot sun. I would have been embarrassed when it got to the more intimate parts of her body and tried to get them done quickly. I would have never been able to change those sheets.
Isn’t that how we are sometimes? When people get too raw with us or let us into their helplessness, we’re not sure what to do. A part of us wants to help, but a part of us wants to do it quickly and get out because it’s uncomfortable to stay with them in their pain for too long.
Whether it’s your own, or someone else’s, it’s uncomfortable.
In India we talked about doing small things with great love, following Mother Teresa’s example. I believe that the woman showing me how to give a bed bath that day was acting as the hands and feet of Jesus, doing small things with great love as she smiled and washed.
Jesus sticks with us in our mess; he wants to come in with us and stay in it so that someday, we can live in his fresh newness.
To follow Jesus means to stay when we’re uncomfortable, to extend grace, and to smile. By staying, we show our loved ones that it’s okay, that they’re okay. There’s healing to be found in vulnerability.
I hope you are brave enough to stay through the mess, and I hope that you’re brave enough to share yours. Let’s dare to be vulnerable and to embrace each other as we are.