Sometimes we don’t have words for those we love as they’re in turmoil. We can receive their words, try to comfort, do what we can. I’ve recently come to believe that none of really know what we’re doing or how to truly fix anything with ourselves or one another, even and especially sometimes when we’re walking with Jesus. I think what we need to do more often than not is to simply sit with our loves in the dark places, wordlessly, but physically present.
In Judaism there is this custom that believers have where they will enter into mourning for the dead for seven days. This custom is referred to as shiva.
1. a period of seven days’ formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral. Ex. “She went to the funeral and sat shiva”.
I like the idea of people being brave enough to walk into atmospheres that they cannot fix, they cannot change and just being. It sounds vulnerable; I’m not usually comfortable walking into environments where I feel I have no solutions. Americans as a whole are conditioned to avoid this feeling, I think, because our whole culture seemed to be packaged with this stout-hearted, “I know what I’m doing and I have all the answers” mentality.
There is a value in our presence that I don’t believe we fully understand. We’re so busy trying to fill the void with solutions, productivity—we search for neat and tidy conclusions in life where sometimes, I think, there are none to be found. It is not hopeless, and I hope that’s not the message that I’m conveying. There is something oddly intimately about being present with someone in shiva. I think something we’ve lost in the West here is that we fill the chasm of space between our bodies with everything but ourselves.
Maybe we don’t need answers.
Maybe we don’t need distraction,
or meaningless chatter,
or trite quips.
Maybe we need a look, a touch,
the skin of another human being,
soft and tender and warm,
saying, “I am here, and I am with you”.
For however long we have, we are together—without condition and reservation. This is our intimacy.
The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy.
– Richard Bach