I’d been married a week.
We visited my great-grandmother and she asked me, “So, when are you going to give your mom some grandbabies?”
I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy talk.
But, you know, what can you do? So, I giggled awkwardly or something and dodged the whole wildly uncomfortable conversation.
Not long after that, I was having dinner with a dear friend in a crowd of other friendly folks and someone asked her the question.
“So you’ve been married for a few years now. When are you going to have kids?”
I thought the question was mildly shocking, moderately annoying and mostly downright crazy intrusive….
It was so much more than that for her. It was deeply painful, treading like heavy steel-toed boots all over the most tender places of her broken heart.
That’s what she told me later. How no one ever thought before they asked her that question…and people asked her ALL the time.
When are you having kids? When are you having kids? When are you having kids?
The truth was that she was desperate for a baby and yet it isn’t just that easy for everyone, is it? Hadn’t she prayed and prayed? Hadn’t she tried and seen the doctor and then had to answer the clueless questions of nosy onlookers?
We just think we’re making conversation, but we’re really battering and bruising the sweet soul we’re chatting with over dinner.
Sometimes, it’s ridiculously comical. Like when I stood in the shoe section at the Target with my three blond-headed beautiful daughters, my youngest at the time less than 2 months old. Such precious gifts to me.
And this random lady waltzed right on over and gave me creepily personal tips on how to have a boy next time.
In the Target.
With my kids there.
And I didn’t know her.
Or when people see my beloved little boy and say right there in front of my three precious girls, “So, you finally got your boy. I bet your husband is happy.”
Like my daughters were just three attempts at having a son gone wrong.
We just say things, don’t we? We aren’t meaning to be mean or hurtful. We just say….stuff…. It seems innocent enough and we just don’t think maybe there’s a world of hurt left trailing after our destructive conversation.
It doesn’t get any harder than when we see a loved one grieving. We want so much to say the right words, soothe the hurt, ease their throbbing pain because we love them so.
But sometimes we get it all wrong. We try to cover over their hurt with platitudes that sound so right, “It’s God’s will. It’s for the best. He always works everything out for the good” and yet what we’re essentially saying is, ‘Suck it up and get over it. You’re a Christian so you shouldn’t be sad.”
Holley Gerth says in What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days:
While we mean well, comments like those are like stripping off someone’s sackcloth. Instead of helping, we leave their hearts even more exposed. What our hearts need is something new to cover them in hard times. And that’s what God offers.
We leave their hearts raw and exposed, open to further wounding.
Yet, God, such a gracious God, covers us with protection and love.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” Psalm 30:11-12
It takes time, yes, it can take so much time. But he does this—he removes our sackcloth and clothes us with joy.
And what I want to be is the kind of person who shares this grace with others.
We won’t get it right all the time. We’ll say the wrong thing and maybe mess it all up. Maybe we just don’t even know what to say when we are eyewitnesses to the hurt inflicted by a sin-stained planet.
But we can start here.
Dear friend, I don’t even have the right words, but I love you. I am praying for you. I am here for you.
And we can start here—-thinking through our questions before we ask them, so we don’t leave a hurting heart raw and exposed after what we just thought was casual, totally normal small-talk.
And we can start here, praying this: Dear God, May we be wise and grace-filled in our conversations with others today. May we speak the words that show Your love—and nothing less than that.—Amen.
Originally published 09/24/2014