The women gathered in a semicircle, the leader rocking in her chair with half-finished quilting squares draped across her lap. Etched lines marked her face with a painterly contentment that was somehow pressing my own unrest. She spoke with a confidence I refused to believe.
“I miss her, yes, and oh how I wish she was here, but I know God is holding her until I can.” The host smiled, a genuine smile, and she shuffled the delicate blocks of fabric in front of her.
How do you act, what do you say, when one has buried their young, precious innocent?
My thoughts were suspended somewhere between this woman’s ability to reconcile her pain and my own lingering fears. It’s only been two years, how can you do this, how can you let us see this soul-deep? You don’t even know half of us.
A quilting group they’d called it, a woman at my new church insisted I attend. “The husbands watch the kids at the next door apartment, while we ladies gather for coffee and swap quilt blocks.”
I knew nothing about quilting. And even less about gathering in vulnerable community, the sort where heart-pains like this slid so easily into open air.
For years, I washed my own pains down, swallowing back my hurts to avoid facing them, emotionally isolating from anyone I suspected might trigger pain. Friends and relationships with others were like a hot stove that could scorch a fierce burn with one mishap. So I avoided them. I built hard, high walls to keep people from knowing the real me.
But I was lonely. So very lonely. Even in the company of others, I felt isolated. Uncomfortable. Like a pair of too tall, too small, trying-to-make-them-fit-in-order-to-look-good shoes.
Yet this woman’s heart-story, her real and raw, made me wonder. Would I, could I, be real? Would I drop my painted masks and reach out for the extended hand of friendship?
It’s hard to start over. Hard to be deeply seen and known, to trust others with our hearts when we’ve been hurt. Will they run? Misunderstand? Ridicule even? Or maybe, just maybe, they can help restore what was once lost?
Something is poured out of one and into the other that has the power to heal the soul of its deepest wounds and restore it to health. . . . Christians have been given resources that if released could powerfully heal broken hearts, overcome the damage done by abusive backgrounds, encourage the depressed to courageously move forward, stimulate the lonely to reach out . . . and introduce hope in the lives of countless people who feel rejected, alone, and useless.
There are some things that can only happen within the context of community. This swapping quilt blocks adventure, this initiation into genuine community, it ended up being much more than some coming together and making of something cozy to keep me warm on a winter night. It became a pouring out where we bartered weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and hurts for a fresh hope.
Love is a tree, each person a branch. And a pile of cut off branches doesn’t make a tree. Love can only be comprehended in community.
Deeper Still: How about you? Do you have someone special that has helped you heal? Is there a group of women you have connected with? Or are you still in search of support? Link up with us today and share your story? Or if you aren’t a blogger, be sure to leave us a comment?