“Do you understand anything I’m saying?”

My son and I were driving to the butcher when he looked off in the distance. We were discussing the pros and cons of using golf carts on a golf course (as we do).

“You know Mom, I think the reason old people don’t use golf carts, is… they’re old… carts can be used for…”

A long silence enveloped the car.

He looked up at me, “Ummm, I have absolutely no idea what I was going to say so never mind about that!”. We laughed together at the humour of it.

He suddenly said, “If I forget my thought in the middle of my sentence that must mean I’m becoming a grown-up!”.

“Yes, son, losing your words (and mind) is a definite marker of growing up”

A few days before that my husband and I got in a tense conversation over absolutely nothing and almost everything. All at the same time. Does that ever happen to you too? I was frustrated and couldn’t find the words out of the swamp of confusion, so I just walked away. My husband came back to our bedroom where I was hiding (as he always graciously does). He started talking, tentatively searching for a way out of a simple argument over a child’s car seat. Yet it was really about so much more.

Communication, words, listening, talking, all that stuff… it isn’t easy is it?

These words of Eugene Peterson struck me:

Because we speak our language so casually, it is easy to fall into the habit of treating it casually. But language is persistently difficult to understand. We spend our early lives learning the language, and just when we think we have it mastered our spouse says, “You don’t understand a thing I’m saying, do you?” We teach our children to talk, and just about the time we think they might be getting it, they quit talking to us … A close relationship doesn’t guarantee understanding. A long affection doesn’t guarantee understanding. In fact, the closer we are to one another and the more intimate our relations, the more care we must exercise to hear accurately, to understand more thoroughly, to answer appropriately.

I don’t want that to be true, but my experience affirms what he is saying.

Modern culture makes false promises about love and communication.

The deeper the love, the wider the years; the less the effort to communicate.
In true intimacy, we should know what the other is thinking even before they say it.

If only either of those statements were true.

The converse of this is old married couples warning us, “communication takes hard work people!”. So, the options become either effortless communication (not attainable) or a life-time prison sentence to hard labor (not enjoyable).

The truth is deeper than both these.

Communication will not flutter down on the wings of a dove like a moment of “eureka!” Nor will mere back-breaking work get us there.

Communication takes commitment, it is a heart issue. An unmovable heart to stay there and journey the path over and over until the right tributary is found. Not giving up until the path to understanding is walked upon.

Communication takes intention. True, deep communication takes days and months of chipping away at a thought or feeling of the heart until both can see it clearly. This is humbly sought after with immense amounts of love and care of the other.

Communication takes grace. True heart-felt communication is a messy and danger filled path. There are so many opportunities to hurt the other (whether friend, spouse or child). So many chances to be mis-understood. Constant temptations to build more walls than bridges and to throw our hands up in exasperation. Immense grace is needed.

Perhaps you are like my son who can’t find the right words in the right moment. Or like me who is tempted to hide in your room instead of treading deeper into a conversation that has no clear-marked exit.

Either way, there is only one path to deeper intimacy in our relationships. Communication. Get there by any means necessary, the journey is worth the destination.

The Road Less Traveled

Last week I left my house for a late afternoon run. I’m a hoofer who plods along slowly. Seeing me run would probably evoke less images of a light-footed deer and more images of a stray elephant looking for it’s herd. But, I digress.

road-less-traveledThat evening was beautiful; still, cool air and beautiful clouds. I love running at that time of day, the streets are full of people walking home after a long day at work. There are large groups of gossiping Mama’s noisily giving the updates of the day. Weary fathers, pushing their young daughter home from pre-school. Dusty men returning home after a hard day of manual labour.

That evening I took my normal route along the busiest roads, past the buzzing taxi ranks and weaving along semi-crowded sidewalks. The next morning I woke up to learn that 30 minutes after I had run, there was a shooting along my route, killing several. It was part of week of rising violence in our neighborhood.

I told several people how close I had come to witnessing the violence. Several replied, “Why do you run there? It is not a safe area!” I could choose another route that takes me through quiet and calm neighborhoods. But, here’s the deal. Those quiet and calm neighborhoods feel dangerous to me because I’m alone. There is safety and security for me as long as I’m surround by the noisy Mama’s, weary fathers and dusty laborers.

I have changed my running route for now, until the violence calms down. But I’m looking for other busy paths that take me along roads where others travel.

There is an old saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear.” It’s not in scripture but we like to think it is. It’s not even true. There’s five words missing. Those five words make it more close to what scripture says all the time. Those five words are: “with the help of others”.

“God will not give you more than you can bear with the help of others”

This idea that we are radical individuals who should do everything on our own is a lie. So many of us desperately cling to this lie as if it is a life vest or a badge of pride. The reality? It’s like trying to swim down a white water river while holding on to a boulder. This go alone strategy can become our undoing.

We need people. And with the help of others… together we can bear so much. With others holding us up, we exchange our individual weakness for the the strength of community.

Jesus did this. Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing his darkest hour, he asked the disciples for help. Think about that. The Savior of the world wanted friends to help him carry his burden.

Today we glorify the famous words of Robert Frost and seek after “the road less traveled.” While loneliness and difficult decisions are certainly part of our journey at times, going it alone should never be the ideal we praise.

Traveling on a road less traveled sounds so heroic. But I’m taking my strategy from Jesus. I’m choosing a road well traveled with people within shouting distance. When something feels too heavy to carry, I can bear it with the help of others.

In what areas do you need to reach out and ask for help? What’s stopping you from doing that today?