Many of you know that I unexpectedly ended up back in Northern Ireland last weekend. One of my closest friends, Jill, lost her dad to pancreatic cancer. I can’t even imagine how painful it’s been for her. I’m glad I was able to go back and be there for the funeral, to sit shiva with her. It was heartbreaking, yet I know her dad would have been so proud of her. I’m blown away by her strength & her humility.
Jill & I have an odd history; we took a long time to meet each other! We lived in the same area, we went to the same school, we both lead our school CU, we have a large overlapping friendship group… but God chose to wait, and took us to Latvia to meet each other. A few years ago I co-lead an Exodus team to Latvia from Glasgow, and Jill co-lead one from Ballymena. We met for the first time in Belfast, getting on a bus to Dublin airport. Those first few days in Latvia we wrestled with knowing how best to lead our teams and support our leaders. We almost didn’t really hang out that much at the start, as we focused on our respective tasks.
Each evening in Zosna, we’d sit around a camp fire with the kids and talk about life, talk about Jesus. One evening, we didn’t stay. I can’t say why for sure, but as the dusk gave way to night we went for a stroll. As we meandered along the lakeshore, we poured our hearts out to each other. It was as if someone had pulled the stopper out, and there was no putting it back in. We barely knew each other, and yet there was a safety in the others presence that I have rarely felt, before or since. We began to share our stories, warts and all.
As the sun set, we wept in each others arms.
We wept for the pain.
We wept for the things we have lost.
We wept for the difficult choices we would have to make in coming days.
We wept for the kids in Zosna.
We wept for the kids who grew up never knowing they were loved.
We wept for ourselves.
And in that moment, there was a healing.
Or rather, there were the beginnings of a healing.
These scars, they don’t heal fast. Life hasn’t been perfect for either of us. Yet I cannot help but think of the example that I have been shown in Jill.
Our wounds matter.
Jill has helped to teach me that.
That our lives have meaning, and purpose.
And that the weeping is important.