By Sylvia Broome, Central Atlanta Community Facilitator
I’ve been spending a lot of time in hospitals and clinics lately, visiting jails, searching for places to live, and listening to people cry. Phrases of hope, strength, and resolve spring from lips while hollow eyes tell another story. These dark places, quiet waiting, muted hope are the places of broken dreams.
I listen, the pain is palatable. A wry laugh, a shake of the head, a smile covers the hurt. I listen the stories and I don’t even know what to say.
Melinda – who lost her mother last month, her daughter murdered two weeks ago is waiting at the clinic, newly diagnosed with stomach cancer. Nanda, overdosed and restrained to a bed in the hospital for 29 days is fighting for her life. Amanda, with full blown Aids, is given six months to live. Her husband is in prison; she may not live long enough to see his release. Glenda’s landlord is renovating her apartment and has given her a month to vacate. She is desperately looking for another place to rent but is denied over and over again with not explanation why. She needs surgery, but will soon be on the street. Without a place to recover she will be denied the surgery.
And finally, Stephanie. With a one year old child and no daycare she is unable to work. Her husband is an addict; all his earnings go towards drugs. Twenty-nine weeks pregnant, she fears she will lose their apartment. No shelter will take a pregnant woman. There seems to be no answer and she is facing the inevitable: the street and losing her child.
There are so many more stories – bravado in the face of suffering. Hope that by a miracle something will change but belief that nothing will change – because nothing ever has. These are the stories of my friends – the women I’ve met on the street and their families. In our REMERGE women’s group we come together, we share, we laugh together, cry together, but mostly we just listen to one another. Somehow, that helps. When someone is living at the end of their broken dreams, shared suffering brings surprising strength to dig down to the depths of our emotional resources, to reach out, to hug someone…often without even realizing that you need that hug as much as they do.
We are not alone. We have each other.
When Jesus came to the cross it looked like the end of a broken dream. Suffering, pain, loneliness, overwhelming sadness, and desperation. His friends nowhere to be seen. The finality of death. But in that dark place there was an explosion of hope. The dream that seemed to die became the beginning of a new dream – resurrection, a new life and a new dream. This dream could not die.
In our fragile life, sometimes circumstances don’t change. People still suffer, they die, they live lonely lives. But at the cross Jesus gave a gift – that when we share in his suffering, he shares in ours. Our suffering is not alone. God gave us one another.
Shared suffering brings strength. Christ has shared our suffering at the cross. He understands pain, loneliness, overwhelming sadness, and desperation. He is not a remote God, he is personal. When we cry out, he will answer.
In our REMERGE women’s group, ladies come and go. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But when we are together, we are an island, a respite from the storms of life. It is a place of peace, a place to stop and be able to take a breath. Our suffering pauses when our smiles are joyful and life returns to our eyes. We are able to bear one another’s burdens and share in one another’s suffering. Even if it is just for a minute. God has given us the gift of friendship, of community, of neighbors. In Christ, we are one. And in this, we can be joyful in all circumstances.