A friend shares a difficult struggle.

Tears well up in her eyes as she talks. The pain runs deep, maybe more than she even knows. As I listen, I’m aware of my desire to be helpful, to make it better, to offer some words of hope.

But is this really what she needs most?

As I listen to my own discomfort because of my inability to help, I realize I’m thinking more of me than of her.

Is it possible to stay my attention on the person I’m with more than perseverate on what my response will be to her?

As she continues to talk, I confront all of my own mixed motives, my own self-reliant tendency. Unmoving and still listening, I offer my discomfort up to the Lord.

I am aware of this – I wish I could fix it. What is the right thing to say? I want to be a technician.

As I silently confess my addiction to usefulness, I recognize a new obsession growing: a deep desire to know her, to hear what she is saying now, to learn something I didn’t know before.

The earlier question, How can I help her? is changing into a new question, How can I see her? 

How will Immanuel show himself right now, not just for her in her pain but for me in my self-obsession?

God with us is big enough to handle us both.

When I release my obsession with finding a cure, I can embrace the desire to be curious. This person, this friend, is not a project or an assignment. She is an image bearer, a lyric, a poem. The color of her pain runs dark and she needs some time to face it. This is holy ground, and her process can’t be rushed, dissected, or figured out.

I am aware of my desire to try to force her to see the hope and the light. But I realize this is self-serving. I need to make peace with her questions and allow the darkness to do its deepest work.

For me to be an artist in this moment means to refuse to try to control her and to create space for our conversation to breathe.

Am I willing to let her be a mystery?

Am I willing to sit beside her without giving in to the pressure to fix her?

Am I willing to let her wrestle without quoting Scripture or forcing prayer?

Am I willing to walk away from our conversation more uncomfortable and with more questions than when we began?

This is day 28 of 31 Days of Living Art. Click here to see all the posts in the series. Today’s post is modified from Chapter 12 of A Million Little Ways. 

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If you’re following along with us in the book club, Chapter 3 discussion is up at Bloom. You can watch the video here and join us in the comments there for discussion.