Jodi is a dear friend of mine who also lives in this small town we call home. She’s a closet writer and I’m always ecstatic when she agrees to let me share some of her goodness here. Thanks Jodi for sharing. Thanks to all of you for reading! -Ashley
My heart is that of a Pastor’s Wife and it has exploded a million times over with the life stories I’ve absorbed. When I hear, “Can we talk?” my chest begins to tighten and my emotions are right there raw and exposed all over again. “Yes, of course,” I’ll respond, but the internal struggle of, “Can I possible handle one more painful, heart wrenching tragedy? Can I be the ear to listen and the comforter to empathize one more time?
You guys, these stories, the life stories of people on this Earth, in our lives–no one deserves some of the stories I’ve heard, no one. And yet, just when you think you’ve heard it all, another story comes in search of comfort and direction, hope and answers. I listen and try to take it all in and in my response, no part of the words that leave my lips feel any bit of my own. The brokenness of people can just take my breath away.
I once sat with a woman, her voice shaking as she spoke, tears building in her eyes, just waiting to fall. With whatever courage I could find, I locked eyes with hers, gripping her hand in mine and told her how amazing and strong she was and that God was drawing near to her brokenness. I wanted to believe that would relieve her. I wanted to believe I could take it all away and just break for her. As tears covered her cheeks, she embraced me with determination to hang on. Darkness and despair had swept in and at her breaking point, she was desperate to find freedom. My heart exploded in that very moment. My words would never suffice. They would never negate her pain.
Then to pile on top of these painful life stories, with a force that is neither welcomed nor chosen, we, in our small mountain town, have the demographics of the up close and personal Small Town Life.
In Small Town Life, a story unfolds with greater power than it began, and it can return to the individual’s heart in the most painful of ways. It feels safer to lose the transparency and simply try to grin and bear it, rather than be exposed and judged by the murmurs of the well-intended-information-receivers. There may be no greater heartache than to hear the pearls of your heart being repeated through the rumor mill with inaccuracies and trite concern. So we remain silent, holding our broken hearts intact, longing to say to someone, “I am not okay.”
I hear these stories and I hold onto these broken hearts. Every heart matters and every story is valuable to God; every last one.
Every single human longs to be seen, deeply seen, and when they are, this sparks value and value sparks action. Shame and fear steal our courage, and the mistreatment of our pearls, our life stories, can paralyze our progress in whole-hearted living. Small Town Life should not be permitted to paralyze our brothers and sisters into a corner with their shame, but in fact, it should be the very caretaking catalyst that ignites a heart to soar. We have the gift of learning to lean deeply on one another because our closeness in this life cannot be avoided. WE are neighbors, WE are co-workers, WE are faith seekers, WE are image bearers of God, and WE should be quick to extend mercy to our community because WE belong to one another.
Perhaps the very nature of Small Town Life reveals the truest part of who we really are. Perhaps the lesson in this demographic setting is that we are responsible to absorb secrets, heartache, and life stories, to participate in the discovery of freedom for all.