She couldn’t have been more than two years of age. Her bright, blond curls bounced like springs as she took bounding little steps towards her mother, who was absently thumbing her way across her phone.
The little girl approached her mother, right index finger pointing straight into the air. Obviously, this finger had absorbed the brunt of the fall, as her body had been cushioned by woodchips. As the little girl bounced closer, the mother made her stand beside her while she finished typing her message.
‘Mummy’, the little girl said, with tears streaming down her cheeks. She was young enough not to have the vocabulary to explain, but the rigid finger pointed in her mother’s face was enough to tell the story of pain.
‘Ooh, Sweetheart’, the mother said looking at the finger. ‘Did you hurt your finger?’
The little girl nodded.
‘Here, let me kiss it and make it better.’
My mum used to say those words. And how many times have I spoken those words? When my daughters were little, sometimes they would fall from things and bump their heads. What would I do? Pucker up. Imagine if we still used that form of healing for adults? I can only cringe to think what my wife Christine would say if, when she injured her ankle, I responded with a smooch. She’d probably push me away, thinking that I didn’t really care about the pain she was experiencing. Worse yet, imagine if she was suffering emotionally, really struggling with a deep heartache, and I held out my hands and said … ‘Ooh, Sweetheart. Here, let me kiss it and make it better.’
Not likely to be a pretty scene there, folks!
But this episode plays out tragically in our contemporary lives. In an attempt to distance ourselves from the pain our neighbour is feeling, we manage our friendships with thumbs frantically flicking through Facebook pages or screens of text, encouraging with a ‘thumbs up’ things that we like and quickly passing over the ‘friend’ that posts heartache. Once they are out of sight, they are out of mind and we’ve moved on to the next friend, thus …kissing them goodbye.
I hope you feel better. Good luck to you. God bless you in your time of pain. And (gulp) I’ll pray for you.
As much as we’d like to think these platitudes will heal the pain, they won’t. In the midst of our neighbours’ deepest pain—and our own—we can experience healing only in the connection of physical presence. Jesus calls us to be in the midst of people and their pain, to offer words and hands of encouragement.
Clear your hands of your phones, digital devices and whatever else is distracting the hands that God gave you to serve. Instead, open them to your brother and sister in Christ.
You’ll thank me later.
(My mum used to say that, too.)
Reid Matthias is pastor of Green Pastures Lutheran Church, Lockrose, Queensland.