She stood so close to me with her hand on my arm. Her voice is so gentle and her words so intentional in her songs and now in her conversation. Sara Groves and I had shared a stage at a women's event: she sang and led worship, and I told my stories and shared what I'm learning.
She said, "I want to tell you why I didn't do the song you asked me to do."
I have long loved her music and especially her lyrics. She's a lyrical and poetic wordsmith, I promise you. Some of her songs have held me above the waves in the last four years, and I especially loved her song "It Might Be Hope."
When I first heard the song, I was just coming into spring after two years of winter. I remember standing in my bedroom, my hand to the window pane, leaning into what seemed like the first bit of sunshine. Sara's words were the most accurate description of what I was feeling.
Hope has a way of turning it's face to you
Just when you least expect it.
You walk in a room,
You look out a window,
And something there leaves you breathless.
You say to yourself,
It's been a while since I felt this,
But it feels like it might be hope.
In our preparation together, I had asked for her to include the song in one of her music sets, but the day came and went without the song. Honestly, I didn't need an explanation; she's an artist, a musician, and has her own presence on the stage with a plan for how she would like for it to go. If she didn't do the song, my goodness, who was I to ask a question why?
Still, she looked at me so gently, bringing her explanation.
"Tricia, one time I saw this graphic that talked about the layers of grief and the people who can speak into the life of the person with the broken heart."
I had seen it too. We talked about it - The Ring Theory. It was featured in the Los Angeles Times in an article called How Not To Say The Wrong Thing, and its powerful relevance made the rounds on the internet for a while.
She said, "I've never forgotten it. The person in the crisis is in the center of the circle, her closest friends and family are in the ring right around her, and then people fit into rings further and further out as the relationships extend further and further. The grieving one gets to say whatever they want and ask any questions they need to ask, and the people in her inner circle can speak directly to her. But the people in the second and third circles around her have rules they should follow. They just have to be careful because they're not close enough to the situation to give advice."
She continued, "Honestly, Tricia, after hearing your story, I don't feel like I have the right to sing that song in response. I'm not close enough to your story, I don't know the pain, and I don't feel confident to sing a song talking about hope. Who am I to tell you what to hope in? I believe in the hope of Jesus Christ, and I will always tell of his goodness. But I will not tell someone else how to feel. That's why I didn't sing the song."
You guys, that's real deal right there. That's a woman who lives her work, who sings from her life, who walks in grace and love. She could have woven the song in, believing it was a good fit and "appropriate." But erring on the side of sensitivity, she decided not to.
That's the kind of girl I want to know. The kind of girl I want to be.