I’m in that post-book-launch, anchorless place of the writing curve. There are times when I wake up in the morning, and I think, “I don’t know what in the world I’m going to write about today. I don’t have anything to say to anyone at all.”
And sometimes I think this is because writing really is a lot like having a baby, yes, because of all the hard work and labor and delivery, but also because after you have a baby, usually the last thing you want is someone pawing at you to have another one. I just finished a book, she’s living and breathing out in the world, and I can’t think about conceiving another idea just yet.
So I spent a lot of time reading and listening to the words of other people. (I’ve listened to upwards of thirty podcasts this month, and I’ve read 14 books. Which isn’t nothing.) I’m in the hungry place. Feed my thoughts, please. I am starving for words that aren’t mine.
I’ve mentioned to you that I love Jen Hatmaker’s new podcast series: For the Love.
And I most especially loved her interview with Brené Brown. First of all, because of Brené.
(I am annoyed right now because spellcheck won’t just recognize her name already and put the accent in there. She’s practically her own page in the Oxford Dictionary, for crying out loud.)
But second of all, I loved this episode more than others because it really showed how smart Jen is. I know she’s America’s Best Girlfriend, and I’ve read all that about her being the Best Friend Emeritus, but as I listened to this dialogue, I realized how much I loved the authority of her voice. I love how smart she is. But then, I do have a thing for smart girls.
They covered a lot of topics that are important on every level, and you should listen to it. You won’t be disappointed, and you know I won’t waste your time with my recommendations.
On the day when I listened to this podcast, my newsfeed was filled with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, people I know posting pictures of floating cars and stop signs, others crying out for literal rescue from their neighborhood rooftops, and that familiar feeling of being far away and helpless.
It was also the day after Robb’s birthday, and while that day that doesn’t get the bold pauses and sparkly letters it once had on my calendar, it is a day that doesn’t ever slip past me, not once. He would be forty-two now, which is weird because he’s forever thirty-five to me.
I pulled these paragraphs from the transcript of the interview. These two held my heart in their dialogue.
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Jen: So I want to talk about suffering with you just a little bit, because you also dive into suffering [in your new book], which requires processing and healing, like you so wisely just mentioned. One of the questions, specifically in my space often, is in relation to “suffering plus God.” I would just love to have a brief take on your thoughts here.
I think a lot of the questions we ask are, “Why do these horrible things happen to people that don’t deserve it? Why all this unjust and unfair suffering? Why does God stay his hand when He does?”
My question to you is this, Do you think suffering ties in with vulnerability? How do these things dovetail together: suffering, vulnerability, connection through shared trials; and how do you think that affects our spiritual life?
Brené: My default answer would be, “You should read Jen Hatmaker.” Really. I have a very singular experience around our shared Christian story, around suffering, that made a lot of sense to me, and that has continued to make a lot of sense to me. It was when I was very young; I was probably maybe nine or ten years old, and a mom in our neighborhood died of cancer. My mother was always incredibly, back then I thought, just terrible about that we always had to go to every funeral. We had to pray and sing, whether it was our faith or a language we understood; it didn’t matter, we went. We were always the first at the door with the casseroles.
We had to look people in the eye who were in pain. It was just a non-negotiable because my mom grew up in a lot of suffering, a lot of pain. My grandmother, who was one of the great loves of my life–I named my daughter Ellen after her–was an alcoholic, and it was the 50’s, and she was divorced. No one was allowed at my mom’s house. She just grew up in a lot of suffering. Her only sibling was shot and killed in an act of violence. Just a hard, hard, hard life. So, we never got to opt out of being with people and suffering. We went to this funeral of this neighbor. She had really young kids, and the preacher was kind of using this language like, “How dare you cry? How dare you mourn? God has a plan for Linda. Linda is in a better place. We should mourn for ourselves because we’re not with her at the feet of God.”
I remember getting in the car and I said, “I said everything that I was supposed to say in the service, but I just want you to know I don’t believe anything that they said.”
My mom pulled over and she said, “I’m glad you don’t believe anything that they said, because that’s not what we believe in our family. What we believe in our family, is today, Jesus wept too.”
Jen: Wow. How old were you?
Brené: Probably eight or nine. I said, “What do you mean?”
My mom said, “Today, God, today, Jesus–they wept for Linda, and Linda’s kids, and Linda’s husband, and they’re really devastated and sad too.”
I said, but the preacher said that “it’s better, and it’s part of God’s plan,” and [my mom said], “People believe that, and that’s okay. We don’t believe that. We believe today, Jesus cries for Linda, and Linda’s children.”
* * *
“We believe Jesus wept, too.”
I will never tire of learning about the heart of Jesus, the one who doesn’t rush people through their sadness and on to their healing. It makes me love him more every time I think about it.
“Jesus wept over death and grief; shed your tears, friend.
We have a Savior who cries.”
~ Jen Hatmaker, Of Mess and Moxie