I was talking to some friends recently about the importance of knowing.
In this case, I mean when you are going through something difficult, it is important to have people around to support you and to listen to you who have been there. Even if not specifically there there, then at least through their own valley.
Allow me to give an example: many years ago, when my mother lost my dad (stepdad, in this case – so her second husband to die), a pastor gave her a piece of quaint advice. Honestly, I cannot remember what it was. However, it hit my mom in an off way and after some conversation about it, what we realized is that this colleague of mine had never lost anyone. Not even a grandparent. They were repeating something from a textbook. And here is the thing: if you are facing the valley of the shadow of death, whatever that ravine might look like, you need someone walking with you who has tread through the muck and mire themselves.
There is no substitution for real experience.
What is more, in this case, age does not automatically equal life experience. I know forty-somethings who have yet to lose their parents or grandparents and teenagers who have been to Hell and back already.
Nevertheless, something that is also very true is that knowing is only part of the battle. You must have actually fought back up the slippery slope to get back out of the abyss. Or at least be actively working toward it. Otherwise, there will never be walking with anyone else through another canyon – for your open wounds will keep you too busy, or worse, harm someone else in the midst of their own struggles.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, There are moments that the words don’t reach. There is suffering too terrible to name… you push away the unimaginable.
There are many things many of us do not understand. Then again, though, there are many things that many of us do.
If you are facing a great divide of your own, remember that you are not alone. There are people who have been through deep valleys similar enough to your own that they can walk with you. It may not be me or the next person you meet, but I promise they are out there.
Because trust me, I have faced more valleys than any of you know. Far more and in greater variety than I write about. But I have also found my way, even as I walk through them, to find some pretty impressive rock formations in the midst of the canyons.
You can too.
There is hope even in shadow. There is love even in despair. There is life even in death.