Today’s events struck me hard.
It always begins, for me, with a phone call. Some mornings I walk in to happy customers, content to talk to me about their recent vacations, their kids saying funny things, or their newest hobbies/adventures. Some phone calls involve angry shop supervisors due to orders gone wrong. Yes, for me, workdays are really a game of chance. Roll the dice, pray you’ve done your best, and hope you don’t get cussed out.
Today’s phone call was a sad one.
“Hey Shelby, you remember old Mark that used to do all the ordering for me?”
“of course I do, I’ve talked to him for 2 years now.. Did you finally decide to hire him back?!”
“Well, no, you see. He actually killed himself the other day. You see, he was an alcoholic, and after 20 years of work.. I couldn’t do it anymore. I guess he just got tired of paying the bills. He had kids…he was… he was a friend.”
My heart sinks. I don’t know what to say. Memories of our conversations flood my mind. He was a small buyer, Mark, but never demanding, always making jokes with me on the phone. He always seemed like a good old country boy, the kind you’d want to spend Friday nights with. The one you always invited to your birthday party. He was always funny. Negotiating prices with him was always a game; it never was the ugly, hard balling war that some of my other buyers engage in. Would I have ever known that he felt so alone? Did I ever think to ask him what was going on in his life outside of deals?
The day goes on. I hop on Facebook, post a status, and ask my friends to share encouraging news because I’m so discouraged. Because I feel so down about my buyer, Mark. Feelings of guilt rise up in my chest. Why didn’t I ever ask Mark about real life?
The texts, calls, prayers begin rolling in. Each tiny ping notification- a reminder I am loved. That I am not alone. It is lunchtime, and I take a peek at all of them.
34 people. That’s the number of my friends who either called me, sent a funny video, shared a story with me, sent a text, or said a prayer. 34 people who responded to me during a moment of deep sadness. Finally, it’s lunch time so I take a drive and I pray.
God, I don’t know how many Marks are in my life today—who may be right there on the edge of destruction or despair, but God save them.
I feel his presence with me there in my car and I hear him, softly and gently,
“Ah, my girl, this is your work to do. I’ve given you my presence, you have my spirit. Comfort the hurting. Be good news. A lot of my children are lost. And a lot are hurting. This is why I’ve given you the mind and heart of Christ. This is your work too.
I’m thankful for the lunch hour. I listen. I pray and I let God’s wholeness stir my soul. I say prayers for my friends. Prayers for my family. Prayers of intercession for anyone I can think of who may be hurting. Prayers for all 33 who thought to encourage me. Prayers for Mark’s family. Mark’s kids. Mark’s friends.
I end my work day buying flowers to send to a funeral.
After work I head out to Camp highland- my church hosts a weeklong summer camp for the 4th grade – high school students. And I go, sit that evening in their time of worship. We sing all these songs, I’m watching all these kids dancing and praising Jesus, clapping off beat. Thinking about Mark.
We’re singing a new song I’ve never heard,
I’ve got a river of living water A fountain that never will run dry…
Deep cries out to deep cries out to Deep cries out to deep cries out to So we cry out to, we cry out to, You Jesus.
It’s supposed to be a happy song. But this day, for me? Deep sadness has touched my heart today, melancholy settling over my little desk early that morning. Satan’s lies toss me back and forth, “I’m winning. He took his life. I’m taking life everywhere. Was it just last week I took over 100 lives in a club? Take a deep breath and smell that stench? I’m wreaking havoc in your world.” Because when Satan talks, it’s what he always says, “I will be your death. You will be walking along, and suddenly, quickly, I will engulf you. I will cripple you. And you will die.”
Yes, there are days I feel like I’m drowning in sadness, drowning in sin, overwhelmed by the ugly in my life, by all the darkness in the lives of so many I love.
The world is going crazy. Radical people turning violent in the name of religion. Terrorists threatening the sanctity and privilege of human life.
Babies dying of cancer. Venezuelans ransacking grocery stores because their families are starving.
Refugees fleeing, jumping in boats, drowning in the sea due to war.
So we cry out.
So we cry out to Jesus.
“Ah, my girl, my work is to fix this and it’s your work to do too. I’ve given you my presence, you have my spirit. Comfort the hurting. Be good news. A lot of my children are lost. And a lot are hurting.”
Maybe I don’t really have a point today, except that in writing this, I’ve admitted my guilt. I knew a man named Mark who needed someone to speak life into him, and I failed. I didn’t know him all that well, never saw his face, never talked much longer than 10- 15 minutes on the phone.
But my friend gave up. And I never even knew he was hurting.
In my moment of despair, 34 voices sang sweetness over my soul. 34 people who gave wisdom, who voiced joy when I had none in me, who whispered good when all I could see was the evil. and Mark’s loss.
The world is going crazy, but Christian–
You have a work and a ministry given to you by Christ. He left us here to work out what he started. He trooped around in a dusty place for a long time. comforting people. healing people. wiping tears out eyes. spending a lot of mornings in prayer. foregoing suppers to offer up what he had to his friends. to strangers he didn’t know. Jesus had something about him that made crowds come running. Women who were crippled pushed through crowds to touch him. Jesus started this work of piecing back together all the broken pieces. One day, I know, he will complete the puzzle.
Yeah, the world is going Crazy. There are a lot of people who are lost. There are a lot of people who are hurting.
You know a Mark. You are Mark. You feel alone, You feel like you can’t make it, life is too hard, your shame and your sin has become too much, you can’t get over that thing, or out of that addiction.
You’re not alone. You are very much loved and have so much worth. Your life, your presence is needed here in this place. There are people all around you who need you. Need your smile, or your voice, or your hugs. You are deeply loved and cared for, do you know that? It may not feel as if you are needed, but your life is important. your death would be a cause of immense grief and sadness.
34 people came to my aid yesterday. Perhaps only 1 person is needed to change the course of a life. For me, it was 34 people. 34 voices for me to remember the voice of my savior. Share your story with your friends. with people in your circle. with strangers you don’t know. You never know what someone is going through on the other end of that phone.
Make the most of it. Do it for Mark.