Sharing a burden makes it lighter
by Misti Chancellor
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She stood a moment, listening to the echoes of her voice die away into the blackness of the room. She took a few steps forward and her footsteps sounded loud against the hard floor. “Hello? Is anyone here?” She stopped to listen, anxiously holding her breath, straining to hear a reply. Again, only the dying echo of her own words came back to her through the darkness. Walking slowly and trying to feel her way, she traversed the length of the room and bumped into the cinder block wall on the other end. Where was everyone, and why were the lights turned out?
She felt her way down the length of the wall, looking for a light switch. The bumpiness of cinder blocks gave way to a smooth, cold, damp surface. What?! Wait a minute, that wasn’t right. She stopped and ran her hand over the wall. Had they textured over the cinder blocks? But why would it be damp? She sniffed the air. It had a damp, musty smell… like a cellar. Where was she? Keeping her hand on the wall, she crouched down and touched the floor with her other hand. Yes, it was definitely damp, and… muddy? Wait a minute. Mud… in a cellar? That didn’t seem right. Being careful to keep one hand against the wall, she lifted the other hand near her nose to sniff the grime on her hand. It smelled like damp earth all right. Standing and turning and putting her grimy hand on the wall, she took a few steps back the other direction. Within a few steps, she could hear a difference… this sounded like tile. Again, she carefully trailed her hand down the wall as she stooped down to feel the floor. Yup, definitely tile.
Where was she? Was this a cellar? She leaned against the wall, trying to get her bearings and figure this out. It was so hard to do in the dark! If only she could find a light switch! She had no idea how long she sat there in the darkness, turning the problem over in her mind. All of a sudden, she heard a slight rustle in the darkness. Heart pounding, she held her breath, her eyes straining to see something, anything, through the darkness. She listened intently, but all she heard was silence and her heart pounding in her ears. Closing her eyes against the heavy blackness of the room, she pleaded silently with God to make sense of this crazy situation for her. She couldn’t figure it out.
She jumped. There it was again. The rustling sound reminded her of the sound of denim brushing against denim – like someone who was wearing jeans had shifted positions. Again, she held her breath and listened, but all was quiet. “Hello? Is someone in here?” Her voice echoed quietly back to her. No answer. This silence was making her crazy! She scooted herself against the wall and leaned her head on her drawn-up knees, out of habit tucking her skirt around herself to make herself decent – even though it was pitch black, and there was no one there to see.
Taking a deep breath, she started talking. At least, if she could listen to herself, she wouldn’t go insane. She prayed about problems, for people, and for herself and this odd situation. She talked about things she’d done, hopes, dreams, fears. She worked her way through things that were troubling her mind. She stopped talking when she started to get hoarse, and dropped her head back to her knees. As she sat there in the silence once more, she heard it again. This time it was a little closer – the sound of denim brushing against denim. Goosebumps popped out on her skin and she held her breath. It was quiet again, but she could feel a presence in the room. Her face got hot as she realized that whoever it was had been listening to her voice feelings and thoughts that she wouldn’t normally have shared. In her embarrassment a bit of irrational anger stirred, too. Who was this that would listen to her thoughts and feelings, but wouldn’t respond? As quickly as it flared, it died. Whoever it was wouldn’t listen if she hadn’t been talking. After all, whoever it was that was listening, that person was stuck in the same situation she was, and it was possible that her thoughts had helped.
She wasn’t alone! A tear slid down her cheek at that thought, the first in a torrent of silent tears. She hadn’t even realized she was holding them in. Tears spent, she wiped her eyes with her shirt sleeve, and leaned back against the wall, stretching her feet out in front of her. A song came to mind, and she sang it … shakily, quietly at first, but gaining strength and volume as she went on. Song after song came, and she sang until her voice gave out on her. Wearily, she leaned her head back against the wall, tired, but her spirits a little higher than before. Songs always did that for her – particularly those with encouraging words. She sighed.
A whisper came through the darkness, “Thank you.” It was a man’s voice. She started, but whispered back, “You’re welcome.” Then, it was silent again. She could hear him shifting positions in the darkness. The man wasn’t very responsive, but at least he was there, and listening. Although he sat across the room and was getting a slightly different angle of the situation, he was experiencing it, too. It was comforting to know that even though she couldn’t see the one who shared her odd situation, she wasn’t alone in it. She didn’t know how the situation would end, or why things were as they were, but she knew that God had put someone there to share the trial, and she was thankful. Who knew but what there were others sitting there in the darkness that she could share encouragement, help and comfort with?
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