Last summer in the middle of blackberry season, a Syrian friend came over to help us eat pie. My husband phrased the invitation as a cry for help, "We have too much pie and need someone to eat it with us." Our friend came to our assistance and I teased him when he arrived, "If the pie is good, I made it. If it's not, my husband made it." But actually, my husband and I made it together.
When our friend stepped into the kitchen, he saw the pie sitting on the table, with its woven lattice top and blackberry-apple goodness oozing from inside. He said,
"It has been a long time since I have seen a dessert like this."
When I piled vanilla ice cream on top of his slice, he said,
"It makes me happy even to look at this."
When he drank homemade iced green tea, he said,
"My mother always made drinks like this."
Maybe these phrases just sound like those of a mama's boy who is far from home. But when he asked for photos from the day we met on a lovely hike, he said,
"Sometimes when I feel like dying,
I like to look at pictures from happy times."
"Sometimes when I feel like dying..."?
These are the real emotions of a man escaping war.
In the past year, I have heard too many painful stories. Breast cancer, marriage problems, financial crises, a flood of refugees...hurt after hurt. Not to mention the sorrow of our friend who came for pie. His family is still in Syria, in danger, and every day he knows pain like I have never known.
"There is no glue-on patch that we can offer to friends in pain. In fact, what we can do seems so basic."
There is no quick fix or glue-on patch that we can offer to friends in pain. In fact, what we can do seems so basic. We pick berries and make pie and send invitations and light candles and eat together and wipe the table again and and wash dishes. We pray and share hope as we are able. Then we go to bed and another day, we do it all again. Sometimes our efforts seem so simple and small, in the face of huge suffering.
After all, doesn't faith do big things? I grew up on stories of great men and women of faith.
"By faith Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going..."
"By faith Sarah bore a child when she was past the age..."
"By faith Moses refused to be call the son of Pharaoh's daughter..."
"By faith we...made pie?"
One of these things is not like the others.
"By faith we do the small things set before us, asking Him to do the big things."
But it takes faith to believe that God is powerful enough to take earthly elements like flour and shortening mixed with prayer and conversation, and somehow weave them into His eternal plan. It takes faith to believe that He was "acquainted with grief" so that we would not need to be grieved eternally. Isaiah's "Man of Sorrows" went through those sorrows so that He could transform wounded people into whole ones, hurt people into healed ones. "By His stripes we are healed." In this world bowed down with troubles, it takes faith to believe in and to point others to the only One who can bind up their wounds.
By faith we do the small things set before us, asking Him to do the big thing: to take this pie, and use it for the pain.