It’s a good day when you get to share words of wisdom and encouragement from one of your very favorite people—and today is one of those days. The article below, written by Holley Gerth, was originally part of her (fantastic) book Fiercehearted. It didn’t end up in the final manuscript, so consider this a “never before seen” moment. Hopefully it arrives just on time, years later, for someone? May we show up, may we sit with in waiting rooms, may we wrestle well and love well. May we stay through both highs and lows.💛
How much more fiercely and purely He fights for my rescue; how bravely He runs to find His sheep; how completely His love and His death on the cross have transformed my suffering into hope. This is a God who loves me with a love that I can’t even fathom. – Edie Wadsworth
A friend and I tentatively knock on the propped-open hotel door and call her name. When we walk in we find her curled up on the bed in pain. We look at each other with alarm—this is so much worse than we thought.
Moments ago we’d been in a group of about a hundred women. It was to be an evening of encouragement, dessert and delighting in each other as well as Jesus. But in the middle of that scene a few of us had gathered around a phone to read messages from another friend back at the hotel who’d not been feeling up to come. She said she was feeling worse but insisted she’d be fine. Finally two of us decided “enough is enough.” After the first speaker panel, of which we were part, we’d slipped out the back door.
After asking a few questions we convinced our sick friend to come with us to Urgent Care. She couldn’t even stand and leaned against the wall pale-faced and doubled-over. We exchanged worried words and guided her as gently as we could to the waiting car. One of the attendees at the event had generously agreed to be our driver and I gave her a grateful smile.
Urgent Care called our friend back quickly and then soon after a doctor reappeared in the waiting room. “Your friend is in so much pain that I don’t think she can process what I’m going to say. Will you please come back to the room with me?” We listened as she explained how the clinic couldn’t do what was needed to determine what was wrong. She tossed our possibilities like “appendicitis and diverticulitis.” We responded that we were all far from home on a trip. “Get to the Emergency Room,” she said.
When we showed up the waiting area was crowded with people. Nurses ran tests and then we sat in the middle of the chaos. I texted updates to the group and they prayed. The lines of pain in my friend’s face slowly began to ease, her color returned and she sat up straighter. Her name got called again and in a few minutes she returned with the diagnosis: a kidney stone. While painful, she would be fine and she chose to leave the hospital jungle to try to catch an early flight home.
I wish I could say this was my first time to visit Urgent Care or the Emergency Room on such a retreat. But I have been there twice before—only I was the patient. I have a shellfish allergy and got cross-contamination. With stomach wrenching, throat swelling and panic coursing through my body, friends brought me from beach houses and hotels to places like this too.
At the event earlier in the evening we each had to answer a question. Mine was, “How has your friendship with God influenced your friendship with others?” I’d thought about it for days in preparation but couldn’t land on an answer until right before the microphone touched my fingers. I said, “My friendship with God has taught me I can show up as I am. He’s seen me ugly cry. He’s seen me angry and frustrated. He’s seen me joyful and praising.” I told them this had given me courage to show up with actual people too and how this was the invitation we were extending to each of them that night.
I thought of this answer as we stood in the doorway of our friend’s room not long after. I realized then my answer had been incomplete. Showing up is not only about coming as I’d said; it’s also about going. It’s about choosing to be where you’re needed and doing what it takes even when that means walking away from another place that might be easier or more fun. I think this is part of what Jesus meant when He talked about the shepherd who’s willing to leave the ninety-nine sheep for the one who needs rescuing. And I’m certain it’s entwined in what He meant when He told us to love our neighbors.
I’ve wrestled with the concept of “love your neighbor” a lot lately. In today’s world where we are all so connected, it seems that the entire world is my neighbor. There is a beauty and hope in this but it’s also completely overwhelming. It seems when I try to love everyone I succeed in loving no one. At least not very well.
I also noticed, to my surprise, that when someone asks Jesus what matters most He says to love God first and then, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). What’s startling about this is that Jesus didn’t say, “Love the whole world.” I think, in a general sense, we are to do so. But when we think of love as an action rather than an emotion, it makes sense that Jesus gives us a way to focus. This means it’s important to understand who our neighbor is.
It seems this was a question others have wrestled with as well. Because right after Jesus said we’re to love our neighbors someone asked, “Well, then, who’s my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus told the story we know as the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man is attacked as he travels along a road. A priest passes by, a temple assistant does the same and only a Samaritan—an outsider and misfit—stops to help. Jesus reveals that being a neighbor isn’t about proximity; it’s about action. I don’t think this means we are to do everything for everyone. That’s impossible, destructive and a whole different conversation. But I do think it means asking each day, “God, who are You putting in my path today and what do You want me to do for them?”
When I got up this morning the news in the living room shared of yet another tragedy. I sat on the couch and shook my head. I felt entirely helpless. Then what my Daddy prays over me each day came back to me again. “Holley, every day I pray your words will touch the women who will touch their families who will touch their communities who will touch the world.” I realized then the best thing I could do for that tragedy far away was to be faithful in my everyday, ordinary life today. I could put my fingers to the keyboard right in front of me and add more light to the world. I could love my family and friends as well as others God puts in front of me. I could leave a party to go after a friend in pain to make sure she gets the help she needs. And I could do all this remembering sometimes I will be the one bleeding on the side of the road.
I think we fear that thinking this way and focusing on “loving our neighbor” will somehow make us neglect the wider world. But I’m coming to see the opposite is true. I think instead it will empower each of us to actually do what we can do. In God’s mysterious, ripple-effect way, perhaps the only hope of reaching truly far is to start near, right now and right here.
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I wrote this review in 2017 after reading Fiercehearted for the first time. I’ve since re-read it five (six?) more times.
Hands down, this is Holley’s best book yet. (That’s saying a lot, since she’s written over a dozen books and is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author.) With vulnerability and honesty, Holley invites readers to join her as she learns what it looks like to live fully and love bravely. This is not a “how to” book; this is a “me too” book. I’ll be reading this one several times, that’s for sure. If anything at all about the book description resonates with you (how could it not?), I highly recommend reading Fiercehearted. It’s a five star read.
Last Fall, before launching All The Things, I asked “Who are some of your favorite authors?” and “Who would you love to hear from or chat with (authors, artists, etc)?” A few names showed up again and again. One of those? Holley Gerth.
Well friends, ask and you shall receive. :) Also: You aren’t wrong. Not one bit. Holley is an incredible writer and bestselling author with two dozen books to her name—but more than that, she’s one of the very best humans I know.
I’ve had the delight and honor of serving as Holley’s assistant for nearly a decade now, and I know you’ll be so encouraged from the All The Things Zoom call. We’ll chat about Fiercehearted and they’ll be plenty of time for Q&A, so bring your questions! (P.s. Too good not to share: It looks like Fiercehearted is part of a sale and is all of 3 American dollars. What in the actual world.)
Wait hold on… real quick, what is All The Things?
Think of Good Things as an umbrella with blog posts, Thursday Things, and All The Things underneath.
If you’re subscribed, you’ll receive blog posts + Thursday Things right in your email inbox (totally free). But if you want all the extras, there’s a paid portion with a lot more of the good stuff—surprise gifts in the mail, giveaways, access to a private All The Things Instagram account, digital prints and lock screens, private Zoom calls with authors and friends, and first-word news about writing/life updates.
Joining ATT is one of the most impactful ways to support my writing, and I’m truly so very thankful. Also: It’s a fabulous group of people. We’d love to have you there! Our call with Holley is in two weeks, but if you’re seeing this after the fact, you can access the replay within the private All The Things portion of the site.
This article is written by Holley Gerth. Holley is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, licensed counselor, and life coach. She imagines a world where we all become who we’re created to be, use our strengths to serve, and grow for a lifetime. Holley cofounded the groundbreaking blogging community (in)courage and cohosts the popular podcast More Than Small Talk. Find additional resources and connect with Holley at holleygerth.com.