By Danelle Pinnock

My family and I live in Jamaica. It is popularly known as the “land of wood and water” and I would dare to add, “great heat.” During the summer months the average temperature can be anywhere between the low 70s F (about 22°C) and the high 80s F (about 31°C). In fact, in June of 2019, Jamaica recorded its highest temperature ever, hitting 102°F (39.1°C).

One summer day, earlier this year I was out and about with my 12-year-old son. It was around 11am. The day was extremely hot and we had parked the car quite a distance from the building we were going to.

I have been living with lupus since 2012. This autoimmune disease can affect any system in the body, so persons with lupus often experience great pain whilst doing day to day activities. For the past five years, due to varying intensities of joint pain, I have often used walking aids to get around. Some days I can walk fine on my own with a slight limp. Some days I need my cane. On more pain-filled days, I fully rely on my walker. On this particular day, I was using my walker and higher pain levels made my gait much slower than normal for me, and certainly much slower than the average person.

As we made our way from the car to the front door, my son commented on how unbelievably hot it was. He ran quickly towards the building in an attempt to hurry out of the direct heat of the sun, into the shade. He had covered quite a distance when I observed him pause, look back at me and then turn to come back and walk beside me. This happened a couple of times before I eventually got to the building. His pace took him further than mine, but he backtracked to walk alongside me.

I was very touched by his thoughtfulness. The sun was disgustingly hot and he could have arrived at the building and been sitting in the shade for quite some time but he chose to come back and walk with me. As I reached for the door handle, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “journeying together.”

This is how God has called us to live. Journeying together is not just about two or more persons experiencing similar things at the same time and coming together for support. Whilst it is that, journeying together also calls for those of us who are moving at a more advanced pace to backtrack, oftentimes at our own inconvenience, and match the steps of those behind us.

My son wasn’t able to decrease my exposure to the sun that day, nor did he increase my ability to move any faster, but having him beside me really meant a lot. He greatly encouraged me as I continued to push through and make my way.

Many times, the comfort and assistance we provide to each other is nothing more than our willingness to simply be present in the trenches with them. Sometimes we can stand on the side to pull people up and out. At other times, we do have “the fix.” There will be moments however when there is nothing we can do about their current state and so we just be… be present, be willing, be with them.

To be will also mean experiencing what they cannot escape from, even when we have other options. Whether it’s no food, no freedom, no social gatherings, no utilities, no personal space, we face the same conditions they are facing right along with them and just be.

The Bible tells us in John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This does not apply only to offering to breathe our last breath for a loved one. It also speaks to sacrificial acts of love that bring inconvenience and discomfort right to our doorstep.

So many times, an experience, ordeal or even a moment can feel never-ending simply because you are going through it alone. Journeying together makes a huge difference. I’ve heard the term “along-sider” used before in reference to discipleship and mentorship, but I think it is a great label for what I’m describing.

If you need someone to be your along-sider, pray about it. If not, then pray to BE that for someone else.

Danelle Pinnock is a Christian, Jamaican, wife, mother and chemistry degree-holder who over the last decade has added survivor and international writer and speaker to her personal adjectives as God has used her journey with sickness to open up several doors.