Side by Side
by Ed Welch
This is above all a practical book, with all the benefits and drawbacks that come along with that.
Ed Welch takes you, his reader, on a step by step journey to deeper relationships with your friends, family and brother and sisters in Christ. The tone, the stories and the advice drips with his experience. Some books are expositions of the author’s blinding insight into a given topic but this one is a simple, distilled introduction to the kind of work that the author seems to have done for many years.
Much of the process he recommends and the focus of his work is consistent with the principles western Christian counselling. Given that this book is a sharing of his life’s work, I don’t think it needs to make any apology for not transcending the context in which that work took place, but readers should be sensitive to how his injunctions should be applied in other contexts.
As for the content, here is some of what struck me from the book:
- Share in the suffering of others: when we walk with others, the goal is neither to fix their situation, nor to restore them to “normal” state of happiness. Welch says that the problem with quoting snippets of scripture to anyone going through a hard time is not that the scripture is wrong, but because we often quote it as a shield to keep the sufferer’s pain away from us.
- Come closer: be near to those who suffer. Come close physically, by spending time with them in times of trouble. Come close relationally, by asking the awkward questions about the hard things they have lived and the sin in their reactions to diversity.
- Practice: he lays out specific questions and lines of discussion, but the gist of it is just to jump in with an open heart. Be compassionate: the pain you might cause by opening your mouth isn’t necessarily any bigger than the pain your silence inflicts.
Bits that I underlined:
“Human beings do best when they take their hardships public to God and at least one other person.” (p 17)
“So we take the initiative and move toward each other. God has moved towards us; we move towards others in his name.” (p 73)
“Okay…I just…wanted to say hello.” (p 80, a gracious way to end a conversation that the other person isn’t interested in)
“when we hear the hardships of those we love, we find them a place in our heart such that we too are not quite the same” (p 102)
“Same something. Do something. Remember. That is the basic idea.” (p 104)