Things have been tough in my life for a month or so. There are people who I know very well who have gotten midnight phone calls from me. There are dear friends who have patiently endured what must seem like endless whining. Family (both biological and “adopted”) that have put aside what they would rather be doing to assist us in countless ways.
There have been times — lots of them– that I have been miserable. And to be truthful, I think if I had the choice, I would trade the last month of my life for an equal time strapped to a dentist’s chair, while all my teeth were drilled away and somebody forgot the novocainne.
This is only half the story. And it’s the much more obvious half. It’s a bit like the refridgerator. The inner contents of the refridgerator spend most of their time in the dark. But whenever we see them, they are bathed in light. This is because the only way to see them is opening the door, and opening the door turns the light on.
It’s just a tiny fraction of time that the inner contents are bathed in light. But it’s quite an important fraction, because it’s when we’re looking food that we see it this way. We don’t actually care what it’s inside our refridgerator when we’re not looking for food.
There have been times that my own inner self has been just lit up. This is where my poor, tortured metaphor falls apart. Because the times I’m lit up is the opposite of the refridgerator. It’s the times when nobody’s looking.
I have the greatest need to reach out when I’m in the most pain. When people pitch in and help out with stuff, there is this natural focus on what they are doing, which is fufilling a need; the natural focus is on what we need, what we are lacking.
I want to affirm something, right now. I want to proclaim this not just for myself, but for so many of us who walk through dark times. There are some amazing people who have been with my family through this time. But I want to cast a wider net than this. Because, reader, if we’ve never met, if you’re somebody who hasn’t helped my specific little family, I bet you’ve helped some body. Maybe you knew it. Maybe it was just that you smiled to somebody who needed a smile or offered grace to an aquintance you hardly knew; maybe you’ll never know what that person was going through, but maybe your actions made all the difference anyway.
I don’t know about you, reader, but I know about me. And if I were to be honest, I’d have to admit that sometimes, when others have gone through these tough times, I struggle with getting involved, and loving on them the way so many people have loved on me. I’m learning that it’s only part laziness. It’s actually some sort of stupid, maybe even Satanic, fear. There is this voice in the back of my brain. It tells me that tragedy is contagious. It tells me that I can catch some one’s pain.
Jesus tells us that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the improsoned, we are clothing him, feeding him, visiting him. I think this is what he is saying, that he is present in those circumstances. And when we run from those circumstances, we are running from him. I suspect if I had the audacity to tell him, “I don’t want to help that person because it will hurt.” He wouldn’t deny that it’ll hurt. I think he’d tell me to suck it up and accept the hurt.
And to the people who have supported me, and to the people who have been there for others what I want to say is that people don’t call at 2 AM to announce that they are doing well. But I hope you all know that there have been many 2 AM’s that I have been. What I want to say is that when acts of kindness have simplified my life for me, the actual act is only a part of it. It is the fact that you were willing to do it, the fact that you reminded me that you were there. This lasts even when the dinner has been eaten, even after the dishes have been washed.
Moreover, please know that I see God in all this sometimes. Sometimes I can feel something like thankfulness for this season in my life. Because when I’m at my best, in the middle of all this suckiness, I see my faith deepened.
God manifests himself in this profound way through your actions. He’s right there with me. It’s partially that I’m reminded of how he provides. But it’s more than that. It’s more than a reminder. It’s metaphysical. It’s that you incarnate him through your actions.
Scripture takes on this whole new dismention. I read near the end of the book of John about how things in this life can be so sad, but in the next life we will rejoice. And I grasp onto this with such a desperation, such an intensity, it brings color to all the pasages of the bible.
Prayer, too, becomes this thing infused with passion, desperation, and intensity. I realize that in better times, my prayers are like a half-hearted conversation I have with my wife during a mediocre television show. My prayers in the darker times, these are like an intense, heart-to-heart where we clear the air, or come to some new understanding.
There are people who say, “Do not pity me.” out of a sense of pride. I have to admit I don’t mind being pitied. But in this case, I say the same thing. “Don’t pity me.”
But I’m not saying this out of pride. I’m saying it because when I’m at my best, I realize that I’m right where I should be. God is working through these circumstances just as he did through Joseph’s, just as he did through Job’s.
But… just for the record, though I’m not looking for your pity, it doesn’t mean I don’t want your sympathy, or your empathy, or your support. You have offered these in abundance. And I’m so thankful for that.