So life has deep and difficult hard spots, yeah? And when you stare at the spots long enough you just might convince yourself of the impossibility of success, growth, love, acceptance, understanding, or freedom? The deep ones that act more like the puddles on the path that don’t just contain a little more water than you think, but surprise you by splashing up around your knees because of their depth? The difficult ones that seem longer, wider and look more like an ocean stretching across your once planned grassy horizon? And before you know it your only pair of this earth-worn skin is wearing thinner and thinner against the constant muck and the mire around you, losing it’s toughness and resembling more of your weakness, about to unveil your breaking heart for everyone to see.
Days turn into weeks and weeks to months, and soon it’s turned into years for me and 30+ for my mom, and it seems as the journey gets longer our circle gets smaller. It might’ve been the doctor who said Lyme didn’t exist or the friend who tried to disprove it in their thesis, or even the family members who tell us we’re not worth it for them to accommodate to our health needs, who have caused a different kind of breaking in our hearts. Don’t believe what they say when they talk of weapons or war or heart disease being the number one killer in the world….it’s always been misunderstanding that rattles your whole being way more than a bullet ever will.
But this unfortunate act, we see it everyday right? More hatred for others over beliefs after the election? The breaking of families because of the hurling of insults for the second time this week? The indifference of the fortunate who walk by the less fortunate with a street-side pavement residence in the cold every night? The quick jabs at the girl who won’t hang out with friends because they don’t know what it’s like to lose a mother? The tearing down of the ex-best friend although they really don’t have any idea what your life is like now? Maybe it’s you, or me, getting frustrated at someone else for not responding or behaving in the way we do during the same trial?
Understanding doesn’t come easily, and certainly not when each person goes through their own struggles. But the path to understanding takes a simple, humble response of what is that like for you? It may be impossible to fully understand, but the key difference in the people in our corner is they fought to get there. They defied their own judgments, perceptions and thoughts, and came alongside to sit and listen to the cries, take on the hardships, allow themselves to get muddy and wet while standing with you in your own puddle.
We’ve seen the popular quote far too much, and I’m afraid it’s twisting our thinking: “Don’t cross oceans for someone who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you.” Tell me, if Jesus traveled across land and sea to reach people He knew wouldn’t care for and follow Him, just to show them His love, then why won’t we? Is there really any other way, as Christians, to show His love to others than through the casting aside of our own cares and kneeling with the hurting and the broken? It’s when we learn how to listen and seek to understand when others begin to trust our love and care.
And it’s all seemingly the same, until Thanksgiving approaches and as the day goes on, the questions surface too often, how can I be thankful through this? How the heck do I praise God through this? Between the pain and the brokenness, and the standing in your corner waiting for others to join you there, am I really thankful for this? Drenched in sickness and covered with other’s misunderstanding as thick as mud?
But I guess that’s the thing, that standing in our own corners searching for the others. It gets really dim when you keep looking at what you are without.
Because if you look at what you are without, you will only see what you are without. But if you look at what you are already given, you will see a fortunate soul less deserving of the goods received. The first view dwells on the unfortunate soul that is yourself, the second dwells on the prizes that are the people and life already given to you.
It doesn’t make sense that circles grow smaller as you’re stuck in your battle longer, but maybe that’s not the thing to be focusing on… If I focus on the those God has placed in my circle and have stayed, enduring my storm for the long haul, I can start there with what I do have. Because in a world where something has stolen away several areas of your life, whether the culprit be disease, addiction, loss, abuse, or something else, the only place to keep your gaze is on God’s steady hand, because He doesn’t give and take without a deeper purpose. If we looked at each small gift in our life as an area to build thankfulness around, we can soon build the greater gift of joy; because it’s the practice in the small that leads to the changing of the big.
This fight to joy amidst our hardships proves a much harder task than assumed, after all they wouldn’t call it a fight if it wasn’t. Ann Voskamp knew this battle all too well, and sought out joy by keeping a record of the gifts all around her, soon filling her journal with 1,000 different gifts that produced a thankfulness she hadn’t known before. Because the small practices of thankfulness each day preceded the larger attitude of joy as a lifestyle.
It proves sometimes (too many times) that this battle is too hard, too lonely, too painful, and more often than not days seem to be filled with storming the gates of heaven with persistent prayers.
Maybe as the holiday season continues, you’re the one with the success and the growth and you’ve battled long and hard to get to the good point you are now. This is your year and you feel it as bright as the lights on the tree.
Or maybe you’re the one walking lonely and heavy through the crowded streets, no one noticing the slouch of your shoulders that mirrors the weariness of your heart. And all the while the crowd seems to thicken, there’s an occasional glance, but not one that holds long enough to be a stare, because no one digs deep enough to hear the truth of your story.
The hurting and the lost come in all shapes and forms around us whether we outwardly see it or not, and the scared or the heavily burdened might be sitting next to us at the next family gathering. And each year it’s clearer and clearer that…
The biggest gift you can give this Christmas is sympathy, and understanding bridges gaps far greater than a ribbon wrapped new sweater.
Because Jesus literally took on the pain and brokenness of the world while on the cross, the least we can do is stand in each other’s hard spots, loving and urging the other to keep their gaze above.
Because Christ shows us that love runs deeper and deeper still and His good tidings of comfort and joy? They can be shown through us.