I see you.
You see through a different lens.
Seeing what we do not see.
Seeing what we cannot see.
Like so many who carry daily physical or emotional pain, you, too, are in the shadows, quietly doing the next thing.
We are not attracted to someone carrying something we do not understand. In fact, it can be repulsive for some.
People look the other way.
People run the other way.
If not outwardly, inside.
They are afraid.
They do not wish to see the dark side of life. The side that says all is broken amidst the beauty and when they turn the corner something might break in their life, too.
Yet, you know the scenery on your journey is not all barren as some would think.
God whispers in your ear and tells you secrets the rest of us do not hear.
It’s not the weight you carry
but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it
when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.*
We cannot know, but we can listen.
We can learn.
We can ask, what is it you see?
We can ask, what is it you hear?
Tell me, so I can help you carry.
Tell me, so I can be as thankful and hopeful and joyful as you.
*”Heavy” by Mary Oliver
Just a quick note that I have upgraded to remove the ads here.
Hope it makes it less distracting!
Maybe you’re a Christian.
Maybe you’re not.
If you are the latter, I hope you can glean something from this writing today.
Western world thinking is not the same as Eastern world thinking.
I think being a Christian in America may have some ideas that need adjustment. That’s because I am a Christian in America and I am aware of my ongoing need!
We are a very productive, goal-oriented society. Input – output. Do this, get that.
So when things do not go as planned or what you worked hard for, well, some of us fall apart. It shows up with anger, frustration, self-pity, and/or depression.
Consider this excerpt from an article taken from the NY Times:
Western culture … conditions people to think of themselves as highly independent entities. And when looking at scenes, Westerners tend to focus on central objects more than on their surroundings.
I came to terms with this some time ago. Over the course of 30 years, my perfectionist and ambitious temperament latched on to the scriptures that talked about doing. Prayer, commitment, service, dedication, and did I mention prayer?
You can imagine when things did not go well after I worked so hard at covering all the bases. Especially when pro-active faith is front and center in your church experience.
Our strengths can be our weaknesses. I am motivated, detailed oriented, and a perfectionist. I thought this was a good thing and they are certainly qualities conducive to good character as outlined in the Bible.
But those things eventually became weaknesses when anything got out of my control. Gradually, as I learned to acknowledge and trust God with each situation, I became less and less irritated.
Hmm. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t. It’s a huge struggle. But it’s worth it in the end.
Because God is not an American, he doesn’t only teach us through a central object but through our surroundings (see above quote).
Long ago, I was introduced to a few books written by Watchman Nee, a Chinese church leader and teacher during the 20th century.
I was also introduced to not thinking like an American.
Nee saw through a different lens. He saw God working from the inside out through using our every day experiences to shape us and really, to free us from our strengths becoming our weaknesses.
Americans are geared for learning from the outside in. Give me a book. Give me a list. Give me a class. Attend a conference. Then apply (or not).
There is nothing wrong with this. Yet, at best, it doesn’t always last.
When God does something in us, it lasts. Even if we forget and fall back, he reminds us, and builds upon what he began in us.
There’s the small irritations like the time I planted tulips and they didn’t come up.
Then there’s the really big things like divorce, a child’s death, or a serious illness.
Big or small, God wants us to have peace, joy, contentment, strength, and so much more – no matter what we are going through. When we accept our situations instead of resisting with anger, frustration or self-pity, we are allowing God to work within us.
I know the situations and people in my life I had to forgive. Some of them have been deeply difficult.
There is no one-size-fits-all. Because once you point the way to someone, there is always a yes, but you don’t know what I’ve been through.
You’re right. I don’t. But God does.
I am so sure of God and his promises, there is nothing anyone can go through that cannot be forgiven.
Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. There is some real struggling in our emotions and that is okay.
Forgiveness is a choice. The feelings fall into place.
It’s like a wound that has to be cleaned before it will heal. We all know what that feels like. It’s uncomfortable but we grimace and trust the process.
Trust has to be part of forgiveness. Just like there is only one way to clean a wound so it will not get infected, there is only one way to trust when you forgive. Self-help books, positive thinking, and anything else that promises good energy are temporary.
When we put our complete trust in what God says we will stop replaying the injustice in our mind.
He wants us our minds to be at peace no matter what is happening around us. The only way is to know there are situations way beyond our control or understanding. We can either throw our hands up in defeat or we can lift them to God for help.
It doesn’t stop there. God created us to see beyond today. When you know all that God tells us about eternity, we are comforted knowing there is more. A day when he promises to wipe away every tear; no more sorrow or death.
There is so much I do not understand. I’ve asked all the whys.
But there is much I do understand. Life can be painful and God gives us a way to live with it.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
We’ve all heard how important it is to forgive.
I think there is only one way to be able to do it.
We have to acknowledge the things we’ve done wrong.
It’s part of our human nature to justify, blame, or excuse why we did or didn’t do this or that. We’re also good at thinking the things we’ve done wrong were not as bad as …
And we’re also good at thinking we would never do …
We’re good at fooling ourselves. We don’t fool God.
God knows exactly how we are made – how we think, how we feel, why we do what we do.
Have you ever really stopped to think about your motives? That’s the part of us God calls our heart. And here are some things he says about it:
These are just a few scriptures establishing the truth that we all have intentions and motives which come from what God calls, the heart. The innermost part of us; our conscience.
We have an ability to dismiss what is the right thing and eventually, our intentions and motives seem justified. We can deceive ourselves. This is what God calls a hardened heart.
Just like hard soil resists rain, our heart can resist what is good, right, and true.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman who, along with her family, hid Jews during the Holocaust. An informant reported them and they were arrested by German soldiers and put in a concentration camp. Her father and sister died there but for reasons unknown, Corrie was released.
Years later, she was speaking at a church in Munich when she recognized a man who had been a guard at the concentration camp where her father and sister died. The man made his way forward to speak with Corrie.
“I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–’will you forgive me?’
And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.
Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. (http://www.guideposts.org)
The Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts in terms of measuring up in order to satisfy an angry God or get to Heaven. God’s intention is to light our path. To help us – not hurt us.
God says, do this not this and you will be a lot better off.
If you don’t see yourself as that bad of a person (pride), forgiveness may come hard for you.
If you will see your whole human condition (humility), born with a bent toward sin, you will know you cannot fix it yourself. You will turn to the only one who can fix it.
In understanding your need for forgiveness, you will have compassion for others who need the same.
Next: forgiveness pt 2
It’s not the weight you carry but how you carry it.
There is a way to carry grief.
Once you get knocked over by it, once you finally stand up, you look ahead to the years without that one you loved so very much, and wonder how you will live without them.
When I watched the days my father slipped away from this life, try as he may, conscious of wanting to live for family and friends, he could not.
Grief is like that. You can’t live for others. As much as you love them, your heart is torn in two. Particularly, the pain of losing a child is like no other. It is so very deep, it doesn’t help to hear you have to live for your other children. You want to. But your broken heart consumes your mind.
I think grieving is very close to dying.
The dying slowly drift away until there is a sudden wakefulness when the mind says to live. Then dying takes over once again.
But grieving is not dying, even though it feels just like that. And how we feel is not always indicative of what is absolutely true.
God gives us the ability to carry the weight of pain and suffering. Our willingness to let him is our part.
There will be a day, an hour, when you feel a gentle nudging. You will probably brush it away. Allowing ourselves to feel the pain makes us fight. And that fighting keeps us going.
Yet, God gently nudges us again until eventually, we are brought face to face with a choice: how we will carry the weight of pain and suffering.
When we stay in a fighting position, whether passively or aggressively, we become used to coping this way. It feels like an intrusion when truth gently brushes our deeply painful heart. And if we’re honest, we know exactly where that truth is coming from. For some of us, whether we realize it or not, we may be angry with God, the truth giver, for not explaining why he allowed this. Why he saves some from accidents, sickness, and death – and didn’t save mine.
When the worst day of my life came to my doorstep, I felt like I was drowning. I could not think of anyone else if I wanted to. The physical pain was so intense, so overwhelming, I wanted to die.
I am thankful for those early days of friendship and love. But then everyone goes home and life goes on.
Here is when the seeds of anger, resentment, bitterness, depression, and so much more can settle into a vulnerable, broken heart.
And at the right time, God nudges.
Joy and sorrow dwell together in this world. We are not victims of sorrow because God made a way to carry it. Not only that, but we have hope in his promises of eternity.
The Bible tells us to trust the Lord with all our heart and not to not rely on our human understanding. When we acknowledge him, he guides and directs us.
I chose to do that even though what I was feeling was nowhere near trusting God.
This is how we carry the weight – no matter what it is.
We can see God as an unfair, confusing, unpredictable entity who allows pain and suffering and is not to be trusted or believed in for that matter.
Or we can choose to see God as one who is ready to comfort, guide, and show us how to carry the weight through the pain and suffering in life, even when we don’t understand why it exists.
It’s okay to limp through life. I don’t believe for one second the mindset of some Christian streams of thinking/teaching/preaching who claim otherwise. I cannot look at photos of my son. I cannot listen to certain songs. I avoid stories of when he was here. I avoid places that make it worse. I avoid people who make it worse.
I live life differently and I have been absolutely amazed how God has let me know how close he is to me. Some little ways and some big ways. Thing is, no one can take that away from me. It is so personal to me, I can’t help but feel loved.
I hope you will respond to the nudges to your heart of trusting in a God who knows you don’t understand, but will help you in ways you won’t believe.