Um, This Would Be Fascinating If It Wasn’t…You Know…Me

A year and a half ago, our lives changed forever.  In the morning, we suspected Jeff had an ulcer.  By the evening, he was in emergency surgery to remove a blockage in his colon.  It was cancerous.  When it was over, I was talking with his surgeon in one of the little rooms off to the side of the waiting room.  It was then, she asked me a question.

“Are you squeamish?”

Because, looking back, I was clearly in denial…and because I had no experience yet in what exactly a surgeon might possibly mean by this… I told her I was a former biology teacher who had done numerous dissections.  I had a pretty strong stomach.  So when she asked if I wanted to see a picture of Jeff’s intestines,  I said in that enthusiastically optimistic way Davises do, “Sure, I’ll take a look.”

I am not a TMI writer and I don’t want to gross anyone out but…his guts were so sick…so inflamed and infected that it looked like balloon animals were exploding out of his abdominal cavity.  I could go on with the description, but… sit with that image a minute.

And in one of those moments of unintentional clarity, I blurted out words that have stuck with me ever since.  I said, “Um, this would be so fascinating if it wasn’t…you know… my husband.”  And then, as my intellect collided with my heart and life, the gravity of it all began to sink in.  Emotion began to rise and my stomach started moving in that way that let me know it was time to look away.

Who knew… I actually was squeamish.

A season of life has passed and now I am in graduate school studying marriage and family therapy.  I am on my way to becoming a counselor who, hopefully, will walk with people when their insides are hurting and need attention…or when they are in metaphorical waiting rooms of their own, wondering just what the hell happened to their world…

My days are often spent learning about the many ways people and families can be wounded and broken.   I love what I am studying and could read and discuss it till the cows come home.  For the most part, I can’t wait to get out there and enter the world of helping. (Did I mention I can be enthusiastically optimistic?)

Sometimes, I find myself flashing back to my waiting room moment…where the consequences of something  on a piece of paper became very personal to me.

I see all the more clearly now that these things I am learning about…Dysfunction.  Shame.  Fear.  Loneliness.  Grief.  Unhealthy boundaries.  Anger. Emotional woundedness.  Trauma.  Painful memories.  These topics aren’t just ideas in books.  They are real things that happen in people’s lives.  And not just to others, but to me.  These are the things that, if I were to make the right incision, just might pop like balloon animals out of me too.  I am more fully awakening to the realization that I am living what I am studying.  I always have been.  And in these moments when I glimpse the reality of the spiritual cancer that lies inside of me, inside of all of us, these words are echoing through my heart, “Um, this would be fascinating if it wasn’t…you know…me.”

Coming face to face with the depth and significance of one’s (read “my”) mess can be a weighty experience.  Coming face to face with Jesus, not just on the pages of a book, but as a Person who is with me…in the middle of all the emotion and pain…it is fascinating and horrifying… and so absolutely fittingly beautiful.

While the messiness of it all sometimes scares me, it seems to energize Him.  Thank goodness.

Hopefully, a counselor who knows Jesus as Healer for herself, is a better travel companion for one who is hurting, than someone who has just read about the process and the Savior in a book.   Hopefully, I am on the path to becoming both book smart AND experienced.  That waiting room a year and a half ago was an important stop along the way.

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“Make It Small.”

There is this scene in the movie Man Of Steel that deeply moves me.  It is where a young Clark Kent is in school and his powers of x-ray vision and super hearing are coming in.  He sees through people to their skeletons and hearts.  He not only hears what he is supposed to hear, but the things people whisper, that they meant to keep hidden.  And the sheer volume of it all is overwhelming to him.

I’m finding that there are people out there who have something of these abilities too.   It is like they have a spiritual/emotional type of x-ray vision and super hearing.  They see and hear pain in others.  They are aware that there are deeper layers underneath almost everything we say and do, and they are tuned into this spiritual/emotional wavelength.  It plays under the actual words of most conversations.  It reveals itself in body language.  It can hide in subtle facial expressions that are gone almost as quickly as they appear.  It is cloaked in what isn’t said, in pauses, in deep breaths and in misty eyes that glance away.  And they notice what others often miss.  These are the people who pay attention to others in a way that isn’t always common.

I think Jesus was speaking about these “tuned-in” people when He said in Matthew 13:16, ” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”  Because people whose ears are acutely tuned into and aware of the pain of others, are often acutely tuned in to the voice of God as well.  They understand that He is ever-present, always working, constantly speaking and deeply invested in our goings-on.  They know how to look for Him and His handiwork in both their and in other’s lives.  They know how to listen for His voice and leading, both in their and in other’s lives.  They recognize that pain is often a door He walks through on His way into someone’s heart.

And in response, they are willing to step up and enter in and help.

I am also finding that this ability and heart posture, while a blessing, can be weight to carry as well.

It is a wonderful thing, to know your life has more meaning than just self-gratification, consumption and the pursuit of fun.  It is a gift to be a helper – and to know people and situations are better after your participation than before.

And it can be absolutely exhausting at the same time.  How is it possible to see just how dark the world can be… to know that most every person you encounter is managing some level of pain… to hear words in conversation that point to brokenness… to want to change, if not the world, then at least your corner of it…and not be overwhelmed by it all?

In his pain with seeing and hearing too much, Clark’s mom came to his side and taught him a most valuable skill.  When he, through tears said, “The world is too big, mom,’ she replied, “Then make it small.”  She helped him learn to focus.

The way our world works, sometimes it is too big.   With technology,  we are connected to too many people and their stories.  We have too much access to news, to statistics, to pictures.  The level of pain we are able to witness and touch – we were never meant to carry all this.   Not that we should run away and hide from the world we live in.  I am convinced that followers of Jesus should be more aware than most of what is going on in the world, let our hearts be broken by it and moved into action to bring the redemption of Jesus’ kingdom into people’s lives.

But we must learn to how to focus…on what we can carry…on what we should carry…on what is closest to us and where we should invest our emotional and spiritual capital.    Because if we don’t, we can get overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of a burden we were not designed for and never meant to hold.  Therefore, I am attempting to learn the spiritual practices of making my world a little smaller.  Not because I don’t want to engage the world – but because I so desperately WANT TO engage the world.  I’ve got to find a way to do it…and be able to survive at the same time. 

These include:

Limits on my use of technology …so that I don’t give away to others, the emotional energy that belongs to those in my immediate circle of affection and influence…so that I don’t allow the volume of information coming in to overwhelm me to the point of numbing.  Too much online time acts like spiritual Novocaine for me.  While not isolating myself, making sure that those with the most intimate access to me and my heart are healthy – so that my personal time is restful and not draining.  The embrace of regular silence and solitude.  Sometimes for long periods of time.   Allowing my heart to rest and recover…allowing me to assess where damage has been done…allowing Jesus to have full access to my heart so He can grow and strengthen it to hold some of the darkness I encounter.  Learning that some days, it is totally ok to turn my eyes and ears off and just focus on what is in front of me – like play time with my kids, a good meal or enjoying a walk in the gentle spring sunshine.  Learning that I don’t have to be super-serious and intense all the time.  Play is ok.  Small talk is ok.  Realizing that, while Jesus has called me to be aware, involved and compassionate, He has also called me to be human.

Learning to make things small, while not running away from big…I’m pretty sure these are skills of those who are able to live sustainable and beautiful lives, with healthy rhythms of both engagement and rest.   Lives not just of vision, but of focus.  Lives that are able to change their corner of the world…sometimes much more than that…and thrive in such away that they can then teach others to do the same.

Matthew 13:15 -16  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

Learning To Trust My GPS – And Jesus Too

I did something today I have never done before.  I trusted my GPS.  I turned it on, listened to its guidance, and followed its directions.  I didn’t double-check it before leaving on my trip.  I didn’t argue with it as I drove. google map app I didn’t constantly verify that it, and I, were on the correct path.   I didn’t worry about two or three turns ahead.  I just listened for the next one and took it as it came.

I trusted and followed… and got where I needed to go.  And it was so refreshing to be able to relax along the way and enjoy the journey I was on.

Oh, I’ve used my GPS countless times in the past and find it very helpful in getting from one place to another.  I am not a Luddite or helplessly old school.  But I’m afraid I am THAT person.  You know THAT person.  Me and my GPS have a much more complicated relationship than we should.  I talk to her. I frequently question that she knows what she is doing.  Because I am never really sure she’ll be able to get me to where I need to go safely and in a timely manner. Because I kind of like to make my own plans.  Because, while I’m not a control freak…let’s just say I often prefer to reduce the number of people and things I am dependent on.  Therefore, I tend to do my route planning ahead of time so that, even though I take her with me everywhere, I don’t actually need her.  Even though getting me from point A to point B is her job.  Even though trusting her would make my life so much easier.

Today, Jesus let me know this is how I treat Him sometimes.  Sigh.

Years ago I told Him that I would let Him lead…and that I would follow.  In fact, we’ve spent years together, with me learning to hear and listen to His voice.  With me learning to trust that He is more than capable of handling the details of my heart and life.  With me learning to believe that He really, really loves me and wants the best for me…that He knows exactly where we are going and how to get there…and that He is very willing and able to take care of me along the way.

Yet there are so many times I try to orchestrate my life, my spiritual life even, so that I don’t really need Him.  So that functionally, He isn’t leading, but just accompanying me as I do my best to manage it all on my own.

And I realized how very tired that has been making me.  Basically, I’ve been trying to do my job and His at the same time.  And trying to do His job is like…well…it’s like trying to be God when you are not.  Those shoes are too big for anyone to fill.  It is not only exhausting, it is a recipe for getting so very lost along the way.

Again…sigh.

While not a perfect metaphor, (of course there are times we should look ahead, be aware of our location, make plans, etc) this day, my traveling experience was a gift.  It showed me something of my heart and practices – and invited me to do things differently.  It showed me that if I am willing to trust Him, to listen, to not over think His words and Word, I can learn to relax along the way and enjoy the journey I’m on.

John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – Jesus