Life is tough.  It’s an inevitable conclusion that we all draw.  We’re fallen beings in a fallen world, and whether by our own error, the error of others, or by the happenstances of the (sometimes cruel) natural world, we collect wounds as we go through life.  That’s the truth.  We’re all wounded.

Now, for many of us, this statement of fact leaves a nasty taste in our mouths.  We see our wounds only as marks of shame and weakness; one of the many ways in which we just don’t measure up.  We hide them, ignore them, deny them–trying desperately to mend the tears in our hearts before anyone notices that they’re there.  There are a couple of different motivations that may account for this behavior.  First, if anyone ever put two and two together and realized that we weren’t perfect, or really even all that close to perfect, we might have to sacrifice a portion of our precious pride.  We might have to admit to needing help, to being–horror upon horrors in the increasingly individualistic culture in which we find ourselves–dependent on someone else.  Secondly, the reality of our wounds brings out an ugly fear; an insecurity that lurks in the back of our mind, threatening to push us into isolation forever.  We look at ourselves, seeing the tattered conditions of our hearts–the way we’ve misused them, the way they’ve been thrown about by others–and a cold feeling starts to inch its way over our entire being.  We look at our dismal state and think, “If anyone ever knew what I was really like, could they really love me?  If anyone saw my weakness, my brokenness, my inadequacy, would they still want me?”  The answer to these questions lies at the foot of the Cross.

One of the remarkable things about Christianity is that we worship a God who is not only aware of our pain, but has experienced it firsthand.  If you find yourself abandoned, know that Christ was abandoned, too.  If you find yourself rejected, know that Christ was rejected, too. If you find yourself misunderstood, mocked, tired, suffering from weaknesses of the body, know that Christ met these obstacles, too.  In choosing to redeem us through suffering, God has redeemed all suffering with us.  Suffering now can be a bridge through which we reach the divine, rather than a weight that crushes us.  As always, though, God grants us a choice; you can view your suffering as an immovable obstacle that will be your undoing (and consequentially make it so), or you can choose to view it like this: if, through my suffering, I am able to gain even a fraction of a percent of a tiny bit of an understanding of the what my Love endured for me on the Cross, then it has all been worth it; every tear, every outcry, every wound.  It is through our wounds that we can grow closer to our Lord and learn to love more perfectly.  It has taken me a very long time to learn this attitude, and I have by no means mastered it, but I have come to be grateful for my wounds, because it is through these holes in my heart that God has allowed His grace to pour into my life.

Your suffering has meaning.  It is not a disqualifier that estranges you from love, but rather, the channel through which love can enter your life.  There will come moments when the darkness creeps in, when you begin to ask yourself, “Who would ever want someone as broken as me?”  In these moments, Christ calls down to us from the crucifix, clearly and without hesitation, “I do!”


Mercy, Patience, and Realizing It’s Not About You

When someone is drowning, you have to save them; simply because you can swim and they cannot.  Make no mistake, though; it will not be an easy task.  When someone is drowning, and you swim out to help them, they will probably flail around and take a few swings at you.  They may even attempt to drag you down into the water with them.  You’ll feel such a rush of relief, though, if you allow yourself to realize that it’s not you that they’re fighting.  It’s the water.

Sometimes, in life, we come across people who are drowning–in grief, anger, bitterness, fear, you name it–and when we reach out to help them, they lash out.  It’s difficult, but we have to remember: it is not us that they are lashing out at.  It’s whatever they’re drowning in.

When someone is drowning, you have to save them; simply because you can swim and they cannot.


Just Doing Our Best

I’m a pretty bad driver.  I’m not terrible, but I definitely drive way too slowly most of the time, and I have a tendency to get distracted easily.  I’m prone to second-guessing myself when I get behind the wheel, a trait that often frustrates both my passengers and those trying to navigate their way past me in traffic.  Driving through any city larger than my fairly small hometown (population: 4000) sends me into a frenzied panic, and I have little to no sense of direction.

Despite my obvious deficiencies on the road, I often find myself embarrassingly outraged at other drivers if they dare to cause me minor inconvenience while I make my way haphazardly from point A to point B.  On the rare occasion that I find myself abandoning my typical, grandmother-like pace for the sake of punctuality, I am shocked to find that cars in front of me don’t move with the same sense of urgency.  I’ve often found myself surprised by others’ subpar knowledge of basic traffic laws, temporarily forgetting that I’ve often confessed there are several I could use a refresher course on.

One day, as another driver made a minor mistake and brought their car dangerously close to mine, I felt the familiar bubble of rage rising up inside of me before I had a moment of clarity.  For all I knew, this person was exactly like me; young, inexperienced, stressed out, and just doing their best.  I have always made it a point to try (not always successfully) to empathize with those around me and understand their behaviors, but somehow I had never carried this philosophy with me into the car.  Even though I was well-aware that when I drive, I am overtaken by anxiety and an acute awareness of my own incompetence, I had always imagined that everyone else on the road had it together; that they knew what they were doing, and if they did something that seemed reckless and made me feel unsafe, they did it knowingly and purposefully.  Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that the people I had been so frustrated with while driving might very well feel the same way I did.  I resolved to be more patient with my fellow drivers in the future, and later, as I pondered this epiphany further, I realized that it had implications that reached far beyond the open road.

Maybe that’s just all of life.  Maybe we’re all scared, still figuring things out, and often just doing our best with our fallen selves.  Maybe if we could all remember that, or at least imagine it to be true, we’d be less angry when someone does something stupid or inconsiderate.  Maybe we would learn to love those who need it most.