Happy new year, people! Welcome to 2015!
It’s going to be a good year, I think. There’s a lot that can happen if you let it.
I want to start the year out by being positive. Blegh. That goes against every instinct I’ve developed. Don’t worry, though. I’m not going to be that guy that’s incapable of recognizing the dark for the sake of trying to be light. Light has to shine into darkness to be of any effect, right?
In my junior year of high school, things weren’t quite as hopeful, and my attitude was less than gleaming. At that time, I had just made the hard decision of breaking up with my first girlfriend, then experiencing some of the most devastating betrayals I’ve experienced so far. Trust me when I say that I’m not a stranger to the darkness.
At that time, though, I carried a lot of arrogance. I think human beings always do and always will without exception, but it had a death grip on me back then, and I didn’t even know it. It had such a death grip on me that during some petty argument between me and my ex post-split, someone tried to talk to me afterward, and I just shot back at her and said, “If you had been through what I have been through, you’d be doing the exact same thing.” The words themselves were fine, but my tone is what counted. My tone said, “Shut up, you idiot. You have no idea. Go away.”
It’s funny how much subtext humanity brings to the table. Things aren’t always dictated by form, structure, appearance, denotation—really much of anything. We say words with our mouths but feelings through inflections. What I knew was how I felt: miserable. What I didn’t know is what I’d done: assume wrong.
While she didn’t know exactly what I’d been through, my heart treated her as though she didn’t know pain. I was so wrong. If anyone had been to hell and back, it was her. Even thinking about it hurts, so I dare not write it here, as well as for privacy reasons, despite the anonymity she already has. When she opened my eyes to the fact that she actually did understand, and probably more so than I did, I stopped dead. I think that’s one of the most critical points of my realizing my arrogance. Arrogance blinded me beyond recognizing that I actually wasn’t alone, not to mention the fact that there were people more in need than me.
Our tendency is toward blindness. I shouldn’t be shocked. I’ve grown up singing, and still sing, “I once was […] blind, but now I see,” from the old hymn “Amazing Grace.” But that’s a part of being at ground zero. Everything we experience falls directly upon us, the good like manna, the bad like bombs. As these bombs start to fall on us, a lot of times we become more focused on saving ourselves, rather than realizing that the whole world is suffering bombardment.
By not looking at the large-scale assault, I blinded myself to the escapability of my own, and I went rogue rather than relying on others, especially the Lord Jesus, to fight the large scale battle, rather than wasting my resources of emotions, thoughts, and actions on tiny skirmishes that in the end served no purpose but to cut off the world around me so I’d have only myself and my smallness to focus on. When we focus on ourselves, we are incapable of seeing how big the fight is, and the army, and the Lord.
I wasn’t and am not the only one who deals with depression, anger, short-sightedness, hyper-vigilance, and pride. Acknowledging this fact alerts me to something much more important: it doesn’t matter the “size” of our problems. What matters is that problems are common to mankind. Whatever we’ve done, whatever’s been done to us, is nothing new. Though there is a difference between our experiences and those of others, there is no reason to use these differences to alienate each other.
Sure, we can look at pain by one crime than another as being more intense, or by one person’s sensitivity compared to another, but if we keep looking at it like that, are we really winning the battle, or is Satan turning the warriors of the Lord against each other? Why should the level of our pain be of any consequence other than helping us tend to each other when we are most in need? Why does it matter if someone’s problems are less complicated, or if the grief they experience is nothing compared to yours?
It rarely helps to point out the relative insignificance of a person’s pain, except in my case, when I needed to be taken down several notches. Pride goes before destruction, not victory, so it should have been easy to see where I was headed; but again, pride blinds. I was going down in a blaze of hate and rage, and I was ready to push anyone away in order to let that fire burn all the way to the end of vengeance. To hold a person’s experiences or the lack thereof as a reason to alienate them from tending to you or you to them is foolhardy at best. In either case, wounds left to bleed just keep bleeding. I did that with the friendship I mentioned earlier, but when that relationship healed (and it took a long time), how sweet the healing was! And how much fight we found in each other against our foes!
Whether your pain is great or small is of no consequence to the love of Christ which brings healing to both the broken and the dead. To Him, affliction is not a matter of degree. It’s a matter of fact. We shouldn’t separate ourselves from people who experience “less” pain than we do because “they don’t know real pain.” The degree of a person’s pain isn’t a reason to dismiss it. We should join together because we all experience pain, and it’s all real.