To be clear: I am not overweight. I am not of a minority race. I am not starving. If I get sick with a curable illness, I have access to the medication to heal me. I do not fear over a very real threat that my child will be sex trafficked, nor did my parents worry about this when I was a child. I do not fear that my child will be brainwashed and drugged and forced to fight in a war when he should be in elementary school.
Things have always happened easily for me or I was able to work to make them happen.
Until, that is, I entered my 30’s and began the walking the road of infertility. It has completely shaken my faith. Please, hear me out on this. I am not comparing infertility to child warfare in the Congo, malaria outbreaks in Africa, or a typhoon in the Philippines.
What I am comparing, is the trend in my life for things to work out to what we consider GOOD and for the lives of so many others to trend to what we consider BAD. The realization that I didn’t have to manage long term struggle until I was well into adulthood devastated me because it served to reaffirm in a huge way that things in the world in which we live are desperately, intensely unfair.
Last week at school, one of my first graders was called fat by her peers. She is 6. It deeply and quite possibly punctured a wound in her that she will bear for the rest of her life.
I have a son whose skin is darker than mine and so has a life ahead of him that will need to be navigated more carefully in many areas than his Caucasian friends, solely as a result of his genetics.
I cannot personally relate to these obstacles. I don’t think that shame is the correct term, but it confuses me that I feel without a doubt that my heart was made to break for the overlooked, under-served, underprivileged, and defenseless when my life has been a comparable cake walk. I’ve been mulling this over and over for months. It does not reason out neatly.
There are, however, small breakthroughs. I watched this viral video of a woman named Ash Beckham speak at a TEDx conferences about homophobia specifically, but more broadly about society’s propensity to be uncomfortable with what we don’t understand. She said,
“Hard is not relative. Hard is hard.”
I related to this thought. Going through hardship is personal AND universal. Although this is not to say that my hardship is even remotely on the same scale as the hunger that some of my students experience, it IS to say that hardship has a way of breaking down some of those barriers between the lot of us. Working through difficulty puts people on something of a common ground- it makes us seem so much more HUMAN. Weakness makes us vulnerable and I want to believe that seeing vulnerability in others makes us more compassionate which God knows we need more of. I want to be able to look around at deep need and move to act because righting wrongs is what we do when ONE of us is connected to ALL of us as opposed to seeing the distribution of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and feeling hopeless.
Another breakthrough is this verse, which I have been trying to focus on for the last few weeks, though often failing miserably. In Luke 6:45, it says this:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
I have been so deep in grieving the brokenness around me at work in my urban school, in my son’s past without me, and in the global community for the last year that it has sometimes almost completely overwhelmed me. There is SO MUCH BROKENNESS and SO MUCH UNFAIRNESS that it literally clenches my heart to think about it. Unfortunately, it has had a tendency to break me down and create in my heart anger and frustration which speaks out of my heart instead of the good which I should be storing up to even remotely combat the evil around us. We are called to continual thankfulness because it is the only thing to keep us from sinking into despair over the negativity we face on a daily basis. Being continually thankful is an art. It is learned. It is a process. I’m working on it, because I want desperately to focus outside of myself in a manner that is proactive. Grieving has a place, but so does activism. When the outlook looks too bleak to handle, thankfulness pushes us to action. I want to be there.
Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18