Being broken in a time such as this.
Sometimes I hate Facebook. I love that it lets me keep up with my friends who live far away (and down the street) and helps me update family members about my kiddos. I love the daily bits of inspiration and humor that pass through and the articles I read that educate me on the faith and parenting and photography and lets be honest, the cat videos. But sometimes even all of those positives aren't enough to outweigh the feeling of despair that it gives me toward humanity. You feel it too, I know you do. This "window" to the world is one that I often regret looking through. But, it's not Facebook's fault, not really (well, ok maybe a little). Facebook, and all social media, has just allowed us to see the things we otherwise may not have because it allows us to say things we otherwise may not have. Things in the deep dark crevices of the mind of the general population, opinions on EVERYTHING by EVERYONE. I've been thinking a lot about our common humanity and how we belong to each other. Day by day we trudge through life on this beautiful rock forced to share this space and this life with countless other humans and at the end of the day we just aren't that good to one another. Sure, we have learned, for the most part, to care for those closest and dearest to us but even that we seem to get tragically wrong way too often. We talk fondly of the 'good ole days' when you could send your kid down to the convenience store on his bike for a pound of sugar without a care and all was right. But these days we live in constant fear and ridicule of one another (and sugar) that even if we felt our child would be safe in such a situation, our reputation would certainly not be. Moral issues arise in the news daily and divide us, cut us like a knife. Opinions fly around like pointed fingers and hatred grows. The chasm between us becomes wider and deeper with every trending story. On this side of the screen we can say, "I am safe. I am right, nay, an authority on just about anything. And I know you, and you... well, you're just wrong." And yet, when I sit alone, left to my interior thoughts there is an ache in me. I am in discord with myself. Something feels wrong, empty, and it hurts. There is an aching for something, someone. Finding fault in others is a distraction from that hurt. It makes enough noise that I cannot hear my own problems and I forget the pain, at least for a minute. So, I need more issues and more diversions until there is so much noise that I cannot remember what my own pain is. Now, don't get me wrong, we must, without fault and without folly rely on the transcendentals of truth, goodness and beauty to love each other well. And we must be able to make distinctions if we are going to communicate effectively. There is truth and it is beautiful and life-giving and we owe it to each other to seek it and to settle for nothing less. We must also, however, be able to put charity in the forefront of our interactions and be gentle and good to one another. Those two things are not incompatible. We've just forgotten how to human, plain and simple. I think the beginning of a solution lies in our being broken...
Last week my 7 year old asked me if we could play monopoly, for the millionth time. I convinced him of a bike ride instead. But just as we set out on our ride I heard a little voice far behind us saying "wait, mommy, wait!" The 5 year old was trailing behind. Now, don't get me wrong, his little legs don't exactly pedal quickly to begin with but the poor child was trying to ride a bike that I had backed over with the car. (They leave everything in the driveway!) All in all the bike faired pretty well from the accident but the training wheels were bent in and the chain was broken off making it pretty hard for anyone to ride. He was pushing those pedals and yelling with all his might for us to stop. I did not want to go back for him. I knew that he would slow us down and that his 'tagging along' would be an inconvenience. (Mom of the year, I know.) I yelled back for him to go and find his dad or his little brother and that we would be back soon, hoping that would pacify him for the moment. Luckily, it was one of those days when the 7 year old was feeling particularly compassionate toward his little brother (ok so it was just the one day). He turned his bike around and said "Mom, lets go back for him." I didn't want to go back, but when a child who makes it his constant duty to make trouble for his little brother shows the smallest ounce of compassion, you run with it. When we got back to the 5 year old I tried again to convince him to go and blow bubbles with his baby brother instead or to chalk the driveway or help dad in the yard but he would have none of it. He wanted to ride with us. I tried to explain to him that the bike was broken but he refused to give up. "It's NOT BROKEN!" he cried. Finally the 7 year old showed him how it was in fact broken and said "...like my old bike was" remember? I couldn't ride for a while either." Suddenly the 5 year old backed down and listened even more. "And", the 7 year old continued, "Dad can fix it!" Then he helped him take the bike to my husband who immediately took out his tools and began to disassemble and fix it. (He loves a project!)
As usual, my kids teach me more than they'll ever know. As I was reflecting on brokenness (a theme that seems to have come up a lot in my prayers lately.) I thought of them and their moment with the bike and what that situation taught me.
We have to be willing to go back for each other.
I didn't want to go back for him because it was inconvenient. It meant I had to put my plans on hold and do things a different way. I wanted to put him off from a distance and move on. In a fast paced, social media world when all it takes is the latest news story to make us forget the last one, we have to be personal and deliberate with those whose lives we can touch. We have to love and not enable each other. We have to be compassionate. We have to suffer WITH each other. I'll be 100% honest with you, I don't have the first clue what that means for me or for you today. I don't know how God is calling me to do that, but I feel that He is. I know that I have to start with those in my immediate proximity ( and sometimes thats the hardest place to start) but I do know it can't stop there. I want my children to know how to care for the desolate and the hurting. I want them to not be too proud to admit that they too are sometimes desolate and hurting. I'm too comfortable and most days I just want to keep riding.
We must admit our brokenness.
Just like my poor little guys bike, we are all broken! That discord that we feel is because of our brokenness. We all have it to some extent. We all fall short of the truth. We are all disordered in some way and we need mending, every. single. solitary. one of us. It's only natural for us to want to defend ourselves and deny our brokenness because to admit it feels really bad and it means we have to be open to changing ourselves. Instead of admitting that we may have something to work on in our own souls/lives/bodies/relationships we'd rather declare our deficiency as a right and scream at the world in frustration, "I'm NOT BROKEN!" Little guy didn't want to admit that his bike was broken because he wanted to ride with us, and until he admitted that he couldn't there was no way for him to really get what he desired. The 7 year old, he's the teacher here. He went back for his
Lets go to the Father, together.
My 7 year old could not fix his brothers problem but because He himself had been in the same situation before he knew the one who could. If he had simply said to him "Your bike is broken, you can't ride with us and you need to fix it!" the 5 year old would have had his usual reaction to his older brothers imposition of 'authority'. He would have whined and cried and screamed at him. But because he took the time to be with him in his moment of distress, to let him know that he understood his dilemma because he had been in the same place not too long ago and then to tell him what the solution was, the 5 year old was able to hear him and trust him. When others see our brokenness it is then that we can share with them the ONE who can and has and will continue to make us whole again. Those of us who know the source of our wholeness have an obligation to share that with our brothers and sisters, not out of self righteousness but out of true empathy.
Mother Teresa will be canonized on September 4th of this year. The more I reflect on how callous we have become with each other the more I think she is the Saint we desperately need in these times. She was not afraid to get messy, to be in the midst of the stench and muck of humanity. She was also not afraid to tell the truth with confidence, urgency and love. She loved dangerously, constantly and with her whole being without consolation. Pray for us Blessed Teresa of Calcutta!
"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." - Mother Teresa
Note: I started this blog post a while back, before the bathrooms, before the gorilla, before the horrific Orlando shooting, before David Daleiden was pardoned of some of the charges against him, before the trial for the men who literally crucified their co-worker, before that precious boy was killed by the Alligator and before whatever happens tomorrow and the next day and the next. I didn't post it before because every time I started to it seemed like the wrong time, the wrong issue. I was worried about offending someone, everyone, no one. But the thing is after each of these situations when I look at humanity, at our responses, at our lack of compassion and on the flip side our lack of love for truth I feel trapped, very sad and ...well, broken. I think at the bottom of it all thats what we all feel. I can't do much about laws or guns or ISIS but I can be vulnerable. I can listen. I can teach. I can minister. I can pray.
I am broken. I have been healed a hundred times over and I will need to be healed a million times more. I know the one who has and will take my brokenness and make something beautiful out of it and I know He will do the same for you. Be broken, be brave, be for each other.