I finally have some time to carve out for writing but I find lately that I just don’t have anything to say. Shocking, I know.
There are too many heavy things going on in my life and in the world around me. Sometimes I hold back because I don’t have anything nice to say. And sometimes I hold back because I don’t think the world needs one more voice or one more opinion on the matter. And frankly, I have not been able to stand back enough to get perspective, let alone notice the golden threads. It’s okay to sit on things once in a while. And it’s okay not to have a response to every single issue. Right?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the tension we are in- between living our daily lives and being brokenhearted over all the calamity. Calamity was one of Sawyer’s vocabulary words last week and it keeps rolling around in my mind as it appropriately describes these days.
We do this thing, which we all must do to survive. We vacillate day-to-day (and often moment-to-moment) between our individual realities and the global realities. We are consumed and get overwhelmed by things in our own lives. Of course we do. But then “out there” are threats of war and ISIS and poverty and racism and earthquakes and hurricanes and mass shootings and fires and misogyny and countless hard things that we care about (or want to care about.)
So we do a couple things.
- We try to respond to everything. Say what you will about the millennial generation and their reputation for being “outraged over everything” but some of that outrage will wake up and shake up those that don’t want to face the hard stuff. Their generation is at the forefront of activism, spreading the word about what/who needs help and challenging the status quo. On the flip side, those who try and respond to everything have about a hot minute before another issue stirs their heart and takes their attention elsewhere.
- We become paralyzed. The problems are too big, too systemic, too out of control. The needs are so many and the stories are too devastating to hear. We avoid knowing. Or we read and cry and feel guilty for thinking our problems are big while we know that people are dying in Puerto Rico and that a family is waking up in the hospital to find out that their 14-year-old died while running from the flames. It’s all too much and so we freeze and do nothing.
I am with you- sometimes I find myself doing the first and sometimes the latter. I read as much as I can to be aware and I pray over everything I become aware of. But there is no way to be the hands and feet of Jesus (giving my heart, time and money) to everything that is falling apart right now. All life is precious. Every hurting place needs care. People are meant to be salt and light and salve for each other. We have to do something, but we also have to make choices.
Some calamities hit closer to home and we naturally spring into action. My brother is in the wine industry in Sonoma and has just lived through the worst fires in our state’s history. We have been talking to him daily this past week and hearing his first-hand experiences. We know specific ways we can help. When Florida was bracing for horrible hurricanes, that calamity was immediately our focus because more than a dozen of our family members live there. We could easily spread the word about ways to pray and how to help and are now keeping up with the aftermath.
But beyond our own family and our own town, how do we choose who to help? We can’t all put our efforts in the same place. I talked with someone years ago that was so burdened with a particular part of Africa and said there was no other place that needed help more. “Everyone should be putting their efforts there.” And yes, lots of work to be done and I am thankful for those who focus there. But the world is big and the wounds are many and like our son’s soccer coach says, we need to “spread out and cover the field.” We can run around crazy and be more of a distraction than a help or we can play “bunch ball” while the rest of the field lies vulnerable. OR we can free ourselves up to play positions and actually be a good team.
We are all drawn to different things and we need to use that. I’m over the guilt-laced social media posts that shame each other for not speaking up on each and every issue. We all need to use our voice and influence and resources for good, but shame is a terrible motivator. Instead, let’s get in tune. In tune with the needs out there and in tune with ourselves and how God could uniquely use us. A choice for something means not choosing something else, and that feels hard. But the alternative is to be drowning emotionally and absolutely ineffective. So a few ideas…
Pay close attention to what your heart aches over most. Our upbringing and experiences, mixed with the unique heart we were given makes us more sensitive to particular needs. That’s a good thing. It’s what helps us spread out and cover the field. Listen to the aches and burdens you feel for others. Find that margin where the ache inspires action before it starts to paralyze. Know when to stop watching the news, put down your phone and be present in your individual life. Care for your sheep, meet with your creator and gain the strength to be a salve for others. And then put that ache to good use.
Pay close attention to what sticks with you. Sadly we don’t make space for things to sink in these days. We get soundbites for things that would take years to comprehend and then we scroll on. But sometimes we find ourselves in someone else’s story and it grips our heart. Certain stories will never leave me. Like the family whose child was killed by an alligator at Disney World. We had recently been on those waters edges with our own small kids and I could put myself in their shoes. And my heart broke as I imagined it. Or the pastor whose wife was murdered in their home while he was at the gym. While their 1-year-old was in his crib and their unborn baby was in her womb. That tragedy sticks hard with me. I pray for those families regularly, whom I will probably never meet. Long after the headlines are gone, their hearts are still bleeding.
Make a personal connection. Last week my aunt asked about our friends in Santa Rosa that just lost their home in the fire (along with 1/4 of the people in the church they lead.) She mentioned that she likes to learn about individuals that are affected so she can help directly. This is in no way to undermine giving to solid organizations but it is an excellent way to involve yourself personally and gives real names and faces to the needs outside of your context. Cut down your degrees of separation and make connections.
Things are hairy out there. But we live in a broken world and there will always be calamity and hurting people that need our love. The more we know about how to inject ourselves in good and lasting ways, the better team we can be. Be open and cover the field.