A Foundation Of Tears And Trust

Patrick Thomas from the first episode of The Voice does an amazing cover of Rodney Atkins’ song, “Invisibly Shaken”. The song resonates with me, and I really love Patrick’s pared down version.

What do you do when the your foundation gets shaken? Sometimes it may be a relationship, like in the song. Sometimes it can be a crisis of faith. Maybe it’s not your faith being tested, but your sense of belonging. Maybe it’s a loss or upheaval in your family. Regardless of the circumstances, we all have those times where our internal strength gets tested.

“God will not test you beyond what you can bear.” That’s the promise God gives us on 1 Corinthians 10:13. But there are moments, aren’t there? Moments when you wonder if that’s really true? For some people it can be an untimely or unexplainable loss that brings on the crisis. Cancer, accidents, violence…things that happen way too often. Or maybe it’s just an incongruity.

Have you ever walked into a church, heard a message…maybe through the preacher or through the songs and hymns being sung…but the message sent by the behavior of the members, or even the minister didn’t match? Were you that person who felt unwelcome? Unaccepted? Unloved? Unimportant…even in God’s house?

It’s a challenge, isn’t it? To hold on to what you know is right and good and faithful when everything around you is shaking and crumbling? I often wonder if this is how my sister-in-law felt when she was told that her only son, my nephew, had committed suicide. I knew it destroyed my husband, though he wasn’t my husband yet. It was also his first close, personal experience with loss. I know so many of us asked the questions that Blaine Larsen asks in this next song.

Sadly, often when we ask those questions, all we come up with are more questions. Many either question God as to “why?” or even “where were you?” or “How could you let this happen?” Everyone’s ability to cope is different. The pressure point can vary from person to person. No matter how strong a person is, there IS a breaking point. What I’ve learned through life is that we were NOT meant to live it alone. God sent us each other to push through till times get better. Things that may not seem like much to you can be the thing someone uses to hold on and pull through. Oddly enough, it was my experiences with my brother that prepared me to help him and his family during their time of grief.

I was 15 when my brother died. I’ve talked about him before, so some of you even know the circumstances surrounding his death. I was a freshman in high school. Moved to a private church school, I didn’t feel very welcome. Most of these kids had been together since kindergarten, and I was the new girl in.

No one made it easy for me. In fact, girls being what they are at that age, all but two of them had decided they hated me on site. The one had grown up with me, and had been one of my closest church friends in our younger years. The other found out I grew up like a sister to the boy she had a crush on and hoped that being nice to me might get her a date with him. The guys? At first they were very welcoming, excited to have “fresh meat” in the classroom. It all changed when they realized I wasn’t really interested in dating. My brother had just died, we’d moved neighborhoods, moved schools….been taken away from everything that was familiar to us. Dating was the last thing on my mind! Coping was the best I could hope for.

Something happened about a month into my stay at this school that changed everything. School had just gotten out and an impromptu softball game had broken out at the baseball field across from the school. Fingers wrapped in the fencing, head tipped up to enjoy the sunshine, I stood, enjoying the last of our Indian summer day when I heard footsteps approach.

Turning, I saw an underclassman friend from church. I smiled, “Hey! How are you?”

Hoisting his foot up to rest it in a fence rung, he nodded. “Doing ok. I hear you’re really popular, though.”

Confused, I turned to face him completely. “Popular? Me? I hardly do anything.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard,” he said, tone sympathetic. “I’ve heard you’ve had a new boyfriend practically every week. I just thought you should know.”

Suddenly, I wanted to throw up. “It’s not true.”

“I know that.” He shuffled his feet. “The damage has been done though.”

Nodding, I headed for the bleachers and grabbed my books. “Thanks for the heads up.”

Without any effort on my part, I’d become the school slut. While I’m grateful to my friend for warning me, any sense of welcome I might have felt from the few people who faked their friendship to me was gone. Dried up with a few pointed words.

I didn’t want to go back. Part of me wanted to lash out. It was all so unfair, but what could I really do? I couldn’t tell my mom. She was going through enough! This was her second son she’d lost. No parent should have to go through that. I didn’t want to burden my little sister, though I was pretty sure she had been hearing the rumors about me too, by then.

If there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s pride. I would not ever give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. So the next day I walked in to school, determined not to show any sign of weakness.

God has funny ways of giving us gifts in the midst of these painful times, though…if we just look for them. Mine came in the form of a boy, two years younger than me. I’d met him on registration day, but he was shy, so I spent more time talking to his older brother. This day was different. He walked right up to me.

With a bashful dip of his head, hazel eyes looked up at me through a fringe of thick, dark lashes, “Hey.”

Surprised, I smiled. “Hey, you!”

He reached out for my hand, sliding something small in it. “I just wanted you to have this. It’s nothing much.”

Looking down, I realized he’d given me a class picture of himself. By the time I brought my eyes up to say something, he was gone. I lifted the picture to look more closely. Flipping it over I found this message: “If you’re missing your little brother, and you need one, I’m here.”

Even at that age I was floored. What a kind and generous offer to make someone you barely knew. Still determined not to let anyone see my tears for fear it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, I calmly walked into the girls washroom, entered a stall, locked the door and sat on the toilet. In that safe place I let tears of gratitude flow at his compassion.

In two days I felt like I cried a million tears…some filled with pain and anguish, while others were of gratitude, healing and catharsis. Looking back, I think it was these days that cemented the importance of tears for me. It’s always found a way into my poetry. For me, I realized that without the bitter tears, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the sweet ones.

Since those days I’ve realized something about God’s promise and me. When those hit come and drop me to my knees, there’s a reason. First, he wants to remind me to call on him, to lean on him. Second, he rarely answers with the loud roar we seem to expect. Instead, he answers with a soft whisper, sometimes carried on a gentle breeze, other times through a simple gesture from a friend.

Our problem is that we’re so busy looking for the roar, we completely miss the whisper. Then we turn to him and blame. How much easier would it be if we just asked for his help instead of demanding it? More than that, how often have we been the mean, catty person? How often do our words have barbs, designed to cut and hurt someone while we excuse our own behavior because of some slight (real or imagined) that they’ve committed against you? How do we know that these people haven’t been sent there to teach us lessons in kindness or patience or tolerance? Those kinds of responses are easy. Taking the high road when you have no reason to? That’s hard, but you never know when your simple kindness may change someone’s life.

Were Those Words Worth It?

I’m feeling a bit melancholy today. This election has been tearing at me. I choose not to post about political things. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. In fact, I rarely talk about it. People sometimes take my silence to mean I don’t have an opinion. That’s absolutely not true. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I have opinions on many things. This is just one of them that I don’t discuss.

Before you go reading anything more into this I need to explain why this election has been tearing at me. Let me clarify…someone once said…hang in there. Whether the person(s) in office is someone you like and respect or not, sooner or later someone else will come along. It’s just a matter of waiting. It’s all cyclical.

But it’s not the politicians that are bothering me. It’s the behavior I’m seeing from people…on both sides…that has been disturbing me. It seems like in the last twelve years people have gotten steadily nastier with their comments, their slogans…and even the memes they choose to use. They have done everything from question people’s intelligence if they chose to vote their way to mocking people as unaware and uneducated and the list goes on and on. (I even know of someone who told a friend of mine who is gay and voted republican that they hoped he got aids and died….really? Another friend voiced her opinion on where she was going to cast her vote and received threats of bodily harm…from a friend of a friend…and they had descriptions of her children, prompting her to call the police and report it. She is a single mom. Her kids safety comes first.)

I have friends who are blocking other friends posts in an effort to be able to simply retain friendships after the election is over. Families have stopped speaking to each other because they’re on opposite sides of a political fence and the comments made were hurtful enough to cause some of the more mature members to back away and stop talkin in the hopes that maybe these fences can be mended once the election is over. It seems in the last twelve years this kind of nastiness during election years has gotten steadily worse…driving stakes into friendships, families…and ultimately into this country I love so much. The taunting and gloating and mud slinging that’s still going on post election…isn’t helping. The end of the election isn’t the end of the world…but it very well may be the end of some relationships, because even now, it hasn’t stopped.

Does any of this behavior change anyone’s minds? Rarely. Unless you’re someone who was undecided and became repeatedly victimized by the bashing that’s happened because of some questions you may have had. The negative behavior might have sealed your vote for the opposition of the basher. One of my friends had a meme that said, “I don’t post my comments to change your mind. I post them to speak mine.” Ok. So regardless of whether you voted for either candidate…when you say that if you vote a certain way, you must be stupid…that’s your opinion of your friends? Got it. Good to know.

The thing is…these words…these sayings…these things….they can’t be taken back! Once they’re out of your mouth (or in many cases blasted all over facebook and twitter to assault every person on your friends list), the damage is done. We talk about bullying and how terrible it is. We all agree that it’s a huge epidemic in this country. Where do you think our children learn that behavior from? All this nastiness and insults? Guess what, people! That’s bullying, too.

I had no issue with any post on either side that chose to discuss or debate the election based on salient points pertaining to the actual election. The rest was garbage…and sad. We spout off about family values… From what I’ve seen, it’s important as long as everyone agrees. Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree? Or rational discussion? Yeah…our country is being torn apart from the inside…and we have no one but ourselves and our superiority complexes to blame.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s a people issue. People should always come first. Respect. Love. Value. When a cause becomes more important than people…it’s time to think long and hard. I hope we can get past these rifts we’ve managed to create for ourselves.

And for you folks that aren’t in the US…I hope, if you live in a country where you have not only the honor, but the obligation to vote that you remember to love and respect those around you…regardless of who you are voting for. I value my freedoms. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wish people valued their friends and family with the same fervor they give their politicians.

So here’s my melancholy music for today….