Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do You Feel?

Right now I'm smack in the middle of Finals week (as those of you who have heard the groans reverberating throughout the state of Texas will know). Monday was the hump I had to get over. Everything after that I can handle; it was just Monday that needed to be dealt with.

I worked four hours on Monday, one of which was because my coworker was an hour late. I had two finals, one of which I had to get an A on to pull my grade up to a B in the class (that's Biology). The other one, English, I only had a few hours to study for. It was a long, long day.

The English exam that evening was insane. It was 9 pages, one of which was an essay. Everything else was fill in the blank and short answer; everything from critiquing poems and the declaration of independence to defining terms like “logic” and “rhetoric.” I finished with just 10 minutes to spare.

My friend Emerwen, who was in the class with me, had waited for me, so we started walking back together. We talked about the final, and the other finals we'd had that day. I started talking about my Biology exam, and my coworker being an hour late to work. I was exhausted by this point, but relieved, and ready to just rest. As we talked, I made the comment that it hadn't been the best day ever. A guy I know by face alone happened to be walking by, and he turned around and looked at me.

“Would you mind telling me why today wasn't the best day ever?” he asked.

I hesitantly and briefly explained, knowing I wouldn't like why he'd asked.

“Let me put it into perspective for you,” he said.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes he sat there and told me about all the horrible things that have happened in his life (from his brother getting sick on his wedding, to a guy dying under his hands, to his parents divorcing, to him having to go to military school and then Afghanistan). Every few minutes he said he was putting things into perspective for me. Emerwen and I would glance at each other occasionally. There was nothing else we could do. He finished by telling me I shouldn't ever complain about what's going on in my life, because it could always be like his.

I don't know if I could possibly describe how bitter he was; the anger and the bitterness burned behind his eyes with a coldness very like to hate. I wonder if anyone is ever going to tell him that God can heal bitterness. I wonder if he'd care.

That was an absolutely awful way to end an already stressful day. I felt so sorry for him – not necessarily because of the things happening in his life, but because he was so willing to drown in his own poison, and so lost in his own pain that he was willing to let it hurt someone else.

After talking to some friends about it online, I felt somewhat better. But I continued to think about it that evening. All day I had had a song by The Rocket Summer stuck in my head. The chorus is as follows:

Do you feel the weight of the world singing sorrow?

Or to you is it just not real?

Because you've got your own things

yeah we all have so many things.

It struck me that this characterizes us so often – like the guy who stopped to talk to me, we lose ourselves in our own “things,” our own issues, and in doing so we forget the bigger picture – the “weight of the world singing sorrow.” There are things out there so much bigger than me. I may be stressed out by a long day of finals, but in the end I have to challenge myself not to dwell on it, because there is a world out there that needs me to be a light in the dark - not just another shadow of lost potential, a remnant of abandoned love.

Also: I strongly believe no one should ever tell anyone else that they should not be hurting. That is the same to me as stabbing someone in the back. We do not have that authority. We can never know what's going on in someone's head and heart, what battle is raging behind their eyes. There have been days when someone has ranted to me about something, and I absolutely could not understand why they were upset. That's OK; I love them anyway, in whatever way I can. We all have our things. It's when we forget everyone else's things that we run into problems.

And I so often forget this. I walk out the door and all I can feel is the weight of my responsibilities, and my problems, and my pain, weighing down on my shoulders. But that guy who talked to me that night did give me a new perspective; not because I suddenly felt like I was unworthy to hurt because he had it worse, but because I understood that everyone – not just him, not just me, not just a pastor or a mother or a lover – has to look past our own problems if we want to let God use us to change the world. None of us can do this alone.

So I guess the challenge to myself is not to be paralyzed by my “things.” It's OK to have a bad day, and to hurt, and to be stressed; it's not OK to let it paralyze us into a state of introverted self pity.

What would happen if I stopped focusing inward on my own issues and how bad I've got it and started supporting others in their struggles? I think God could use that to change the world. In fact, I know He could, because that's called love.

Do you feel the weight of the world singing sorrow?

- Elraen -


Joy said...

This was a very thought provoking read for me. A friend of mine has often reminds me, "Just because others may not have troubles as big as some, doesn't make the troubles any less real."

I guess every issue of our modern day world can boil down to what our focus is on, and how much of it is not on ourselves.

Any said...

Thought-provoking is the perfect term.

This is a topic I've actually been giving some serious thought recently, especially certin bits of it.

I honestly don't have anything I can add to what you already put so beautifully. I completely agree.

Michelle said...

Elraen, you truly are one of the wisest young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I am always very encouraged by your blog posts, as they really come from the heart in a way that is well beyond your years.

And since everyone already pointed out how thought-provoking this was, I'll share some of my thoughts:

While it's true that there always is somebody out there who has it worse off than you, I think too many people use that as an excuse to tell themselves they're being wusses and they should just suck it up. Other people totally forget it altogether, which gives them a huge "Poor me" complex. Both lines of thinking not only hurt the person involved, but they do absolutely nothing to help anyone else. It's okay to be frustrated with your circumstances, and it's okay to hurt. Just don't shut yourself off or forget to reach out to someone else who may be hurting, too. One of my biggest challenges with being a youth leader is to keep my focus on what the teens need. As I counsel some weepy and/or frustrated teen girls, I want to say to them, "You think you have it bad? Listen to what I have to deal with!" It just comes down to pride. Which seems to be at the root of all sins.

So thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It's good to know I'm not alone. :)