Thursday, November 13, 2008

challenged

"Being true to who we are
means carrying our spirit like a candle
in the center of our darkness." --Mark Nepo

What does it mean to weep for “the poor”? After spending my last two posts commiserating of the woes of having a teenager, today I was confronted by two articles about random attacks on 16 year old people. A young man at a county fair is beaten because of the color of his skin. Girls walking to school in Afghanistan have acid thrown in their faces for wanting an education. It makes me sick. It makes me mad at the seeming selfishness in my own home. It makes me sad to feel my own heart that wants to turn away from the violence. Yet I cannot turn away. Once I have seen it or read it or heard it, it is imprinted on my heart.

Everyday I sit with people and hear stories of hurt and rejection. Parents that refuse to hug their children. Others that use demeaning words and shame to control. Men and women who are beaten or sexually abused. Some that can name their pain and others that can only feel the emptiness at the center of their chest. No one is immune. Everyone has a story and a hurt that is exclusively their own. So, what is my part? How can I help? Sometimes it all feels like too much. I think of the theme that God never gives us more than we can handle. At times I feel strong, because I feel like I have and do handle much. Other times, I find myself feeling small and weak because I live such a privileged life. Could I handle being hungry? Cold? Physically abused?

I consider what the election of our new President means for me. Reading the post at Mind Sieve I am challenged again (and still) to know what my part is. How will I speak? How will I live out of the gifts that God has given me? How will I carry my candle into the darkness? Some days it feels like enough to listen to one person at a time and help them see their own gifts so that they may go out into the world a little better equipped. Sometimes I feel like I am living into my full self. And other times…well…I feel at a loss. I wonder what will ever be enough.

Originally, I stopped writing there: I wonder what will ever be enough, but that feels hopeless and dead. If I stop there, then evil wins. If I turn away and refuse to listen, others are left alone. When I consider things globally, it quickly moves beyond my scope and I do become paralyzed. So my personal challenge is to learn how to keep moving forward. One step at a time. One moment at a time.

Today my first step was to ponder and not immediately turn away. The next step awaits…maybe it will be a big one. Most likely it will seem small. Can I let that be enough today? Could you?

photos taken 11.09.08 in my neighborhood

15 comments:

Karen said...

We have to acknowledge it, mourn it, and pray that there's change and improvement...and then we need to make our own world (that which we can control--to a certain extent) as beautiful and loving as we can...at least, this is what I believe and this is what I try to implement. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed...

lucy said...

well said, karen!!

Sorrow said...

Its said that four philanthropists once decided to help the prisoners in a city jail.

One philanthropist bought new matresses for all the prisoners so they could rest their tired bodies at night. Another philanthropist bought new soap so that each morning the prisoners could clean themselves properly. And yet another bought light bulbs to replace the old worn ones in the long prison corridors.

The fourth philanthropist was a little different from the rest. He waited till night fell, and broke into the wardens office. There he found a set of keys which he took to the cells and used to release all the prisoners from the jail.

The moral of the story as it was told to me is that, most friends we meet only help us to suffer in comfort. But every now and then we meet a person who helps to set us free.

lucy said...

deep & compassionate gratitude to you, dear sorrow, for sharing these words with me. they have spoken to a deep place within my soul. thank you!

Abbey of the Arts said...

lucy, I wrestle with this same thing all the time. The sorrow and pain of the world, how much can I offer in response, is it enough? In many ways I think the invitation is to keep asking the questions rather than finding the answers.

This reading by martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero has comforted me many times I have felt overwhelmed by the sorrow of the world:

It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capability.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.


Just one other note, I have always hated that saying "God never gives us more than we can handle" as if God were one to dole out suffering to us based on our capacity for it(which I don't think you meant to imply, but the words can perpetuate a harmful theology). And for some the suffering is far more than they can handle, the lasting trauma and wounds. I do believe God is present to us in the midst of the suffering, experiences it alongside with us but that is different than saying it is "given" to us by God. People do terrible things. God weeps as we weep.

Thanks for your thoughtful words as always.


Love you, C

Tess said...

I have nothing much to add to these wise and beautiful words - of yours and of the other comments here - but I wanted to acknowledge the reading and the thoughtfulness of this post and the responses.
No, nothing can be enough. And yet I believe that somehow, in the deepest sense, it will and can be.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

I think my message went off into cyberspace this a.m. as it certainly is not here this evening. Your post illicited wonderful responses from your readers. I cannot add more to the richness already expressed. However, you have sent me off to a post reflecting upon this one of yours....

xoxoxo

Barbara said...

I suspect we have to let go of the question whether something is enough or not, as Tess implied. We don't see the big picture. We each only play a bit part in that movie, but one that is key to the movie's completion. Give it our best and leave it up to the Director.

His Girl Friday said...

Hi Lucy,

great post!
...and I think I was feeling your 'wavelength' all the way down south here. I was reading an article on Darfur entitled 'rape as genocide' in the LA Times. So horrid; you wonder how people can become so evil as to treat others that way...man's inhumanity to man. And, as you, I was thinking, how did I luck out.

What keeps me going, I think, is I can only control my circle of influence, and hope for the positive ripple effect to spread out and unite with others who are doing the same.

andie said...

Loved reading this. I read a book over the summer that talked about dividing your time/energy into 4 parts. Service being one of them as well as doing your self work, family work, and obligation work (like cleaning the house, etc). I though this was such a great way to balance how we can change the world and do good while still managing our personal lives. Of course that doesn't stop me from wanting to jump ship and join the peace corp some days, lol.


Great post!
a.

hmmbrd said...

Great blog, great, thoughtful responses! all help me with this struggle..especially Abby of the Arts... the seed planting, watering thing. my insides felt more spacious when reading this. there is room for me in this struggle afterall. thanks.

Endlessly restless said...

Great blog and amazing comments.

I tend to think of it in terms of taking one small step at a time, while rememering to look at the horizon from time to time, just to remind myself why I'm doing it and where I'm going.

I also believe that we are changed by Jesus, so that we can help others to change, and begin to change the world.

lucy said...

you are truly a thoughtful bunch of readers. thank you for pondering this weighty issue alongside me. Re: both the topic and the thanks i would like to express to each of you, i think i shall quote tess once more for it seems quite apt:

"No, nothing can be enough. And yet I believe that somehow, in the deepest sense, it will and can be."

peace.

paris parfait said...

Lucy, thanks for linking my posts. I used to get frustrated with my daughter when she was a teenager, on occasion. Because I could see that she had it so easy compared to many, many girls her age around the world. We all have our crosses to bear and I think ultimately, we all try to do our part to change things for the better. It really is up to us, in our actions every single day and what we show to others. We have a lot of work ahead of us, after the damage that's been done for so many years. But all over the world, people are damaged, in many different ways. We all have to let go of the past and find our way forward, helping those less fortunate along the way.

lucy said...

paris parfait--thank you for sharing your wonderful words, both here and at your site. bon jour!