Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I've been mulling this blog around in my head for a long time. One of the greatest blessings God has given me is a regular swift kick in the pants. I'm speaking metaphorically, of course, but the idea is that whenever I get so wrapped up in myself that I begin to harden my heart, God somehow opens my eyes my giving me a glimpse into someone else's life. Now, I'm not trying to brag that my life is so much better than others around me, what I want to convey is that we all have our own stories. I sometimes get so caught up in how mine is unfolding that I forget that my story is interwoven with those around me. I find that when I lack the perspective of my story among those other stories, I lose something.

One of the things I enjoy about my job at the hospital is that I get to leave when my shift is over. Sometimes, it is a difficult job. Sometimes, when I get up at 7 am on Thursday and I know that I won't get home till after 11pm that night, I start my day weary. By the time I get to the hospital after class, work, family, study, everyday life... I know I still have a few hours of visiting people who are sick, lonely, depressed, traumatized, etc. And yet...and yet... on days like that, when I lack the empathy to see beyond myself, God shows up with a swift kick to get me back on His path. Most recently, it was a young lady who delivered her baby at 19 weeks. The baby had major developmental problems and she delivered it stillborn, but it was a fully formed little thing. The family requested a chaplain to pray over it and bless it. What do you say to a husband and wife in this situation? I don't remember my exact words, but the gist of the prayer was that God knew this life and formed it and held it in His hands and for whatever reason, God chose to bring that life back to Himself. I called the baby by the name its parents had given it and asked God to honor his family with a blessing of peace, with the knowledge that the One who gives and takes away is still in control and can give them peace and comfort. They thanked me for the prayer and shortly after, I left them with their family and friends who had come to visit. Perspective... when I got home, I quietly visited my babies, my precious heavenly gifts and softly kissed them while they slept. I thanked God for them and for giving me empathy so I could pass on some measure of comfort to that family.

Tonight, Amelia and I were talking to a friend and she mentioned something about her family and when we looked puzzled, she realized we weren't up to date on what was going on with her. She shared some details of her life and the struggles she was facing with her relationships and parenting and finances and her desire to please God in how she handled it all. As she shared with us, I wished that I could give her something to help her bear up under the load she carried, but there was nothing I could realistically do for her. I offered her a blessing and expressed that I wished we could do something more her and she said, "Oh, I just appreciate you listening. I'm sorry I kind of dumped all over y'all." Perspective... while we drove home, I thanked God for the woman of character sitting in the passenger seat who loved me in spite of my shortcomings. I thanked God for giving me empathy to be able to listen to a friend and be a blessing of encouragement in her trials.

The last lesson of perspective relates to why I'm studying counseling. It was a rare reminder from Hollywood. A little background: the TV series Friday Night Lights is about a town and the people who live in it. The story centers around the local football team and the characters are all embroiled in their own drama (which attracts viewers which attract advertisers...yada yada) Anyhow, in a recent episode, the quarterback has had a series of setbacks in his personal life and kind of withdraws from his responsibilities and friends. When the coach comes to his rescue after he gets drunk and skips school and has to pick his grandmother up from the hospital after she fell, the viewer is not all that inclined to feel sorry for the quarterback. After all, he's made a series of bad decisions and has let his grandmother, his teammates, his friends... he's let them down. The coach pushes him down the hallway into a bathroom and into the tub and turns the water on him, as he sits in the tub, fully clothed. "Do you know how many people depend on you to make good decisions?" the coach asks. "Huh? Do you have any idea? Your grandmother, your teammates, your friends. You'd better start making them. You'd better stop being so damn selfish. And stop feeling sorry for yourself!" The quarterback shouts, "SHUT UP! You don't care about me! You left me for a better job! (last season, after mentoring him into being the 1st string quarterback) Your daughter left me for a better guy! (again, last season... his first romance and a bitter breakup) Carlotta left me for Guatemala! (his most recent girlfriend) My dad left me for a damn war! (His father is a soldier fighting overseas)" .... long pause.... "Everybody leaves me!" ... long pause... "What's wrong with me?" The water continues to pour down on him and the coach realizes all that this 17 year old is shouldering. Coach: "There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with you at all." What started out for both the coach and the viewer as a delinquent kid getting a good talking to turned into a reminder that we all carry our burdens. Sometimes, our burdensome stories spill over into other people's burdensome stories. It gives me pause... and perspective.

Whenever I lack empathy, it is because I don't know enough of someone's story. I probably just need a swift kick. Thanks, God.


1 comment:

Mathis said...

Thanks for the encouragement bro. I appreciate it more than you understand.