Thanksgiving falls in decrescendo of my birthday. That is, the minute I pass through all the stages of grieving, reach acceptance and stabilize over the idea of turning 29 yet again, it’s Thanksgiving. Just to point out that people can change, I’m pleased to say that this year I’m flat out grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for health, and I do not take it for granted.
Friends of mine, Brian and Cody Smith, lead the Omaha Rapid Response organization. Brian spends a great deal of time in Haiti organizing rescue efforts for people who were impacted by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country nearly a year ago. Most recently he has been exerting tremendous effort combatting the recent Cholera epidemic. I was heartbroken to read Brian’s account of the newly orphaned baby boy who gasped his last breath while in Brian’s care for just a short period of time. Brian went to great lengths to bury him with dignity. He talked of the overwhelming grief he and others in Jubilee are experiencing with the enormous death tolls, dehydration, and unrelenting effects of Cholera. Whole families pour into the streets to mourn the death of their loved ones.
You know, I just need to talk about this. I do database design and now web development for a living. My daylight hours are filled with data. data. data. By design. That’s what I enjoy, and that is the sort of career I pursued. I’m paid to figure out why stuff doesn’t work, and make it work…in a hurry. While I’m getting ready for work there are days when my laptop is fired-up beside my makeup, and my day is in high gear before I’m even out of the house. There’s just no automatic grid in my life, or yours for that matter, that provides time and space to weep over little boys gasping their last breath of air. And that is really tragic. Because I do weep. And I do care.
Why is it that caring costs us so much?
Whether its my friend Brian holding a dying baby boy in Haiti, or my nieces who have been experiencing poor health, it seems like its time to develop the courage to really care. To get involved. To pick up the phone. To send a card. As a single person, this idea of getting involved with people and families is messy, and fraught with the potential for rejection or worse, being invisible. Families are faced with the very same stability that comes from barely controlled chaos. Caring for someone outside your immediate circle seems beyond your abilities, all the time.
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
I challenge you today. Get involved. Care about the one in front of you. Return a phone call, that email. Make a donation but also send a card. It matters. It could be a matter of life and death.
There are women and men who stand like sentries around the periphery of my life, with whom I share an uncommon depth of relationship. Some have been there from the beginning of time, and some have only recently taken their place on the wall of my life. This is not an exclusive club with costly membership dues. Days turn into weeks, and they tirelessly listen to my dreams and breathe hope on them. They believe in me and remind me of who I want to be. The visceral strength they infuse is not something I can extract from them and, as a result, I cannot control who stands on the wall. You see we make the choice to love another unconditionally. We make the choice to shout down the mountains in their life, to stand with them in the floodwaters, shoulder locked with shoulder.
You might think I’m a relational ogre following this, or if you’ve known me for many years you may try and understand where you fit in to the schema. Nevertheless I must tell you that there have been times when I have tried to decide who would be my closest confidantes. I have intended to trust only those that seemed incapable of hurting me, only to be bitterly betrayed. I tried to care and feed for the few that seemed most advantageous to me with the result that I was left alone. To pour salt in my own vicious wounds, I wrecklessly wounded those who loved me dearly. You know who you are.
Why this confession?
Most of us want to arrive at the end of our lives with the confidence that we have loved deeply and been deeply loved. To be loved implies that we are known, for you cannot love someone without really knowing the ugly parts of them. If our life-goal was happiness we’d be sorely disappointed for happiness is merely a by-product of being fully known, and fully accepted. Some of us misunderstand the objective and clang around the countryside ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’. I know. I’ve done it. It’s as though we’re holding out a beggar’s cup with the words “LOVE ME” taped to the side.
There is only One who perfectly loves. Until we allow Him to know us fully, to see inside the crevices of our lives, even the uglies, we will always wonder if we are truly loved. Not only do we fail as friends and lovers, but our friends and lovers will fail us. It is not in our nature to perfectly love as the Father perfectly loves us. Even our best efforts will fall short. I’m reminded how the Perfect Lover knows when He’s been in intimate relationship with a man or woman and to some, with the deepest regret He says, ‘Depart from me. I never knew you.’
There is simply no mistaking intimacy, whether with the Father or a person. It’s intentional. We choose to maintain a soul connection with someone or we choose not to. But when we choose to make this step, the cost is paid from the heart. I was looking the other day at the story of Jonathon and David. “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him [David] as himself.” The king’s son put himself on the wall of David’s life, with complete disregard for what others might think as to rank or motive, timing or propriety. He stripped himself of his robe and armor, his sword, bow and belt, and placed it on David. Talk about making oneself vulnerable, I’m not sure that he had much else on after that. Jonathan knew that David was to be king one day and acknowledged it long before David’s time.
There is a grand lady who is in the latter seasons of her life. Though her memory is not what it used to be, its evident that her heart is given over to selflessly care for others. I want to be like that. I want to be known for “…loving [one] another deeply from the heart. For love covers a multitude of sins.”