I’ve got a hangnail.
I know, I know…many of you just cringed. It’s the same cringe you get when someone mentions having a paper cut or scraping a knuckle or biting the inside of their mouth.
Teeny tiny little owies, those are. Too bad they don’t have teeny tiny little pains to go with them.
But nope. The nature of those sorts of owies is to annoy you with far more pain than seems reasonable for such a seemingly insignificant wound. Not only that, but those sorts of wounds are prone to infection and re-injury.
This means you get to feel like a total whiner because you’ve got a pain you can’t stop thinking about, let alone stop accidentally bumping or re-biting. You see folks in wheelchairs or with casts and think, man…I really have nothing to complain about. And then you chomp down and chew off another piece of the inside of your cheek.
Well, ok…you might complain a little bit about that. Or maybe a lot.
It seems to be our nature to judge pain by the size of the wound that produced it. Small wound should equal small, pain, right? A big wound justifies big pain. But a small wound that produces big pain? Surely someone is being overly dramatic about it. It can’t be that bad. After all, it’s barely visible, it’s so small.
Even the tiniest wounds can open doors for systemic infection if they don’t receive appropriate consideration and attention.
And the rules for the body are the same as the rules for the soul.
I was in the fourth grade when I got my first pair of glasses. I probably needed them for a long time before that, because once I put them on, I was shocked to find out just how much of the world I’d been missing.
The neighbor’s work van had writing on it. Big letters, actually.
There were wires stretching from one telephone pole to another.
The trees had individual leaves. Like…all of them!
I really had no idea. How could I? Until I had corrected vision with which to compare my old compromised vision, how would I know? Poor vision was my normal. I had found ways to cope so that it wasn’t obvious to others that I couldn’t see, but eventually the demands of my life—seeing the chalkboard in school, for instance—made my predicament very apparent.
And here is the kicker: since my normal was my normal and I had never experienced vision more clear than my normal, I would have been hard-pressed to believe that anyone else could see more clearly than I could. Not because I was only a 4th grader, or because I was stubborn. And not because I didn’t trust the word of those around me.
I simply had no frame of reference for it, and you telling me all about your vision wouldn’t have done a thing to change mine. I might have found your claim interesting, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that my eyes could not focus in a way that my brain could turn into sharp, comprehensible images. I had a hardware problem, not a software problem.
Once I got a pair of eyeglasses, that all changed. I suddenly had an experience that shifted my normal. I could put my glasses on and see, and take them off and see how much I couldn’t see. My standard for clear vision got an immediate upgrade because I received some serious revelation!
It occurs to me that when we talk to people with whom we have differences of belief and opinion, we often attempt to talk them into our point of view. We may believe that we see more clearly, that our standards are higher or more moral or ethical, and perhaps they are. But when we’re butting up against another person’s normal, we’re asking them to see clearly without the corrective lenses of revelation and experience.
Revelation is not the same as information.
When someone expresses a belief or opinion that differs from yours, do you stop to really listen without arguing and trying to convince them of your own position? What are they saying? Why do they believe what they do? What is the basis for their belief? Don’t listen through your own lens and judge them according to what you believe they are saying or your beliefs of why they believe what they do. Ask them. Be respectful enough to listen to the answers…and compassionate if they suddenly discover they don’t have any. Not every blank hole in the universe is waiting to be filled with your opinion, no matter how confident you are in the correctness of it. God leaves room for tension and waiting and desire.
We’d do well to do the same.
Three nights ago they were a loud, high-pitched, cacophonous chorus emanating from the creek that runs behind my house. It’s rather remarkable that something as tiny a spring peeper could make that much noise. Then again, it’s always rather surprising just how loud any frog of any size can be. God made ‘em noisy.
The next night, two nights ago, the amphibious choir disappeared. It was quiet, save the occasional guttural thunk! bellowed out by an older frog.
Tonight it is silent in the creek. No peeping, no thunking, no trilling, nothing. I wonder where they went?
I wonder this every year, usually several times a year. Spring peepers aren’t just for the spring in the south, I’ve noticed.
I’m glad humans mature faster than frogs. I’m also glad we skip the weird tadpole stage. I’m not sure how one would diaper that.
When my kids were small someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short. I can’t begin to express how true this is. Tonight I looked across the table at the Sparkette, the last of the Spark-lings, and thought wow…she’s so beautiful. When did that fiery little spunk of a redhead become such a smart and lovely teenager? A young woman, really.
Of course, in spring peeper terms she’s probably about four days old.
Sometimes life seems like a giant I Don’t Know.
Most of the time I’m at peace with that. I don’t have to know.
There’s a painful beauty in living in the tension between the seen and the unseen, the now and the not yet. I love the sense that there’s so incredibly much to see and know, and yet, something tells me that I am not yet equipped to comprehend it, or even perhaps withstand it.
But then there are the days when that tension feels nearly unbearable, and my faith longs to become sight.
Those days are usually the days when I’m on pain and suffering overload, and there are no answers. Hope seems fragile and slippery, and comfort elusive.
I realize that it’s not “spiritually correct” to admit to those days. But while we’re all wandering around sucking it up with our SC faces on, we set ourselves up for feeling like there’s something wrong with us, like we’re the only ones trembling beneath the weight of the It’s So Hards and the I Don’t Knows.
The truth is we all shake in our shoes, at least at times.
Because sometimes it really is so hard, and we just don’t know. And it’s painful.
It’s on days like these that I am glad that Jesus put on an earth suit and came down to walk among us. Those are the days when I sit empty-handed and aching, and whisper “You know”. And I know that He gets it. He really knows. And He’s willing to keep me company, no matter where I am, no matter what I see or don’t see.
The best part is that I don’t have to sit long before one thing becomes clear…
…His company is actually better than seeing and knowing.
Some nights there are no words.
The memories of the day slip by like a steam of water flowing through my fingers, never stopping to define itself. My hands glisten in the flow, and I bend my head close, hoping to hear its whispered secrets.
But the stream rushes on, rippling across my palms, singing in a language I cannot comprehend, laughing as it swirls away from me on its journey.
I don’t know where it’s going. I don’t know what it’s saying.
Perhaps no definition is necessary, and the laughter is a reminder that sometimes it is joy to simply be.
If there’s one thing to be said about the human race, it’s that we sure do find ourselves fascinating. And for good reason. We really are. Quirky, intelligent, emotional, relational, adaptable, and opinionated. Designed to reflect God.
It seems like there’s no end to our appetite to know about ourselves. What we think about ourselves isn’t enough; we want to know what others think about us, and how we measure up. If we measure up.
Lately my Facebook newsfeed has been packed with just-for-fun quizzes that are supposed to tell me something new about myself. Occasionally I’ll take one, but more often I don’t. It’s fascinating to me, however, just how desperately we want to know who we are and where we fit it. We’ll pursue that knowledge even when we know it’s goofy and useless.
There are loads of quizzes available. Here’s a small sampling you can take if you so desire:
These are for laughs, but they reflect our insatiable hunger to see our uniqueness and define ourselves. It’s not a bad thing to understand who we are. But if we’re not careful who gets opportunity to provide input to our questions, we can find ourselves swimming in a sea of hurt.
It’s easy to forget that the world around us is largely under an enemy influence. That enemy doesn’t want us to see our true potential, and definitely doesn’t want us to fulfill it. That means we’re continually bombarded with the temptation to think wrongly about ourselves. We’re also bombarded with the temptation to think wrongly about God, because it’s only when we discover who He is and how He sees us that we positioned to become the best versions of ourselves. Without His influence in every part of our thinking and believing, we’re prone to pride and false humility, which are different ends of the same spectrum of Bad Idea. We’ll think too highly of ourselves, or far too little.
He really changes everything. Because of Him we have access to God and to the realm of supernatural realities and power. Because of Him we are uniquely gifted and called to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. We are carriers of His love, grace, and peace. We are counter-culture culture counters. We are light workers. He wired us each differently to reach a different part of His world and transform it. He wants to think His brilliant thoughts in our minds.
We’re not cookie cutter people.
You’re not a cookie cutter person.
There’s never been anyone quite like you on the face of the planet, and once you’re gone, there never will be again. You have an audience and a sphere of influence that is uniquely yours. If you’re waiting on someone more qualified to step up, forget it. God didn’t place “someone more qualified” there. He placed YOU. He gave you those kids, those coworkers, those friends, that family. You have far more impact on them than you realize.
So rise and shine. Get up and dance. Sing your song. Open your arms. Open your heart. Remind those around you that they are God’s Happy Thought.
Because that is what we all really want to know.