Good grief, Christians.

“Think you’re having a bad day? Watch this video of a 6 month old baby get his ear replaced.”

I found that article scrolling through my news feed. It really irked me. When did grief become a competition? When did our struggles turn from a burden we carry to a badge we wear proudly on our shirts? We go through crap, and it’s obviously much worse than anyone else. Right? Or if someone is complaining about something, we make sure we put them in their place. See, I can be an idiot sometimes. At school, occasionally, there’s mini competitions in conversations of who is the busiest. Especially in the beginning of the semester, and dang it sometimes I fall into the trap of responding to someone who just hashed out their schedule for me  and I, like a jerk, responded:  “that’s your busy day? that’s nothing compared to my busy day!”  Comparison turns a group of young adults into a bunch of 6 year old kids at the lunch table. Arguing over who has the toughest life.

Children eating lunch: 

Little boy: My goldfish died today. 
Little girl: My great grandma died today!
Other little boy: Oh yeah? Well my papa died today. 

And then as we get older, it’s not only about what happens to us, but what how much we are responsible for. 

Middleschool kids at the lunch table: 

Boy: This sucks. I have football practice after school every day, and I have to do chores at home. 
Girl: oh Yeah? Well I’m in all advanced courses, orchestra, choir and newspaper! Plus, my mom’s sick so I have to do all the cooking this week. 

And then, it’s what happens to us, what we are responsible for and how our problems compare with the world around us. 

College students at lunch: 

Girl: My boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me today. Didn’t even say why. 
Other girl: Well at least, you’re not dying of AIDS like the kids in Africa. Get over it. 
Boy: My dad’s sick of cancer. He might not make it. 
Other boy: Well, my dad is dead. So, just be glad you’re dad’s still alive. 

Other than all these situations taking place at lunch (I’m writing this and thinking about how hungry I am), the people in these conversations all lack one thing: Compassion. Instead, they use comparison. People use comparison as a club to beat each other up with. Think you got it bad? *swings club* Just think about someone worse off than you and be thankful, then you won’t have much to complain about.  There’s two things when it comes to suffering and I think we get them mixed up a lot. 

Mentality of suffering:  People say “think” a lot when using comparison. And that’s just the thing. You know the saying, a picky eater at the dinner table and his mom turns to him and says “Now Johnny, think of all the hungry kids around the world who’d be lucky to have that.”   Gratitude is a mentality. Someone might have a negative mindset, meaning it’s in the mind. We all have different perspectives of the world, of our own lives based on what we have seen and gone through. My band director has been an EMT for 22 years, and at the beginning of each year he tells us “Look, I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. My reaction to your crisis will likely not look like your reaction.”  A war veteran has a different view of the world than a 14 year old girl. Why? Because they have lived through different things. We all experience and see the world through different eyes. And process it through our own past, and present. A person can be thankful that their life is not as bad as the others around them, but that does not change the fact that their life might be in crisis.  Gratitude is important. But, someone will always be better off and worse off than you. So sometimes people get stuck. They don’t allow themselves to grieve because people keep telling them that they don’t have a right to. Only the people at the bottom of the totem pole have a right to be sad. Everyone else has to suck it up and keep moving.  I want to challenge that. This whole “thinking” yourself out of a rough time. 

Actuality of suffering: I started running this summer and as I was running I was thinking about how my mile run (which is really just a jog/walk) failed in comparison to the many who have completed half and whole marathons. I respect those people a lot. Their physical strength, mental stamina, work ethic. It’s incredible. But,  as I ran that mile, knowing that people around the US could be running a marathon right at that moment did not make my mile run any easier for me physically. My heart still pounded as fast, I sweat a lot, I breathed heavily. What if someone told me “Hey Marlie, while you run, just imagine the runners who are running 2 miles, or 5 miles or 100 miles! Then you will no longer be tired at the end of your run!” Yet, knowing they are running a 5K does not make my mile run any easier. The same applies to grief. Understanding that people are suffering greater or less than me effects my mentality, my view of my suffering.  It does not change my  actual suffering. I still have to run, sweat, breathe, keep going. step after step. It’s like the kid in middle school from earlier, his dad was on death bed, and the other kid instead of having compassion, says well at least your dad is alive. Yeah, he can be grateful for his dad’s life, but he still has to spend  long nights at the hospital, watching the dad he knew and loved have the life drain out of him. Some life to be thankful for, right? 

Instead of comparison, instead of the “well at least…” or the “just be thankful you…”  can we start having compassion for one another? We serve a very compassionate God. And if anyone suffered, it was Jesus. If anyone suffered, it was God. And He has compassion for us.  When we come to God in prayer, lifting up our pains and sorrows, God does not point to the cross and says “I had it worse.” He points to the Cross and says “I understand.” He understands loss and grief. He understands us. 

 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.–Ephesians 4:31-32

 
Advertisements

Robin Williams was dearly loved. And so are you.

I’ve been there.
i’ve gotten the call, the news.
I’ve been there.
I’ve sat in front of the casket at the funeral.
I’ve been there.
I’ve seen the ambulances down the street.
I’ve been there.
Nights spent haunted with the plaguing question: Why?
Why did he do it? Why do people choose to die?
I wouldn’t wish the pain of losing someone to suicide on any person.
Because I’ve been there. And it hurts.

I’ve lost two friends to suicide. I remember those nights very clearly. And the days following are a blur of sadness, confusion, and so many questions. My heart breaks for the millions of people around the world who are there today. Whether He was the Genie of your childhood, or Mrs. Doubtfire from your 20’s a personal friend, a father, husband or cousin.  Mr.Williams has impacted us all. As we remember his life, celebrate his life and talents;  let us not ignore the severity of the mental health crisis in America. Thousands commit suicide each year. I am not belittling the loss of Robin Williams, but merely stating the reality of the situation. Thousands becomes a whole lot more real when you lose someone to suicide, statistics become a lot more real when someone you know  dies. I remember my pain, my grief and to think that so many people around the nation are experiencing that grief daily is unfathomable. All the while, the ever-increasing suicide rate (specifically in young adults) and even more so in adults, is not being addressed. To the world the losses you experienced are a number, a statistic, but you scream at the world: “No! He is not a number, he was my friend!”
Millions of families, friends, schools, churches, communities are screaming those words out each day as their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, pastors, coworkers, teachers, uncles, grandparents are ending their lives. The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. And depression can be treated. 80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully (save.org) Mental health, suicide, depression, addiction are all stigmatized topics that have been taboo subjects for centuries. How do you remove the elephant from a room? You talk about it. Healthy, accurate conversations need to start about mental illness.
I’m not an expert on mental illness in any way. Depression is a very complicated illness. My heart breaks for Robin Williams. My heart breaks for his family, for those who worked alongside him, and all the people he impacted in his life. He was dearly loved.

And so are you.

 

I’ll follow you Jesus, but first let me take a selfie.

Yesterday afternoon the sun was shining through the clouds and it was breath taking. I’m a  sucker for sky pictures so I rushed to get my phone out because the clouds were moving quickly. I unlocked the screen, opened the camera app and I held the phone up to the sky and instead of seeing the sky in the screen, I saw me, squinting. The face-fronting camera was still on. By the time I flipped to the regular camera,  the moment had passed. The clouds had rolled on. I was frustrated. But think about this. What if I didn’t even try to turn the camera around that day? What if i just saw the clouds, admired their beauty and exclaimed: “oh I have a great idea!” Then, I pointed the camera at myself, took a picture, and shared in on all the social media with the caption: “Look at me! I’m great.” Kind of ridiculous right?

That’s how we’re living our lives. And it’s ridiculous. We have a choice as Christians, with each day, hour, moment, to worship God or ourselves. We’re shouting with each twitter, facebook status, snapchat, instagram photo: Me! Look at me! I am great! I matter! The world should be looking at me.” We go to church on Sundays, admire God, and go home and take a selfie with our cat (I do this.) The world does not need more witty tweets, or snapchats, or those ridiculous lists. And dare I be so bold, the world does not need us. Another selfish, self-obsessed person.  The world needs Jesus. Instead of using social media to encourage, and build each other up: we’re arguing, and defending our opinions.  We’re using the internet to share how great, difficult, challenging, awesome it is to be us.

Have you seen those lists floating around the internet? The ones with the titles like: “# struggles so and so has for being so and so” Just fill in the blank. For example, “18 things I want you to know about me so the world can know how great my life is because I’m me.” Or the more popular “6 struggles that a certain group of people face that people who aren’t in that group should take note of than feel so bad for those who endure those 6 struggles on a day to day basis.”  Why do those go so viral? . I think we have this inner desire to be understood. This deep need to be known for something (our curly hair, being a twin,a band member, in volleyball, from a small town) and when articles are written about having curly hair, being a twin, a band member, being both introverted and extroverted, a volleyball player or from a small town, we’re like YES. That’s me!! Someone knows me and gets me! Small town girl, big city kid, curly hair, straight hair, introvert, extrovert, college student, twin, dog lover, cat lover: it does not matter. If you are a believer in  Christ, your identity is in Christ. Not in your personality, your hair, your education background or the city you lived in. Your personality will change, your hair will change, your schooling will change: But your identity in Christ is forever.

We want to be understood, we want to be needed, accepted and to feel important. Those are human desires and they are not wrong. I haven’t lived long, but from my experience, looking for those desires to be met in other humans instead of God is a mistake. I heard a pastor say that us humans are like ticks, and God’s the big golden retriever.  We’re feeding off each other for love and starving all the while God’s standing here full of love and we just got to latch on.  (Gross and imperfect analogy, i know) But, it’ll stick in your mind for years now, just you wait. And yes that was a tick pun. You’re deepest need as human is not going to be met with a certain number of facebook likes, retweets, blog views. You’re deepest needs are met in Jesus. He knows you more than human ever will, and loves you more than any human could. Find God. Relish in His beauty. But don’t stop there. Read Romans 12:1-2. And then Read it again. don’t conform to this self-obsessed culture. In the grand scheme of things, our life is but a snapshot. It’s up to you to decide who or what is going to be in the frame.