Apparently, I am an amazing person. Things people say to me indicate I verge on awesome because I do things they could never do. It’s meant to flatter and encourage, I know, but it’s hard when people separate themselves from my world with a simple phrase: “I could never do what you do.”
I teach my kids at home. I give myself five or more shots of insulin every day so I can live until the next day. I have a husband who’s been unemployed for a long time. A ridiculously long time. And people are pretty sure those are all things they could never do.
Yes, we’ve had our share of unfun events recently. Even homeschooling, which is an enormous blessing, has its moments. I have to rely on the Holy Spirit daily to keep from losing my marbles completely, and even then marbles still spill out on occasion. But with a simple “I could never do that” people can put distance between us, think they’ve paid me a compliment or maybe some kind of homage, and then walk away. I don’t know what they think when they walk away, but I always imagine they think “Because I could never do that, I’m safe. God won’t ask hard things of me because I’m not as strong as she is. I’m glad I’m not in her shoes.” (Okay, sometimes I suspect they think “If she was just smarter about life, she wouldn’t be in any of those situations to start with.” Which might be true.)
Funny thing is, I do it, too. I read a story of a refugee mother and children who live in a camp where all they have is daily rations and a tent. No extras, no jobs, no gardens, no home decorating, no hobbies, no hope for a future, nothing at all. And I thought “I couldn’t do that.”
The truth is, we can all do it. If you trust God, you can do anything he asks. I’m not different from anyone else. Even the refugee mom isn’t different, just tempered by hotter fires. Nobody wants to be amazing; they want to live rewarding, dream-filled, pain-free lives.
God sets my feet on the paths he chooses, and then he empowers me to put one foot in front of the other on that path. Sometimes the path is such that I can skip, holding Jesus’ hand and laughing. And sometimes, I’m on my knees refusing to take another step, and he picks me up and carries me along. (Lately against a lot of kicking and screaming; I don’t LIKE this path, thank you). He’s doing that for each of his children, each and every day.
Hardship is hard. There’s no getting around that. But people who endure aren’t special, and they don’t need to be separated. Encouraged, maybe, but even more, reminded. Remind me of the truths, because when my husband is rejected for the millionth time and I’m out of encouraging words and even encouraging thoughts, I need someone to remind me there’s someone on the path with me, and He won’t hesitate to carry me if I can’t take another step. You remind me, and I’ll remind my husband. Or remind me as I watch my family eat ice cream at a birthday gathering and I drink water that God loves me and isn’t putting these things in my life to be mean to me. And if situations shift, I’ll remind you, too. That’s community. People in trouble don’t need celebrity; they need community.
I don’t know how I’d react if I met that refugee mom who clings so well to God in such hard circumstances. Maybe I’d say the same words said to me, but I hope I’d laugh with her, and talk about how silly our kids can be, and find she was my sister. Maybe I’d weep with her or listen to her scream. I hope very much I wouldn’t separate from her because her world seems too hard to deal with. I hope her time with me would somehow make it less hard to deal with–not because I can change her circumstance, although I would do whatever I could on that front, but because I know she’s a complex person with normal complex person dreams and fears and disappointments, and I would hear her and not just walk away glad I wasn’t in her shoes.
I’m not amazing. I’m tired and frustrated and hanging by the last bit of thread. I don’t have a clue how to pray at this point, having been told ‘no’ an uncountable number of times. But, I suspect through the Spirit I can do it. The Bible is full of people who managed through tough times, as is all of history, as is a lot of the world today. Don’t separate from them with a simple phrase; instead, remember we are all complex and have good days and bad days and need God’s Spirit to guide us and community to help us on our way.