I’ve been debating whether or not to share this post. It’s personal yes, but that’s not why I’ve hesitated. I’ve faltered because it reveals my heart for where I believe God is taking me with this blog/writing/speaking gig, or whatever it is, that He seems to have called me to. Sharing that is scary. No, not scary. Scary isn’t it – I’ve done scary things and this doesn’t fit into that box. Petrifying. THAT’S what it is.
What if I’m wrong? What if I can’t do it? What if you all think I’m bonkers (more than you normally do)?
But I’ve decided share it in spite of my fears, because that is what I would tell you to do if you came to me with this seed of a dream you felt God had called you to, and it meant putting your heart on the line. I’d tell you God is good and will be there no matter what, and I’d tell you to put your big girl knickers on, pull up your boot straps and believe Him. So, Bridget Jones eat your heart out – my big girl undies are bigger than yours, so I’m about to hit the “publish” button.
I have a confession and an apology to make, so I’ll get right to it and wont dilly dally or procrastinate – I’ll save that for tomorrow.
It seems that in my desire to reach out, walk along side you, and cheer you on as you navigate life’s often stormy waters, I’ve rather arrogantly assumed I have a unique understanding of whatever you’re dealing with right now. That just because I have had the bottom fall out of my world, and have felt loss and pain, that I can magically slip my rather large, calloused feet, into your shoes, and feel the hurts, struggles and pain that are unique to you. I’ve realized that I can’t and should never have assumed I could. I’m so sorry and terribly embarrassed for thinking so highly of myself.
My misguided arrogance slapped me around the face like a wet kipper when I read these words in an essay by my friend Patrice Gopo.
“Perhaps marriage had lulled me into a false sense of intimacy with my husbands culture.”
I was ensconced in my favorite chair that’s nestled at the bottom of the garden, secluded from the clamor and demands of the house, when the weight of these words settled on me and their truth unearthed something deep inside. They were part of Patrice’s story of searching for “a way for me to write in a robust fashion about Zimbabwe”, the homeland and culture of her sweet husband Nyasha. She spoke of wrestling to write with authority about this particular culture and events, unique to Zimbabwe, knowing they were filtered through the perspective of just one woman – herself.
She questioned whether her marriage to Nyasha had given her a false sense of authority and perspective in areas where she and her marriage were just one entry point – admittedly a unique entry point, but small and limited none the less.
That’s when I asked myself – am I equally as guilty in my writing? Can I say the same for my writing and journey of suffering? Just switch out a few words and I can easily confess that,
“Perhaps my own suffering has lulled me into a false sense of intimacy with the world’s pain.”
In other words
“Have I wrongly believed that I understand everybody else’s suffering purely on the basis that I have experienced and journeyed through pain myself?”
[Tweet ““Have I wrongly believed that I understand everybody else’s suffering purely on the basis that I have experienced and journeyed through pain myself?””]
I’m ashamed to say the answer is yes, I’ve believed that since I have felt great pain, I automatically understand and feel your pain.
I don’t and I can’t. Your suffering is yours, and yours alone – unique to you.
When we assume we can fully comprehend someone else’s suffering, we devalue it, distorting their experience by force filtering through our different and limited experiences.[Tweet “When we assume we can fully comprehend someone else’s suffering, we devalue it, distorting their experience by force filtering through our different and limited experiences.”]
Yet what my journey does give me, is empathy, where previously all I had to offer was sympathy.
It means I can hold out my hand, clasp yours in mine, hug you and say,“I’m so sorry your world has been rocked, and it feels like the ground has fallen out from under your feet. I understand a little of what you are going through and I am here for you.”[Tweet ““I’m so sorry your world has been rocked, and it feels like the ground has fallen out from under your feet. I understand a little of what you are going through and I am here for you.””]
Then we can sit down over a cuppa (in cyberspace or in person) and I can tell you that you’re not alone. I can remind you that you are loved, and share with you some of the things I have learned along the way in the hope that you’re encouraged and better equipped for the road you’re on.
Then we can journey on together doing our best to be brave and vulnerable before God, allowing Him to bring healing and purpose to our lives, all the while discovering that He delights in creating beauty from ashes.[Tweet “We can journey on together doing our best to be brave and vulnerable before God, allowing Him to bring healing and purpose to our lives, all the while discovering that He delights in creating beauty from ashes.”]
I’m not an expert or authority, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but what I do have I share with you – my own journey, my reflections and top tips for thriving not just surviving. I’ll even share some of the often hilarious escapades of my crazy life so you can have a good old laugh when all you really want to do is scream.
I pray that you’ll find encouragement, hope, a good dollop of English humor, and the tools to keep calm and carry on through life’s challenging seasons.
If you’re going through a tough time, or know someone who is, I’m thinking about running a course/series or starting a weekly email to do all the things I’ve talked about wanting to do (encouraging you, equipping you, walking with you). If you’re interested, drop me a line and let me know some of the main things you’re struggling with (faith? trust? perseverance? pain? practical tips? etc) and how I can help. I want to tailor it to you and your needs. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.