Yesterday I came across the blog of someone I knew in childhood and who, to all intents and purposes, seems to have led a charmed life. She is a successful photographer. I don’t want to deny her that success – of course not. She was always artistic as a child so I can see where her talent and skills came from. But for several hours afterwards I felt like I was useless. Less than. I wondered whatever happened to my hopes from childhood, what happened to that bright-eyed little girl who was once top of the class? I was reminded more than ever of the fact that I am unwell, I’ve not had a ‘normal’ life and that I gave up on having any ‘dreams’ at all a long time ago.
But… this is what happens when we look at ourselves through the world’s eyes. When we start comparing. This is a neat trick of the enemy – it is oh-so-easy to compare myself to others – not just in terms of my achievements, but my intelligence, my looks, my <ahem> weight… The objectification of women so prevalent in our culture is not just a result of the actions of men. Women wholeheartedly buy into it and ‘sell’ themselves too – by which I mean we place a worldly value on ourselves when we only value ourselves in the world’s terms.
When I look at myself with un-worldly eyes, i.e. the Holy Spirit, I can see how much I have suffered, yes, but also how far I have been redeemed! Then I see that this suffering has been, in a strange way, a gift, or at least it has brought with it some quite extraordinary gifts which are not come by except by suffering. I know there are plenty of my readers who will relate to this because they have been through their own ordeals. One of the most precious gifts suffering produces is that of compassion. As my online blogger friend Christine over at Glory to God blog put it, I am ‘not afraid of brokenness’. What a wonderful, insightful compliment. That really made my day (we followers of Christ would do well to encourage one another more, don’t you think?).
[Of course, I had to go and spoil it by showing the neighbourhood kids that I am Crazy Shouty Lady. I told a group of them off when my two girls came in sobbing their little hearts out. Tiger Mother Crazy Shouty Me didn’t stop to ask God what the right way to resolve the situation might be <wince>. On the other hand, a few years ago I wouldn’t have said boo to a goose, even a belligerent bunch of kids, and now look at me all Shouty… I dunno…]
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner
Having said that, I do get fed up with this illness. It is so frustrating! Six months I have been on this programme of treatment and I’ve not got far. This is my fault. I have tried to rush my recovery and every time I do, I set myself back. Stupid is as stupid does Only it’s not stupid, not really. It’s just me trying to be ‘all things to all people’ (which is good) but in my own strength (which is bad). I don’t have much physical strength, let alone spiritual muscle (ha!). But all this is teaching me to rely on God for literally every step that I take. If I do too much, which is easily done, I spend the next few days bedridden – this forces me to pray often and ask God to guide me (Crazy Shouty moments notwithstanding).
I always thought of myself as a good student. Maybe that bred arrogance because it has taken half a year of me trying to do it my way for me to finally realise that it’s not working. Now, finally, I am learning. Where the world sees illness and the inability to ‘achieve’, God sees hope:
‘Giving… has more to do with
than with giving from our resources.
At a table where the scribes and Pharisees saw sin,
Jesus saw possibility.’
From The Little Way of Lent
by Fr. Gary Caster.
Has the world discarded you? Does the world look down on you? Jesus doesn’t.
‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’ wrote Oscar Wilde in ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’.
Whether we have made bad choices, or life has thrown us down, in the end it doesn’t matter. ‘All have fallen short’, St. Paul tells us. What matters is when we stop pretending that we’re ‘ok on our own’. This is how we make room for the greatest gift of all – the gift of Grace.
Jesus will never discard you, or disown you. He won’t treat you like dirt. He will eat at your table, raise a glass with you, call you friend – and in the eating and the drinking you will partake of the Bread of Life and the Living Water, freely given, freely received. Jesus holds out a hand and says two simple words, “Follow me.”
‘…[Jesus] said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up, left everything, and followed him.’
Luke 5:27 (NRSVA)