Surviving the Blow: Part 2

Fired. Divorced. Accused. Investigated. Laid off. Homeless. Abandoned. Incarcerated. Rejected. Abused. Laid off. Detached. Hungry. Depressed. Helpless. Hospitalized. Silenced. Death of a loved one. There’s a very good chance that you can personally identify with at least one of those words. If you cannot relate to these life blows personally, someone close to you can.

Trust me.

I remember when my life was in order – vaguely. When I look back on it, the order that I felt was primarily an attempt at control. In Part 1, I shared my naïve concept of future success Once I buy my DeLorean, I’ll see if I can go back in time to buy that Lexus before I turn 30 all over again. Until then, I’ll be grateful for what I have now.

People have told me, “You have a big heart.” I know what they mean by it, but I’m going to disagree. Words matter, so I want to correct that phrase. First of all, I’m 5’6 1/2″ and I might weigh 150 if I hold our suddenly-heavy cat. If anything, my heart is slightly below average. I’ve looked for a better way to phrase it because my heart and what I do is no different than your ticker and it’s less than what many people do all over the world.

I have an exposed heart.

The image I’m using in this piece is a photo of a tree rooted along the drive to my childhood home. It is the still-ticking trunk of an apple tree. You can see that it is fully exposed, even to the point of having a hole completely through it. Do you know what that tree does? It bears fruit – buckets and buckets of fruit. My father has taken down many trees over the years, but this is one he has tried to prop up. However, much to his amazement, time and time again the prop would fall down while the tree remained standing.

My mother took the picture of the tree and continues to tell me, “There’s a sermon in that tree.” There’s probably more than one, but she’s right. I have tried to find my identity in so many things over the years, much like props for a broken tree, and they kept falling down. There were grades, sports, status, appearance, spouse, church-goer, titles, honourable work, parent, home-owner, and an all-around good person. None of those matter because my identity belongs in Christ, and that’s the lesson that keeps coming back with every life blow.

When I share my weaknesses, I am exposed. I’m not sharing them in order to hear heart exaggerations. What I truly want you to know is that: God is good, God is faithful, and there are hurting people all around you. Trust me.

I remember when I treated the hurting people as “clients” because that was the relationship. Someone paid me to help hurting people, and they were broken people who got help – or didn’t. I was paid either way. The system would move them along eventually, so the results did not seem all that important. It was pretty easy to walk away with the thought of, “Well, I tried.” The concept that helping people is a one-way street only holds true if we think in terms of finances or assets. As I look back on my journey, I see clear points when God was knocking away the thought props I had used to keep hurting people at an arms-length.

I share my struggles for the sake of those who are still silent with theirs. There are a lot of broken apple trees who do not have the benefit of a safe haven while they are exposed. If I wrote all year, I would still not do justice to the stories I have heard in the past nine months. My goal is not your finances, my vision is a community that embodies the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ. The single mother who was fired before Christmas needs more than money to make ends meet. The friend with severe health issues who reluctantly accepted six dollars so she could get something to eat needs more than one Wendy’s meal. The young man starting a job after incarceration needs more than gas money. The two young ladies who prompted me to make emergency calls because of their separate overdose attempts need more than rides and referrals. They need community.

There’s another use of words that I push back against, and it’s the concept of “self-care.” I would certainly be someone who would get a recommendation for self-care. When you are surviving, you are not thriving. But sometimes surviving is what needs to be done, and you can still bear fruit while surviving! That apple tree, by appearances, could have been cut down years ago. It was left to stand, is cared for, and it continues to bear fruit. By God’s faithfulness and the roots of my incredible family, there is still fruit in spite of my broken state. It’s not so much that I need self-care as I am grateful for community care.

That’s the vision, and that’s why I share. I know many who are surviving, and they find no time for self-care. They need a community. When I write, it is an act of obedience. There are no drafts, no templates, and no hidden motives. Two days ago a friend of mine shared Part 1. It led to a day of me doing some manual labor for income. And, much like that tree, there was a sermon in the work. I spent the day picking up and moving a demolished ceiling in an old building where grave vaults used to be made. Let me translate that for you: I was picking up broken pieces in a place once meant to seal in death so that something new could be formed.

Read that again if you missed it.

I spent quite a bit of time listening to the man who was paying me for the work. At one point he stopped in order to try to explain why he thought me being there was a sign from God about which direction he should go in life. When I did not help him yesterday (so that I could drive a young lady to a courthouse for paperwork regarding her daughter), he sent me a text about prioritizing. I was a little upset by that because I didn’t feel that he knew me well enough to judge the situation. By the end of the day, he was sharing that he has been praying for the past two days, writing letters to people in prison, and that he just wants to put some more bread and fish in my basket. No matter what happens next, it seems fair to say that he’s part of the community.

Listen, I wish I had the imagination to write these things into a script. I’m glad that it’s not up to me and I keep being included in it. If there’s a way that you want to be part of someone’s community care, I’m all ears. If nothing else, I would be honored if you would share this piece. You never know what thread God will weave in once you do.

God bless you.

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