“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,” – Shakespeare, Sonnet 29
“No, you do NOT understand.” she snaps at his attempt at comfort. She is right, he has not walked a mile in her heels, but at a loss for words he had tried to soothe her anguish with the words “I understand.” For he did know something about pain and loneliness. He had experienced his version of it. Her exact feelings and circumstances? No, those he did not truly understand.
I once had a job that did not allow its employees to say “I understand.” Why? To avoid the situation above, to avoid a stressed customers snapped reply of “No you do NOT understand.” We were allowed to say “That situation can be frustrating.” “That is upsetting.” and other empathy statements, but we were to never “understand”. When a friend comes to us with a problem we empathize, we recall a similar situation, and we can feel similar hurts, but we do not truly understand. Every situation, every set of feelings, is going to be unique to the person who feels them.
That is why when we hurt, when we are upset, when we are depressed, when we are struggling, it is also easy to feel so terribly alone.
Psalm 76 – The Message
1-3 God is well-known in Judah;
in Israel, he’s a household name.
He keeps a house in Salem,
his own suite of rooms in Zion.
That’s where, using arrows for kindling,
he made a bonfire of weapons of war.
4-6 Oh, how bright you shine!
Outshining their huge piles of loot!
The warriors were plundered
and left there impotent.
And now there’s nothing to them,
nothing to show for their swagger and threats.
Your sudden roar, God of Jacob,
knocked the wind out of horse and rider.
7-10 Fierce you are, and fearsome!
Who can stand up to your rising anger?
From heaven you thunder judgment;
earth falls to her knees and holds her breath.
God stands tall and makes things right,
he saves all the wretched on earth.
Instead of smoldering rage—God-praise!
All that sputtering rage—now a garland for God!
God is a warrior and He has never been, and will never be, defeated. We are his warriors and even though we will win through God’ glory and grace in the end, we will suffer hard blows and devastating defeats. This Bible passage is an encouragement in those dark times. It is a picture of the aftermath of battle with a day of peace and praise on the horizon.
I Wouldn’t Change A Thing. Part I.
I was a brightly colored girl of 6, whose daddy would buy her colorful presents for her birthday and for “just because.” My white sneakers with the colorful butterflies all over them were my favorites. As I grew older and bigger I sadly outgrew them just as I outgrew my pink bike with the streamers. I remember the time when I came home from a trip with my mom and my siblings to step out of the van and turn to see my first 10 speed bike, it bright purple waiting for me. A surprise. I hugged my dad as I admired the paint job of my new and simply awesome bike. I still have the light switch plate with the purple and yellow butterflies on it that he gave to me once, just because. And hanging with my jewelry is a turquoise necklace he once bought for me while on a mission project. It is not all about the presents he gave me, it was his presence that made life colorful and special as well.
I was the smiling girl of 10. Who looked just like her mother. Her mother who baked cookies and brownies and bars and cakes. Her baking was always the best, being flavored with all of her love (cheesy but true!). She sang “it’s bubbling, it’s bubbling, it’s bubbling in my soul” when anything was boiling on the stove. My husband had to call her to get her biscuits and gravy recipe when we got married. She had spoiled me with my favorite birthday breakfast for too many years. I still expect biscuits and gravy in the morning and angel food cake with ice cream and strawberries in the evening, candles are optional.
I was a brightly colored girl of 6. The one who loved her Pocahontas Barbie doll. You know, the one with the deerskin dress that had the hidden leaves, the colorful leaves that would show up when you took her out in the sun. It was hard not to lose her blue, iconic necklace. It was hard not to lose patience while trying to brush the tangles and leaves out of her hair. Painting with the colors of the wind sure left a lot of tangles.
Ever since I can remember, there was a newspaper clipping that hung from the side of my family’s fridge. It was most visible if one was standing by the stove or using the cutting board. The title read “Some Parents Adopt The Attitude, My Child Right or Wrong, With Devastating Results.” The article continued to discuss how parents tend to guard their precious angels a little too closely. They cannot seem to see their child as being in the wrong. When a report card shows an “F” they march into the school and demand to know how the teacher is teaching the class and why Mrs. Whatever cannot seem to help their child learn. When their child is sent to detention for going against a school policy, they go in and fight the policy, defending their child’s behavior until the very end.
It can be easy to skip the part of the failing grade that means it is time to teach the child better study habits. It can be easier to demand the school change its policy than to admit that your child should change their behavior. And even if the teacher or the policy is in the wrong, or maybe it is the coach or the director or another parent, even if they are in the wrong maybe it would be a good lesson to teach your child, and yourself, how sometimes we have to compromise and work with a system that is flawed. We may not agree with the policy, but sometimes that is how life works.
The computer screen was lit up before me, illuminating an email filled with words that were tough to swallow, let alone read. I stared, dumbfounded and angry. How dare he. What is his problem? This is his fault, not mine. His! The words, his words, said otherwise. This reply should not have come as a shock, how else was he supposed to respond? My high school girl brain thought he would take my criticisms and take my words and learn from them, accept all the blame, and apologize. How silly of me.
I had broken up with my boyfriend about a week ago and he had asked me what had gone wrong. So I told him. And then he told me. He pointed out all of the times I had used the word “I” in the email. He pointed out how good I was at pointing fingers and shifting the blame. He wrote about how egotistical and selfish I was.
He had no right to hurt me like that. He had no right to be so right.