Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wearing the Mantle and Others Taking it Off

There was a time, not that many years ago, when I held a grudge against the world. I tended to only see the negative in others, to wallow in my chosen self-pity and completely believed in the fallacy that everyone was out to get me, that there was very little goodness left in the world. I also held myself in much higher esteem than I ever should have, thinking that I alone had all the answers and I believed quite strongly that people would always fail you. I expected far too much of others and failed to see how I had in turn failed others myself. I can't blame it on youth, I was in my early 30's and far too old to lay it all off on lack of maturity. I closed myself off to others in so many ways, cracking the door open just a wee bit once in awhile for fear of being hurt. I suppose, as I reflect on it now, that events that occured in my teens and 20's led me to this self-protective place. I also believe quite strongly that my lack of connection with God led me there as well, I flat out turned my back on Him. It is easier to remain filled with hopelessness when one is not connecting with that part of ourselves that He fills up...when we allow Him to.

The past few years have been an extraordinary journey, a journey of faith and a journey to motherhood. The long and winding path that is my life has, like all of us, taken twists and turns that sometimes I wish it hadn't and other times I am profoundly grateful for even if at the moment I felt all was lost. But somewhere along the line, I gradually came to appreciate in a very deep and real way the connection we all have with one another in our humanity. It really is easier at times to wear the Mantle of Misunderstanding, assuming in our arrogance that we are the only ones going through a given experience and therefore others can't possibly offer comfort...they don't really understand, after all. It makes us martyrs that we can then hold high above ourselves, offering up our suffering as if it is something to be proud of. And yet it is that very assumption that keeps us from those who care, who could offer support, who could wrap their arms around us in love. As you can tell from my writings, I ocassionally slip and fall, and drape that Mantle of Misunderstanding around my own shoulders from time to time...choosing to isolate myself because it is a comfortable place to visit, having lived there for quite a long time. It is not something of which I am proud.

But once you have opened your heart up to God's goodness, once you have had your eyes opened to how He can work through others, it is hard to close back up and shut Him out...and to shut out others whom He is working through. You may be able to visit that "place" where you wallow in your aloneness but you find it is tough to remain there.

That is because He is just so good.

This week I was reminded of all of this in many ways and forms. His goodness came at me like a freight train as others whom He worked through yanked that Mantle off my shoulders. We can go through the hard times with more grace if we don't slam those doors shut, if we choose...for it is a choice...to see the warmth and concern of others, if we choose to overlook the failings...if we choose to see ourselves as part of humanity rather than holding ourselves above it.

I received an email on Saturday from a reader of our blog. This is not a person that I know well, although I do know her a little through the magic of the internet and it's interconnected resources. This woman read one of my posts last week, and was writing to make an incredible offer. She wanted to help our family go to Disneyland when we go to California at the end of the school year! I will not reveal too much of the details in order to keep her privacy, but she is a regular reader and realized there was something she could do to make our lives brighter...so she reached out and made the offer. I will add that this will require some effort on her part, and we recognize that for the gift it is...and it makes it that much more meaningful for the gift of time is so valuable and precious. We had quite quickly pushed aside any thought of being able to ever take the entire family to Disneyland, as the cost is exhorbitant and I often wonder how in the world so many families can do it. Now, through the kindness of a stranger, we are going to be able to have a special day as a family that we would otherwise not have ever been able to have. And the Mantle of Misunderstanding slipped off one shoulder...not because of the cash value of the offer but because of the humanity of it.

And again, I am reminded that God is good.

Yesterday I received an email from someone closer to home, someone I see often. It was a short email, merely 1 sentance. And yet the emotional impact it had on me could not be overstated. It reminded me that there are people in our lives who creep up on us and surprise us, whose hearts are so much fuller and so much larger than you ever would have imagined. It let me know that someone DOES understand and cares very much...enough to take action if something could be done. It comes from a quiet little corner of my life, a corner that would surprise others very much if it was revealed. And the Mantle gently slipped off the other shoulder and silkily slipped to the floor, not to be picked up again for good long time.

Once again, God showed Himself to me through the words and actions of others. He shows himself to me through this particular person very often, but this was in a different way.

God is good. People are good. Life is good.

For every person that hurts us, for every sorrowful thing that happens in our lives, for all the injustices...both real and perceived...there is an equal and opposite experience waiting for us. Perhaps we don't see it because our eyes are taped firmly shut, glued by our own unwillingness to open up another part of ourselves, our hearts and our minds.

It makes me wonder, how many times over the years have I missed out on the goodness of others? How many times have I denied others the joy that comes from the opportunity to offer themselves up in friendship and kindness?

And how many times have I neglected to offer that encouragement at just the right time, how many times have I been so self-absorbed that I failed to see the pain someone else was in, how many times have I assumed it was someone else's job to step forward...that someone was better equipped or prepared than I was to offer assistance.

If one owes God and humanity for all the goodness that has come their way, surely my account is well in arrears.

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