9 weeks ago today, I graduated from college. I feel so weird writing that, considering I still sleep with a stuffed animal (his name is Bubbles), wash colors and whites together, and have literally no idea how to balance a checkbook. Yet, here we are.
Man was this year hard. And I mean HARD. Like punched in the gut repeatedly hard.
But it was your senior year? You only took 6 hours, how could it have been that hard? Anyways, isn’t senior year supposed to be the best year of college?
Yeah, you would think that.
I don’t know if I can adequately articulate what this past year has been for me. It was the ultimate dichotomy: discouraging and hopeful, lonely and connected, frightening and exciting, painful and beautiful.
Suffering and pain spread like a forest fire with raging, merciless flames that could not be tamed. It engulfed my entire community of friends in one way or another, not a single one left unscathed.
Isn’t that crazy?
In the span of one year, practically an entire group of friends were knocked to their knees, one after another. Pain, struggle, and more pain. Honestly, it was beyond overwhelming. Just when I thought the calm was coming, something else came rolling in like an unsuspecting storm on a calm summer day. There was no rest, no stillness, no sense of peace or relaxation. Only chaos, confusion, doubt and uncertainty.
How do you keep going when that happens?
I wanted to give up more times than I could count. Or pretend like everything was fine. I did that a lot too. But one really cool thing I witnessed this year was the beginning of my own journey of actually allowing myself to feel emotions, and then talk about them (AKA this terrifying thing called blogging). When this started happening, it was amazing how God deepened friendships and facilitated connection. While I spent many nights in tears, passionate anger, or stunned silence, I had people by my side, hurting right along with me.
It was hard enough to endure my own struggles, but to witness the suffering of people who I love so dearly… that was heartbreaking. And not being able to do anything about it, yeah that sucked. We were trying to put on each other’s oxygen masks before our own. It was easier for me to ignore the fact that I was suffocating and focus instead on helping the person next to me breathe.
Kind and well-intentioned, but ineffective.
See, I have this thing about not wanting to be needy. It’s really annoying. I don’t allow myself to ask for help very often, and when I do I make sure to add a lot of caveats like “but only if you have time”, “only if you want to” or “I owe you one!”. Which in turn just adds to the feeling of not deserving anyone’s time or attention.
And to top it all off, I have a frustratingly good ability to downplay how I’m feeling and play the comparison game like a champ. It’s so easy to form a “hierarchy of hardship” in my mind where my own problems always wind up on the bottom tier.
And you better believe those starving children in Africa are making top tier.
(I am in no way diminishing the suffering and pain that those in poverty across the globe endure. It is incredibly saddening and troubling and deserves to be seen as such).
I don’t write that to be snarky or to try and get away with the “woe is me” attitude. However, I think it makes a good point about how ridiculous it is that we even try to rank our struggles. Pain is pain, period. One person’s paper cut could be another’s gunshot wound, but they both sting. If it hurts and affects your life, it’s worthy of help.
Jesus didn’t walk around during His public ministry teaching that certain types of hardships were “better” or “more worthy” to be healed than others. He just healed.
“ Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” – Matthew 9:35
Every disease and sickness. How incredible is that?
Pretty freaking awesome. But so easy to forget, or downplay and devalue our experiences in the name of “humility”.
What would it look like for us to truly believe we’re worthy of healing, no strings attached? To sit with others in their pain while still honoring your own? To know that we don’t have to “prove” our suffering, or make it worse, to warrant attention and help?
I got no clue. But luckily, there’s always more room at the table. Thank you Jesus.