Monday, March 21, 2016
Suffering and Identity
It's always a bit awkward bumping into someone you know that isn't involved in every detail of your everyday life. I hadn't caught up with him in quite a while, so I really didn't know what to say. Searching for subjects for small-talk, I fell back to the familiar things that had sadly defined most of our conversations:
"I'm good, but lots of drama... "
"Really?" he asked, concerned.
Was there a lot of exhausting, emotionally-draining, spiritually-numbing drama going on that day? Oh yes. A lot... for the last few weeks, in fact. But though I was feeling a bit tired and drained at the moment, the fact of the matter was that I've been really blessed lately. So many things are going so well. My marriage. My job. The kids. Lot's of personal and private things we've prayed about have been un-knotting themselves right before our eyes.
The thing about suffering, especially something that has enveloped your life for a long time or that is huge in magnitude, is that in countless subtle steps it takes over who you are. You become "that guy... the guy who all that bad stuff happens to and happened to."
It becomes what you fall back upon when you're in awkward social situations and don't know what to talk about. "Yeah... I'm good. Just lots of drama, lately."
It becomes what you talk and pray and think about when you first get up in the morning, during the day, and even before you go to bed at night.
It becomes what you reach out to others about, when you reach out at all. In the community of faith, you become one of those broken loner-types while others, who have been involved in the church for sometimes much less time, become active members who serve and sometimes gain small positions of leadership.
It becomes, in a very real sense, who you are. It owns you. It gives you a name. It becomes the story that you tell over and over, the narrative that defines your life... that is, until you're ready to hang that story up for good.
No matter what you've gone through and no matter what kind of chronic drama lingers on the fringes of your life, ready to cycle its way back in with one text message or phone call, you reach a point where you must make a choice. Is this my life, or is this just a part of my life? Am I a perpetual victim of an unfair world, unfortunate circumstances, and bad, mean, or crazy people who won't leave me alone, or am I a person who undergoes trials that can and will teach me, train me, and strengthen me into a better and more faithful man, a man who serves and gives out of those experiences rather than dwells, mopes, and makes his residence in Victim-ville?
Is it really that easy? No, it isn't easy, but it is that simple. It may not seem that simple at first, but by God's grace at some point you realize that part of you lives off of the havoc in your life. Part of you gets something from it... a sense of identity or security. It gives you something to hide behind, to set yourself apart with. But it only holds you back. Don't be "that guy." Give up that yoke. It gives you nothing good. Maybe you cannot change your circumstances, but through repentance you can change the position these circumstances are given in your life.