You can read about Kim's earthquake on her blog, "In The Meantime." There you will find an example of amazing faith. Faith that is allowing Kim to find joy and healing in the rubble and devastation that an earthquake brings.
Kim said something on her post that reminded me of a truth I believe God planted in my heart a couple of years ago. This particular truth was like a seed that was planted on rocky ground. The one that didn’t grow. Kim’s words were like water to that dry, buried seed.
"None of us know what any of us will go through tomorrow. Or even this afternoon. We need to treat each other more gently."
I’ve found that nothing makes truth become more of a reality in my life than to share it with others.
So, I’m sharing it with you.
A couple of years ago, I was going to the mall while Jim and Ethan stayed home. I remember how good it felt, how good it felt to do something normal. Something I would have done before. I also remembered thinking that just for a little while, I'll be like everyone else. No one will know.
When the three of us go anywhere, we are noticeable. But I'm not embarrassed by it. I thank God everyday that Ethan is with us and that He took away the shame of our mistakes and of our rebellion.
It's just a fact that most people notice a handsome young man in a wheelchair being pushed by his loving and attentive dad or by his mom that frequently drives him into things and has to do a lot of backing up. We are not the norm. People notice our little trio. They usually smile, offer to hold doors open, and we smile back and say thank-you.
Like I said, I don't mind.
But, I remember that day, as I drove to the mall, that I longed to be just like everyone else. I wanted to blend-in. To be un-noticeable.
We all become bored with the everyday happenings of life. Who gets excited about going to the mall? Or the grocery store? Or going to Lowe’s or Home Depot with your husband? Who enjoys a leisurely stroll through Sam's, looking at all the new food items and all the bargains you could really use?
I'll tell you who gets excited about it. People that miss their normal. People who have lost their normal by experiencing a heart-breaking, life-changing earthquake.
I could go the mall and pretend, just for a little while, that life was normal. For a little while, I could pretend that the past few years had only been a bad dream. I could pretend that there were no wheelchairs in our house, that old dreams we had for Ethan were going to come true. I could pretend that we hadn't experienced an earthquake, that my world hadn't fallen apart.
I could walk through the mall and no one would wonder what had happened. There would be no curious glances or sympathetic smiles. The only person who might offer to hold a door open for me would probably just be an elderly man that couldn’t help but be a gentleman, or a young boy that wanted his mom to see that he had learned the manners she had been trying to teach him.
Yes, I could be un-noticeable.
I guess I might sound a little narcissist. You know, thinking that people notice me. But, it isn’t me they notice. It’s us they notice. We have become that family.
It sounds silly but I can still remember liking what I was wearing that day. It looked cute. And, I was having a good hair day.
That would be good for my disguise.
Yep. I was going to fool some people that day.
And, then it hit me.
If I could fool them, then maybe, just maybe, they could fool me.
If I could dress up and go to the mall and fool people into thinking my life was easy, without struggles, without pain. . .
If I could put a smile on my face and no one would suspect that I had cried myself to sleep the night before. . .
If I could carry a bag containing a find, you know,70% off with another 30% off and have people think I had $$$$ to spend. . .
If my clothes, my co-operating hair, and some flattering make-up could cause people never to consider that I had lived through an earthquake. . .
If I called Jim to make sure that he and Ethan were safe and okay (because I worry about them when they're home alone), perhaps someone would think I was on the phone making plans for a fun night out with the girls. . .
If I could fool them, then why would I think they weren't fooling me?
I began to see people differently.
The retired folks doing their laps around the mall. . . the young mom pushing her precious cargo. The two women sitting in the food court, lost in their conversation. The family in the shoe store trying to find tennis shoes that would fit and please a 12 year old boy. . . the teenager lost in her cell phone, "texting" one message after another. The woman struggling to carry all her purchases. The clerks behind the counters.
Were any of them hurting? Were their smiles as fake as mine? Were they pretending? Were they trying to forget?
I realized that hurting people don't wear signs around their necks that say:
MY LIFE HAS FALLEN APART.
I’M BARELY HANGING ON.
I’M JUST TRYING TO TAKE ONE MORE STEP.
TO TAKE ONE MORE BREATH.
I’M BARELY HANGING ON.
I’M JUST TRYING TO TAKE ONE MORE STEP.
TO TAKE ONE MORE BREATH.
How were people fooling me?
What normal had they lost and how?
I wondered if the retirees were lonely. If their kids and grand-kids were too busy for them. Was the young mom a single mom, wondering how in the world she was going to raise an emotionally healthy and happy child by herself? Was she weary from all the responsibility?
Were the women sitting in the food court talking about a bad medical diagnosis, one trying to encourage and comfort the other? Were the parents buying their son shoes, with money they didn’t have, so he could play a sport and not have to sit out the season?
Was the teen-age girl overwhelmed with shame about her behavior the night before, just praying that no one would find out? Praying that her boyfriend would keep a secret?
The lady with all those packages. . . was she just buying what she could afford, because, what she really wanted can’t be bought? The clerk, was that her second job because the man she trusted for 25 years left her, and took her financial security with him?
Of course... I don’t know.
Maybe every one at the mall that day was happy. Maybe they didn’t have any major struggles going on in their lives. Maybe I was the only one at the mall that day with a broken heart.
That’s just it. I don’t know. I wouldn't know. Remember, people with broken hearts don’t wear signs around their necks.
But, God knows. He always knows. We can "fool" each other, but we can’t fool Him.
He knows every fake smile, every overdrawn bank account, every disappointment, every bad diagnosis. He knows the shame, the loneliness. He knows every vow that has been broken, and all the love that's been rejected.
Oh, yes. We try to hide it from Him, like we try to hide it from each other.
We have all become experts at hiding. We’ve had a lot of practice. We’ve been hiding since Adam and Eve found themselves naked in the garden. But, like Adam and Eve, we can’t hide it from God.
Maybe that’s why He tells us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave us."
Maybe that’s why we are to "... comfort others with the same comfort God has given to us."
Maybe that's why He tells us to let our light shine, and to love each other as we love ourselves, and like He loves us.
When I don’t know who needs some tenderness, some forgiving, He does.
When I don't know who needs comfort and the light of His presence, He does.
When I don't know who is desperate to feel that their life matters and to know that they are accepted and loved, He does.
How do we do that in a cold, impersonal world? How do we do that at the mall?
Maybe it’s as simple as being a little more patient and appreciative at the check-out counter. Maybe it’s actually looking at someone as you pass in the mall, making eye contact, and giving them a smile. Maybe it’s just a few sweet words to the mom pushing the stroller. “Your baby is so precious. Absolutely precious.”
Perhaps it’s taking the time to compliment the retirees for their discipline and to wish them a nice day. Maybe it's picking up something off the floor that someone has dropped so they don't have to. Maybe it’s just saying a quiet prayer as you walk past a young family or a bubbly, chatty teenager.
Maybe it's holding a door open for a family with a child in a wheelchair and giving them a sympathetic smile and saying a quiet prayer for them, too.
We could use it.
Maybe we should just ask the One Who Knows to make us more aware... to make us more willing. Maybe, we should just treat everyone as if their heart might be broken.
It's like Kim reminded me: If it's not broken today, it might be tomorrow.
So, that’s the truth God planted in my heart that day. It’s taken me awhile to remember that He planted it. But, you know, God is faithful and His truth never changes. It just needs to be watered sometimes.
Sometimes it just needs some "tender-loving care."
Just like all of us!