"We are creatures made in the image of our creator, after all, which makes us partners in God's plan. We too are allies of creation. We too are lovers of life, which means that we too are wounded by the brokenness we see around us, the brokenness in which we ourselves participate. We are both the breakers and the healers, set into relationship with a God whose covenant calls us to shift the balance from death to life whenever and wherever we can." - Barbara Brown Taylor, in Gospel Medicine
Lately I've found that I have to stay busy to keep my mind off the circumstances of other people. That may sound horrible. I don't know. I've had to stop reading and watching the news almost completely. It's too much. And it is not just some of the recent mass tragedies that prompted this, but also individual heartaches that are just as much a part of life, yet shouldn't be. It seems that everywhere I turn, someone I know or a friend of a friend or a real person I don't know but who is on the news, is experiencing something horrible. Something that no person should have to experience, yet there it is. I want to turn it off and block it out, but I know deep down that is not possible.
That is the thing about life -- about death, heartache, brokenness, reality -- that gets us, isn't it? No amount of looking the other way, distracting ourselves, staying busy, focusing on other things... none of those efforts changes any of it. Even if we can forget for a while, it's all still there. The brokenness doesn't heal or go away by ignoring it. We can try to not think about it, but it is all. still. there.
So what can I do?
I can't work miracles: I am not Miracle Max (From The Princess Bride. Please tell me you got that reference before I explained it.)
I can't save people's lives: I am not a superhero.
I can't make suffering go away: I am not God.
It's difficult not to feel helpless and hopeless and useless. Then I started thinking about this line: "shift the balance from death to life whenever and wherever we can." I read that and realized that when we are doing the very best we can despite all our shortcomings, this is what is happening. Sometimes it is biting back a sarcastic remark and mustering a smile. Sometimes it is going out of our way to do something kind or helpful. Sometimes it is just being there even though we have no advice to offer or words to say. Sometimes it means showing up even though we don't know why.
When we persevere against that helpless feeling and do SOMETHING that pushes back the gloom and offers a momentary reprieve from a harsh reality, we are working to shift the balance from death to life. When we manage to brighten a day or lighten a burden or dry even one tear, we are nudging life ahead of its opposite... even if in the most minuscule, almost unrecognizable of increment.
Something about the idea of "whenever and wherever" sounds like something I have been having a difficult time grasping lately. Something about shifting the balance to something good any time that I can and anywhere that I can -- that sounds a little like hope to me. I'm not certain. It could be wishful thinking. I know in my heart that some things are so terrible that there is no escaping them. I know in my head that a momentary reprieve is just a break and doesn't actually make circumstances different. But, oh. Despite all the despair,this does seem like a way to foster hope. Even if that hope is such a tiny glimmer we can't be sure if it is anything at all.
That's what I want. I want to focus on shifting to life, shifting to good. Maybe then I can start seeing hope begin to reveal itself where there previously seemed to be nothing but darkness. Actually, I'm not going to get overly-optimistic about it. I'm going to keep thinking, "shift the balance" and keep working on that.
Any hope or life or healing or positive outcomes are not up to me. All I can do is show up and try to shift the balance.
And that is what I intend to do, even if I can't see the results.
From death to life. Whenever and wherever I can.