I invite you here to share in an honest conversation. The last four years of my life have involved a full-out, knock-down battle against faith. When TC was assaulted, our lives imploded. I grieved. I tried to make sense of WHY. I weighed the importance of forgiveness. I thought a lot about acceptance. And I got really, really real about who I was before his injury and the kind of life I was living.
Like a lot of you reading, I considered myself a “good” person. Why? Because I followed the laws. Because I never intentionally hurt others. Because I chose to be a teacher and serve children. I thought this was enough. I also stupidly believed it would protect me from the “bad” stuff in the world. In a lot of ways, I was still a child – buying into the same comforting myths many of us learn from our parents.
I can write about this now because I am hardly the same person I was four years ago. I see now that what happened to TC – what happened to all of us as a result – was not personal. It was random. It was fair, inasmuch as it’s fair for anyone facing cancer, disease, or hardship. Life ALWAYS contains struggle. Our struggle just happens to be the result of a few people’s personal choices.
Personal choice. Personal responsibility.
I take these values very seriously in my life these days. If I leave my children with one message in this lifetime it’s that you must own your choices. There are times we don’t get to control what happens to us, but we always get to choose how to respond. This is not only our privilege, it’s our duty. And I’ll be honest: I’m terrified by how little personal responsibility I’m seeing out there from people who also consider themselves to be “good.”
The real deal is that I spent way too much of my life intentionally keeping it small – safe, comfortable – because I was scared to be more. I was scared to take risks. I was scared of being seen. I turned down interesting opportunities. I refused to engage with strangers. I thought only about me and the people in my little world. And I was totally fine with that. That’s just how people are, right?
But when life smacked me in the face with the indisputable fact of its impermanency, I decided I couldn’t waste anymore time with smallness. It was time to live big, to start saying yes to potentially scary things, and to hand over the keys to the comfort zone I once lived in. Besides marrying TC, this has been the wisest decision of my life. I feel full in a way I couldn’t imagine before. My life is rich with new people and projects and ideas and now my biggest fear is that I won’t live long enough to bring them all to fruition.
I tell you all this because finding grace in the face of adversity is HARD WORK. I’ll never be fully healed nor done learning from our trauma. There is always more to extract, more to wrestle with. And I tell you this because I know personal responsibility is an essential value to many of us. We believe in service. We believe in helping others.
But the reality is that few of us are living up to our potential in this arena. The outcome of Tuesday’s election was a stark reminder to me that I need to be doing more – that there are people hurting from all corners of our nation – and that it’s not enough to be a “good” person. We need to be purposeful people.
Since last week I’ve been on a bit of a social media diet for a few reasons: 1) I have some service ideas I’m trying to bring to life, and 2) because I can’t handle some of the ungracious things I’ve read on there. Comments about “sore losers,” and “get over it,” and “chill out everyone, Santa’s coming in 45 days!” These are deeply troubling comments to me. They indicate that people on both sides of this election aren’t taking each other’s problems seriously. They indicate the belief that simply casting a vote is enough. And after that, we’re not responsible for being part of the change.
Putting aside the issue of which candidate you voted for, this election has proved to us that a great deal of people in this nation are hurting. And even though my life has been hard, and will always be hard because of TC’s health, I am not one of those people. My life is OK. If I work hard, I can afford the things I need. I can even make do with a lot less. Maybe this is true for you also, and maybe like me, you’re thinking of some ways to trim the fat from your lifestyle to help bring more equality to others.
This isn’t about following in Mother Theresa’s footsteps. It’s not even about Christianity. It’s about having the courage to take a deep, hard look at your own life and decide where your personal responsibility lies. It’s not enough to be nice. It’s not enough to be polite (although we could use a bit more of that at the moment). It’s not enough to be good. We have to be better.
I’m still struggling to find grace with people right now. It’s so much easier to lean on judgment and anger instead. But I contemplate this question I recently read: If you took all the words you’ve written online and tattooed them on your body, how beautiful would you be?
And, so, I’m starting here on my blog, trying to answer that question for myself and posing it back to you. Where do we go from here? What is your purpose? It’s my sincere prayer that we’ll be following the path to grace together.