Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Christlike I am Not

On The Morning Cruise we've talked about Carmen's mom several times. The first weekend she was admitted to the hospital, my wife Kimberly and I were ready to drive to Tampa just to sit with Carmen, hold her hand. It's scary to watch your loved ones go through pain. We went through it in 2005 as my mother battled lung cancer. You don't need lots of well-wishers and miracle cures, you need a little understanding and a lot of support.

When Carmen's mom was diagnosed with MS, it soon became clear that their family would be looking at a drawn-out, daily wrestling rather than a definite cure and rehab. Since then, with failed treatments and a new strategy, starting today, using agressive and somewhat risky drugs, the battle has been worse than expected. And Carmen, strong as she is in her faith and character, is at times hanging by a thread emotionally.

You would think your closest friends, your teammates, would be able more than anyone to enter into your experience, feel your sufferings, empathize. But I find myself emotionally stunted, as I have so often in so many personal situations. In times when I should emulate Jesus, weeping at the tomb of Lazarus though he was about to raise him from the dead, I am like an emotional cripple. I've even faced this with my children, using the excuse at a tender moment when I feel their pain intellectually but not emotionally, "Daddy's cry-er is broken."

I'm sure this pychological phenomenon is ripe with possible pathologies. My disability probably has a name and is likely connected to my childhood in some way. But I'm not interested in that. It's also a pathology of sin, selfishness and a lack of Christ-imbued character. The bottom line is, I just want to be more like Christ, more naturally able to laugh or cry with Kimberly or Madison, able to feel the pain of a close friend like Carmen, rather than merely "understanding" it.

My friend Louis sent me a short, unrelated blog on the same subject. The Frost poem he referenced caught my attention (naturally!) and put these feelings into an exercise in self-examination. I boldfaced the two key lines:

I was leafing through my old book of Robert Frost's poetry last night, musing on the death of a friend from pancreatic cancer. I was drawn to "Out, Out", the title of which is taken from Macbeths' "Out, out brief candle" speech.

How cynical is Macbeth's speech! And in Frost's poem, the ending haunts... "And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs".

Our confidence is heaven, gained by Jesus sacrifice and the gift of faith is so out of congruence with the world. I think so much of the world lives as if our lives here are truly "a walking shadow... a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Do we live before men so that they can see the hope that is in us? Is Jesus making a visible change in our lives so that we give hope to those in despair?

These are the questions that come in such a time.


S Himes said...

I only have two words

1) WOW

While not as verbally accurate as your blog, I myself have wondered the same things - THE WOW.

But your blog also hit a nerve. Where have I been when my friends and family needed me, needed me to be Christ? THE OUCH!

Unknown said...

Ironically enough being a Christian means one thing, Loving others as Christ loves us. How simple it is for us to wave and say "I'll pray for you". That wasn't the action of Christ, he wept. It works another way too, when a believer finds themselves in the world and has only the church to turn to and the doors are shut behind them. Humans have a way with understanding others hurt; smile and wave, "I'll Pray For You"

Danielle said...

I'm on the other side of this. It's funny how we always want to be something just a little bit different than what we are. I am one that takes other people's pain too close to heart. It's actually a bit nerve wracking when someone is telling you about something that is really hurting them and you are the one crying. It upsets me that I cannot take away their pain, that I cannot do anything other than pray. In some ways I really appreciate this. However, at times- when you need to be strong, in front of co-workers- it is not always so good. I completely understand where you are coming from. Just from the opposite side of the fence. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have found that as a Christian, the closer we get to Christ, we see how awesome and wonderful and perfect He is because He IS, and we see how imperfect we are...but He still loves us and calls us how we are. I am glad that I don't have to have all the answers or be perfect because He is and He wants us to continually come to a place of dependence on Him. I am sure that you in that room with Carmen and her mom was a source of strength. Just being there for your friends and family, as a daddy even if you don't cry, holding them in the strength of your loving strong arms thrusts your family and friends into the very arms of Christ Himself. It is a gift to be a source of strength. If you feel the tears come, let them come, but just because they don't doesn't mean you are not Christ-like or that you are not being used of God.
-Much Love in Christ

Carmen said...

While I get your point and know that this is something we've talked about before .... I must make mention of the fact that you are the FIRST person to call and you are the FIRST person to pray. You care deeply about what's affecting those around you. Even tho you may not personally "feel" their pain, your empathy, care and concern for your friends is evident. Of everyone in my life, you were the one I called and leaned on the most through those very hard first few weeks. There's a reason for that. So...while I get your point, I think your "self evaluation" is a bit broken too. :) Love you Bill Martin!