I love my job.
But there are days that I really, really hate my job. For the most part I work with people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them. Sometimes it’s really awful- the kind of stuff that seems more at place in a horror novel then a quiet midwestern town. Sometimes, it’s the kind of stuff that leads to me locking myself in the bathroom for a time out. The worst part of it isn’t the fact that I’m a visual person by nature and thus struggle with visualizing the badness and taking it home in the form of nightmares. The worst part is that often I’m dealing with people whose lives have trained them to believe that they deserve no better, they will get no better, and the best that they can hope for themselves is to grow thick enough skins that they become numb to the pain.
There are men who learn that “real” manliness is fighting back and fighting dirtier. Women who think that they need to trade sex for safety. Kids who think that learning is for nerds and losers and the way to get ahead in life is to punch the other guy first. Mothers who reject their children because responding with sympathy to a babies neediness makes them vulnerable. Men who reject their pregnant wives for the same reason. The world is full of people who know nothing other than cycles of poverty and pain, people who see daily happiness as just as much of a fantasy as the whole family getting along over the holidays. The world has a seedy underbelly of pain and discontent that so many are blissfully unaware of- but for the people who live there, that is the entire world.
Pain, heartbreak, rejection and more pain. The smart ones learn to reject before they can be rejected, to cut more quickly and more deeply, to make sure that everyone else owes them more than they owe anyone.
It’s hard to remember that there’s hope beyond all hopes, that there is a love that conquers fear, that there is a peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s hard to remember, but most of the time I manage to. And I do my best to continue to be God’s hands and feet in this world. I offer love, and then I experience the greatest heartbreak of all: love rejected with a wary eye. Love mistrusted. Love responded to with anger and fear.
And I lock myself in the bathroom again. And sitting there, in the dark and heat (because for some odd reason our bathroom is the hottest room in the building, like a sauna, suffocatingly hot) listening to the sound of the radiator rattling like Marley’s ghost, I realize that what I am experiencing is only a fraction of the heartbreak that the Spirit feels every day when we mistrust God’s love for us, when we respond to salvation with cynism, when we judge others before they can judge us.
The answer is simple: love more strongly. Believe with more conviction. Offer more grace. Create an overflow of mercy and affection so strong that it washes away even the most stubborn of barriers. Live every second of your life in the hope of salvation. Pick up the shield of faith, wear the belt of truth, set your feet in the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.
We already have earned our reward if we only love those who want to be loved.
We have to love the way God loves.
And God just… loves. Everyone. Constantly.
I would say it hurts like Hell, but that’s a misnomer. It hurts like Heaven, but that’s the kind of hurt that’s worth carrying with you.
It could change the world.