Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm not an expert on the topic, but I do have lots of thoughts on it...

Suffering. I am writing about my thoughts on suffering today. I must first thank all of you who were so kind and encouraging in my last post to leave me comments inviting me to keep sharing on this blog- even if my stories aren't so happy and carefree and always positive around here. My intent in sharing what I do has never been to simply share the "good stuff" or to leave everyone feeling inspired and moved in some way. But I have always intended to "keep it real" tell it like it is. I hope that Nitty.Gritty. is a place where whoever stops to read goes away at least thinking about something meaningful. Whether that is through my favorite buttercream recipe, or through tales about my kids, or even through painful things I have lived through, I just hope that this place can be less about "fluff" and more about real life.

So thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for letting me just be me, and for actually caring enough to stop by here on occasion and leave me notes telling me how Nitty.Gritty. has touched your life. It means so very, very much to me... and yes, it even inspires me to want to share more. SO thank you for that. All of you!

Today I write to you about suffering. Now believe me when I say that I don't call myself an expert on this topic. Nor do I believe that I have had "my share of suffering", as though we all have to have a certain dose of it in life or reach a quota and then we get a badge or award or a "get-out-of-jail-free card" to use when life throws us our next curve ball. I do, however, feel like I have had a certain degree of trials and tests that many in this world will never know or feel or understand, and to that end it has caused me to think on the topic and ask lots of questions about it- thereby giving me "material" to draw on when I sit down and pen my thoughts.

This post is me penning some of my thoughts. On suffering. describes suffering as enduring pain, injury, distress, loss or anything unpleasant- being subjected to it and or tolerating it, patiently or willingly.

So there you have it.

If I simply take the definition of suffering I can overwhelmingly announce, "yes, I've suffered." I think every single person can identify with pain, distress or loss- whether it is physical or otherwise. I think it's important to note that I write out of this understanding- that each of us has suffered in our own way and I never want to over-emphasize my suffering, or minimize the suffering of another. But I still feel like I have something to say on the topic which might speak to one or more of you in however you need to "hear" it.

It's no secret that I have been stressed and struggling in many areas of life for a long while now. Every time I feel like I am starting to get back on my feet or seeing a light at the end of a tunnel or finding a way to 'create my own Joy' it seems as though some force comes along to knock me down and out again. I will be the first to admit that I am not very good or a very willing subject to this force each time it comes a-knockin'. I have gotten progressively less patient- with myself and others, less optimistic, less tolerant, less enthusiastic, less funny, less creative, less initmate, less friendly, less joyful and less a whole lot of other not so good things too. But let me just leave it at that for now. I am making myself feel terrible just writing out all the bad stuff I have let the hurts in my life bring out of me. The truth is that I sort of feel like every time something "good" is about to or does happen in my life, or every time I make a huge effort to be better than the "bad", to me it feels like things go from bad to worse. It's like the hardships in life don't just come and go, like they used to, but rather they keep piling up- one on top of the other. I think I've mentioned it here before, that sometimes I feel like I am just treading water, rather than swimming freely and truly loving or enjoying or getting the most out of life. I am also aware that there are lots of variables that come into play in my life- including the ages and stages of my children and the added demands of Wyndham's special needs coupled with a bunch of other things and it sort of has just been a long, hard "season" of life for our family the past couple of years. I get that.

I also write from a place where I feel like I have lived and learned some ultra-important lessons in life about appreciating what I have; I have a deep sense of perspective and insight about even our next breath not being guaranteed to us in life and so I should embrace the here and now like never before. I am keenly aware that life can and often does change in an instant...and I always get that things could be much worse. So much worse.

So I write from that place when I write about suffering. My thoughts lately have been more along the lines of not "why" do we suffer in this world. I fully believe there are lots of different reasons why and I fully believe that because of the original sin we live in a broken, fallen world which leaves every single one of us vulnerable to pain and suffering. So it's not so much the reason why that I think about, but rather about the actual suffering itself.

I posted a couple of pictures here today- one is a picture I took out my living room window the other day. It's a huge house that sits just feet behind our current place up on top of a hill. Crew calls it "the castle" and I have to admit I have wondered about the people who live there. I wonder what they do for a living- if they even have to work at all. I wonder if they have kids, or grandkids. I wonder if they love their castle, or if they would rather sell this home and live somewhere else. It's a beautiful, big house. But it doesn't mean that the people that live there don't have struggles or problems in life. Well, maybe they don't. =) I don't know for sure. But I do know that sometimes what we "see" on the outside doesn't mean that it's picture perfect on the inside. Tiger Woods is a modern day example of that- someone seemingly having everything going for you- when in reality your world can fall apart overnight.

So there's a picture of the castle. Then there is a picture of an online acquaintance of mine, Ashley of She is an all-around picture of "perfection" according to the picture that many of us paint in our minds of perfection. Meaning that she is young, beautiful, creative, talented, driven, married to Mr. Hottie with a great smile all his own, and she has an adorable little girl to round out this picture we often paint in our minds. Her life is one to envy in almost every single way.

Except for recently.

Her dad died unexpectedly last spring. Shortly after that she experienced a miscarriage. Then, as if she wasn't going through enough suffering- physically and emotionally- she found out she has cancer.

She is in the middle of her battle right now. And although hundreds of other people are in the same battle, she seems to be facing it with a certain Joy and grace that many others lack. I have followed her story, prayed and sent messages of encouragement to her. You would be blessed by reading her story and cheering her on too.{There is a way to get more involved with her story here too!}

She has touched me through the computer screen.

And the part that has touched me is not that she has everything going 'right'... but precisely the fact that so much is going 'wrong' and yet she persists. She smiles. She seems to make the "suffering look easy". I've written about that here at Nitty.Gritty. in previous posts too. So the part about suffering that makes me wonder is this- maybe it's not the why's of suffering, but the definition of suffering that needs to be examined.

I have been asking God to show me what He wants me to learn from the hard lessons I feel I've been going through. I have been praying that maybe He could ease some of the burdens I have been carrying in life so that I could live 'freely' again. I have prayed and prayed that He might bring about the feeling of joy I used to feel and thinking that certainly it must be in the easing of my suffering that I would find that joy again.

But instead, I am beginning to think that maybe it is in accepting that my definition and God's definition of suffering are two totally different things. I know He could hand me the keys to a "castle" free of pain and suffering if He so wanted to. But that doesn't mean it would be the best way for me to learn lessons in life that clearly I still need to learn. I'm talking about that long, nasty list of not-so-hot things about me. Things like needing to love more, to like more, to be patient more, to be accept more, to try harder, to be better, to be gracious more, to be intimate and share myself more, to laugh more, to accept less when needed too, and lots of other refining I need in so many, many areas of my life.

Realizing that God's picture of suffering and my picture of suffering are worlds apart is probably one step toward becoming not only more joyful in life, but more in step with the character He is trying to mold me to be- through, ironically, what I term "suffering".

I am absolutely aware- even as I glance outside my back window and see a "castle" every single day, that even what I call suffering in life doesn't begin to compare with what millions of people in this world wake up to and suffer through every day. I am fully aware that I have so much more than most of the people of this world will ever know. I am thankful and grateful for all that I have. Yet, ashamedly, I have found myself wishing I had less baggage and more ease in life. I think God might just be trying to speak to me through the very castle He has placed in my backyard. I can't know what life holds in that castle- just as Ashley cannot know what life holds for her each time she has another round of chemo. Our sufferings may be very real to us. But I am starting to wonder if I could just catch a glimpse of them from God's point of view, maybe I could see how very, very small they are. And how very, very big He is. And the faith that has wavered in my heart might waiver a bit less as I recognize that He has this all in His hands. He has a plan and a purpose and reasons that can spin my suffering and all the world's suffering and turn them into things of beauty and even pleasure. He is that capable, and that amazing.

So, I hope that maybe, even with all this long rambling, that just maybe some of my tiny thoughts on the subject of suffering might shed a tiny bit of light on something one of you reading here is going through. Just maybe God can take my words and use them to touch you in a different way. Just maybe God can take the current suffering and pain that Ashley is going through and use it to change someone's life- whether it be the way they look at life and how they approach a pain or that they decide to "Choose joy" because they see the beauty of that in Ashely's fight.

I do not have the answers to suffering. But I do think, deep in my heart, that God might be using a little bit of suffering in my life to do something I would never have thought of on my own. That only proves my point. What I call suffering in my life, might very likely be termed mercy or grace since it comes from Him. And that, my friends, is a very, very good thing.


Katie Wetherbee said...

Thank you, Jody, for your honesty and transparency...sometimes, for me, suffering isn't one great big thing, but rather a whole lot of things that, as you said, pile up. It gets heavy...too heavy. Praying that your load will lighten each and every day, and that you'll get that glimpse of God's purpose in the midst of it.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of God's view of suffering as being different from ours. I always appreciate your insight on often helps me to view things in a different light. God bless you and your family.

Jan said...

I wish you and your family the best.I have been going through some rough times also,not like you or Ashley but I have been in a rut lately.Just when you think you have it bad,you read things like what your going through & what Ashley is going through.I pray for you and your family & hope things
get better for you.

MelanieL said...

I enjoyed this post. One thing stuck out in my mind though, you should take your little family right on over to that "castle" and introduce yourselves as the new neighbors. I have a feeling whomever answers the door would love to see you and yours standing there to say "hi". Just a thought:)

Sharon said...

Keeping it fluff...that's why I read your touches my heart, grabs my soul, and yanks my reality. You are an exceptional woman, who I admire, have never met, look up to you, and wish I had half your are a remarkable woman. God moved you next to that castle for a reason and someday you'll realize what it is...but until then...keep on sharing your thoughts, cause I love your realism!

Cheryl said...

Thank you again for sharing. Suffering is very difficult understand at times, but I love your insight.

Blessings to you,
With love and Hope,

Michelle said...

Jody, thank you for the willingness to be transparent. I SO needed to read this. I have been wanting to get past the trials I am experiencing and THAT I think lies my problem. That is not accepting where I am-wanting to "get past it." I shall relinquish it all to God Almighty who is VERY capable of handling it. Thanks again for making me think and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

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