Better For It

Sarah Comer   -  

A couple of weeks ago, I asked God to give me a heart of empathy toward those who were hurting because of the virus overwhelming our world.

I know you may think that I’m heartless for needing to pray such a prayer, but hear me out. I’m not blind to the fact that people are dying + hurting, losing their jobs, being stuck in terrible home situations, or lonely because they live alone. I recognize that people can’t see their friends, parents, grandparents, and I know it’s hard to give up long-lasting traditions because we’re “safer at home.” As a person who loves the building of relationships, I absolutely LOVE that we are so upset that we can’t be together.

However, I had to ask for empathy because I see so much beauty within the pain.

Can I tell you a secret? Nearly all of my friends and family are teachers – or at least it feels that way. My mom used to try to convince me to become a teacher, + I argued it up + down for one reason: I don’t know very many teachers that have expressed to me how much they love their jobs. I want to be a person that people feel like they can be honest + open with, but I also am a big believer in not complaining unless you’re going to do something about it. Therefore, I paid attention when teacher after teacher shared way more heartache than joy, + more teachers contemplated never going back to school. I heard their cries for longer breaks, + I saw their countdowns to the next holiday. I don’t blame them; we all look forward to our next day off. I also don’t blame them for their complaints; they all felt valid to me. But I was completely floored when I saw friend after friend post about how much they miss their classroom babies, going above + beyond to remind the kids how much they were loved + missed. It was beautiful to see all of these teachers step out of the bogged-down-stressed-out-underappreciated career + step into the heart of being a teacher…loving + teaching those classroom babes.

I saw families that usually go, go, go forced to stop, to take in moments they had together, + make memories. I heard them say things like, “We didn’t even realize…” and “I’m glad we get to be together during this time.” I also heard them struggle, as they put aside everything they know as normal, everything that occupies their time to stay home.

I was greeted by a man walking past me in the grocery store who looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said, “Hello! How are you doing today?” And – shock -I COULD HEAR HIM. He didn’t mumble it under his breath to keep from being awkward. + he kept looking at me as we walked past each other, waiting for my response! He really wanted to know how I was doing. My instincts didn’t say it was because he was a creep; my instincts said it was because he knew that every single person in that store could use a smile right now. My assumptions were confirmed when I heard him ask the person a few steps behind me how they were doing. IMAGINE. A stranger just passing out smiles + greetings.

I heard mothers share their thankfulness for extra time with their kids. I saw 19 million churches stream their services LIVE. I listened to people who have never spoken before have a conversation + people who never would’ve dreamed they could have anything in common find commonalities immediately. Instead of begging for time to rest at home with their family, people were actually confessing to missing being at the office. I watched a lot of people stuck in what’s comfortable to pursue what is innovative. College students weren’t sleeping through their classes; they were crying at cleaning their dorms out early. + the blessed high school seniors who think they’re entering as small fish in a really big pond we call the world to have everyone genuinely care that their proms, graduations, “last moments”, and senior weeks were postponed or canceled.

See, I needed a heart of empathy that reminded me of how much pain this is all causing because, well, it’s so easy for me to see how much beauty came from it. I thought maybe I was just cold + heartless until I saw a news station post a writing from a little girl who had similar thoughts. Then I attended Book Club (another beautiful result of the crisis), + I heard a friend talk about how this has caused us to see what our top priorities + passions truly are. What is it that we want so desperately to work when the rest of the world is falling in around us? I realized that I’m not so crazy for seeing the beauty in the pain.

In my typical life, I’m constantly complaining about how much I have to do, how busy I am, how tired I am, how unhealthy I feel, how much I’d rather be doing ___, how unappreciated I feel, how ignored I have been, how very sick of driving I am, how much people hurt/offended/annoyed/rejected me in any given day. I can’t be the only one doing this. I know I’m not. We recognize how sad, hopeless, miserable we are right now in this season where we are mostly just in our homes, but it begs a deeper question.

Is it that we’re too busy to recognize our sadness, hopelessness, fear, etc. in our daily life, or is it that we have a joy in our daily life that we aren’t intentionally revealing? If it’s the first, then don’t we need this time to sort through the core of those emotions to find pure joy that doesn’t depend on circumstances? + if it’s the second, don’t we need this time to remind us of how much we treasure our normalcy?

Hear me say this: I do not want to minimize any of the very real emotions, heartache, or tough circumstances that anyone is finding themselves in. That’s not what I’m saying.

What I AM saying is that I hope we carry some of the joy we saw during this season with us into the next season. I hope that we’re not running just to run anymore. I hope that we’re doing what is right for us and our families in the next season + that we are not wasting our lives on things that don’t bring us joy when we don’t have to.

Here’s what I mean. We complain about jobs, schedules, people, traffic, money, food, working out, etc. But I’m finding that it’s not necessarily from lack of passion. I asked some friends WHY they fill their lives with whatever they do, + their responses included: friends, community, intellectual stimulation, helping people do what they love, encouraging others to grow, basic needs, to teach life lessons, exercise, to be supportive. It’s funny how easy it is to see a purpose for what we fill our lives with when we are less distracted by all the chaos + busy. “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

God granted me that heart of empathy by giving me eyes into the lives of those who are deeply affected by this virus. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t stamping on my mind + heart a vision of what matters to Him. I have to wonder when all else slips away + you’re left with just what you make out to be your top priorities in your normal life, does it match what you’re saying your priorities are? Has this season shown you all that really matters at the end of every day? It has for me. It’s shown me that my priorities of my relationship with God and my family are not to be taken lightly. It’s shown me that when you take away all of the unnecessary expectations placed on people, you get to see the core of who they are at its very best + most beautiful. It’s shown me that we all have more in common than we think + that intentional smiles in the middle of the grocery store are worth the occasional awkwardness that may come with it. It’s shown me that deep down, people love what they’re filling their lives with; they just may not be talking about it like they love it. It’s shown me that true rest has a healing power + that when we are at the end of our rope, we may need to hit the reset button + self-quarantine for a couple of days.

I’m coming out better for it. What about you?