I have often walked away from senior testimonies this semester thinking, “There is so much that goes on on this campus that I don’t even remotely know about. So much struggle, growth, pain, victory, failure, healing, loss, redemption…”
But today, after hearing a testimony of deeply internalized pain and the salve that ultimately brought healing, I walked away with an even deeper realization:
What good is it to know of these things and yet not actually know them as they are borne by my brothers and sisters? To have eyes that see only the facade, blind to the reality of hurt and trial raging on the inside, hid within the faces I see every day? How can I love my brethren, and yet allow them to suffer in silence of their own hearts?
I’m only beginning to catch the faintest glimpses of just how ridiculously complex yet fathomlessly simple this creature called the human being is. Each individual, each person is a cistern, fairly narrow yet nearly bottomless, and sometimes with waters dark enough to obscure all but the most perceiving eye. The true depth of each one is probably a vastness only within the reach of God Himself who made it. We are deeper than we ourselves know.
Why then am I so easily contented with amusing myself with my own reflection dancing on the surface? Why do I not seek to dive deeper, beneath the mask of the abyss, as far as I am allowed to descend? I need eyes able to see and know that deeper reality, eyes able to discern when someone says they’re okay when they’re not. Eyes that understand pain and struggle when it is present, however well masked. Eyes that will display the compassion and grace that a hurting friend may need, rather than the presumption and reproach no man wants or requires.
Vulnerability has been my teacher lately. I have slowly been learning the art of unveiling myself, of lowering the walls that have always naturally surrounded the depths of my interior. I am still an unsatisfactory pupil and progressing only ever so gradually, but the recognition that I cannot have a relationship in the fullest sense of the word unless I allow myself to be known makes me continue. Yet intimacy is both to know and to be known. Even as I learn to allow others to know me, I must learn to know others – not always an easy task, perhaps never. Not all will allow my intrusion, and some rightfully so. I cannot and should not open my heart to all, and likewise, I cannot and ought not expect all to do the same to me.
Yet as I heard today, there are times when a friend is desperate to keep the pain internalized and out of sight, when the last thing they want to do is open up. But perhaps they need to. It won’t always be to me, but I may yet still have a role to play, however small or supportive in only minor ways. I suppose it’ll often depend on the degree of friendship and the specific circumstance.
But whatever the ache, whoever the friend, I pray that I may have eyes to see the hidden and pent-up pain, and the wisdom to be whatever kind of friend is required to fill the role God has for me there, however central or small it seems. Ultimately, I pray that I would have His eyes, and the heart to love others as He has commanded me to love, as He has loved me, and as He perfectly and everlastingly loves them.
I write this far higher than I can reach. I don’t know why it’s so easy for me to write brimming with confidence like I’ve learned my lesson perfectly, as if I knew exactly what now to do and had as good as accomplished it already… I honestly don’t understand how my writing flies so far above me; I am painfully inadequate when it comes to actually understanding and truly living the reality of what I write. But by the grace of God, may it be so.
Photo from Wikipedia