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Friday, October 26, 2012

.My Bleeding Heart.

I am a bleeding heart. I always have been, and I probably always will be. This is how I was created. I can be excessively sympathetic and empathetic - to a fault. I wear my heart and emotions on my sleeve. My skin is thin, and I get hurt easily. However, I also feel other people's pain. I remember telling my husband this when we were dating. The conversation went something like this:

Jim, I hurt when other people hurt.

Huh??!!  Blank Stare. {crickets}

But in the ten years that we have been married, he now believes me. He has seen me physically hurting because of someone else's pain. He has shouldered the tears that I cry for other people's hurts. It's partly why social gatherings are hard for me (the other part is because I was also created as an extreme introvert and prefer solace if truth be known). When I am in a room of people, my mind is constantly putting myself in everyone's shoes. I am trying to see who is uncomfortable, who is hurting, and I transfer those feelings to my own heart. The entire time I am focused on what others around me are feeling, and being that I am also fairly intuitive, I am usually pretty good at reading other people's feelings and emotions. It's a bizarre thing that I do not know how to turn off, and many times I leave those situations exhausted and drained.

However, it has served me well during many moments of my life. It taught me compassion. Because of this ability to feel other people's hurts, I always, always root for and am drawn to, the underdog. Way back in elementary school, I can remember being a first or second grader and befriending that one trouble-maker boy in school. The one who, looking back now, probably had some sensory issues like my Jamesy, or maybe he was simply not wired for a classic classroom situation. The one who could not sit still in class and was always getting in trouble, and the one who other kids picked on because he was somewhat of a misfit. Every morning I would walk over to him and pat him on the back and say, Ward Carl, you can do it today. You can listen to the teacher and sit still. I know you can. I will play with you at recess. (Ward Carl, I am sorry if you are reading this. I am sure you grew up to be a great man!) I would constantly encourage this boy. I remember him getting into trouble and crying in school, and there I sat crying at my desk because I could feel his embarrassment and pain and it was too much. I was never teased or made fun of in school, but I might as well have been, for the many times that I cried and hurt for the ones who were.

This has followed me right into adult life. I believe this is why Ethiopia had such an earth-shattering impact on my heart. The hundreds of hurting people that I encountered exploded my heart with pain. Pain that I carried home. I believe this is why God chose me for the ministry of adoption, because He knew that I would shoulder the pain of the orphan and it would spur me to fight and advocate - it would make my feet and mouth move. I believe this is why God placed Habtamu in my path, because his transferred pain and loneliness on my heart, would not let me forget him or sleep at night until he was safely tucked into our home. This bleeding heart has given me courage that I would otherwise never have. It has been a gift in many ways.

But this bleeding heart also has exhausted me and been a burden. As an adult - in a ministry as a pastor's wife, as an orphan and adoption advocate, as a mommy to four children - one of which has severe special needs, two of which have experienced trauma that tears me to pieces, and two of which have had their lives turned upside down because of decisions that Daddy and Mommy made to follow Jesus - there is, and never will be, enough of me. I cannot give enough to everybody who needs it. Every single day I fail someone. Sometimes I fail the precious people right inside these four walls. I have emails unanswered, private messages unopened and phone calls not returned, because I feel like my heart has reached maximum capacity - it cannot possibly bleed any more. My heart needs a break. I cannot be everything to everybody or even everything to anybody. While compassion and empathy are godly characteristics to have, many times I let them go to an extreme and they cripple me. There is nothing godly about that. I need to remember to take a deep breath and ruminate on the fact that it's Jesus who is enough, for me and for them. Sometimes Jesus does want me to be His hands and feet and shoulder other people's hurts. I know that. I have seen how powerful this is in my life. But sometimes, it is okay to just give Jesus all of the hurt, to realize I am not adequate to save the world, and that I have never been asked to. A quick prayer, some encouraging words, and letting Jesus shoulder the pain is okay.

This week God has been impressing on my heart how much this all has been impacting me - impacting me in a negative way. The truth is I can never please everyone or help everyone. I can't and neither can you. I can try and try, and I have tried. However, there will always be someone who will find something to criticize, there will always be someone that I did not do enough for, there will always be someone hurting, and there will always be someone who needs more help than I am capable of at this point in time. There will always be parts of my life that people misunderstand. Nobody walks in my shoes, nobody has access to my heart and the intimate ways that God is leading me - specifically and personally. I am trying to learn how to navigate this life as a bleeding heart, but I know this to be true:

God is the One who saves.

He is the friend Who sticks closer than a brother.

God heals the hurt and erases the pain.

He will come through.

God never asked me to be anybody's everything. I can't. Only God can.

A tough lesson for a bleeding heart, but one that I need to learn.


Unknown said...

I don't feel alone anymore or as if no one undersrands! Ty

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