Am I going crazy?
Following on the heels of the previous post, ‘Watching is hard’, the title above seems incongruous. But be assured, what follows will not cancel out what was written previously. There’s a reason this post is titled ‘Watching is a privilege’ rather than ‘Watching is easy’.
Watching remains hard, very hard. But I’d like to propose that it is also a privilege. It is an opportunity, and a very unique one. You see, the world around us says that a good and normal life is one full of ease and comfort, luxuries and relational happiness.
That’s all very well, and ideally maybe such a life would be good and normal.
But we know it is not.
Why experiencing pain and suffering can be a privilege
A normal life is not an easy life (and experience is the best teacher)
This world is broken. Our Loved Ones hurt. We hurt. Normal is not easy and fun; normal is hard and difficult.
There is something about Watching someone suffer that brings this truth home to us far quicker than any SBS TV show about starving children ever could. Experience, as they say, is the greatest teacher.
Because of our Loved One we have experienced pain, suffering and helplessness. Now that’s all very well and good, but is such experience of any value? Surely to hobnob with agony like we do is an opportunity that we should shun.
What pain does to us
Perhaps we should (could) in a perfect world. Yet we live in a pain-filled one, and to ignore suffering, to not experience it, is to be ignorant of reality. Our painful experience opens doors, doors not everyone can open. It forces away the façade that everything is ‘okay’ and forces us to confront life as it really is.
An experience of suffering or pain:
1.Points to gospel realities like nothing else.
It allows us to feel in our own lives the following truths: the world is broken; suffering is not normal; we are helpless; we need a Saviour. It causes us to seek help and aid from outside of ourselves.
2. Allows us to empathize with others.
Everyone suffers, and in suffering, we do not join the minority but the majority. When we go through hard times we do so alongside the entire human race, past and present. We hence after may find ourselves able to understand some books or writers which we could not previously and which others still may not. We may be able to empathise with others around us when others cannot. Experience is a hard teacher, but a helpful one.
3. Provides us with a training ground.
Gold is refined by fire. It’s in the hard times that we discover our true selves. It does not take a special person to be loving when life is easy, but when your world is crumpling around you, and someone else’s illness is daring to impinge upon your happiness, it is very difficult to love. It is the war that reveals the enemy; hard times reveal our sin. As Watchers we have a unique opportunity to see and fight our natural selfishness.
4. Gives us an opportunity to love.
In suffering we are provided with a very obvious chance to love our fellow man. Perhaps we do not know how best to do it, but at least we are given the opportunity. It’s much harder to support someone when they ‘have it all together’. Illness often rends the conventional barriers of pride, and means we don’t have to be so creative in our attempts to love.
[Do you have Pinterest? Use the images above!]
Now, three cautions before you take the words above and make them your personal manifesto and start a revolution (just joking… somewhat).
Firstly, any suffering or pain or hardship can provide us with the experience (and thus the privileges) above. Sadly Watching a Loved One is not the only form of torture in this world.
Secondly, God can use any experience, both good and bad, to grow us. Hard times are not intrinsically better, yet they seem to facilitate the quickest learning. “Pain is a megaphone through which God speaks”, as C. S. Lewis famously said.
Thirdly, experience by itself is nothing. What do I mean? We live in a society that glorifies experiences. Holidays, relationships, meals or careers. To many, experience is the be all and end all. We have fled consumerism and found ‘experience-ism’ instead. Let us not as Watchers make that mistake. Yes, all these privileges are in our experience, but not automatically. Like from every experience we can emerge having seen nothing. Or, worse, walk away cynical and embittered.
Using and creating your privilege
Watching only becomes a privilege when we are open. ‘Open’ is a dangerous word. Often when people are ‘open’ to something, they mean they will simply absorb everything they see. But like a fish searching for food, if it simply opens its mouth as it swims along, it will not necessarily find any, or it might not be the most nutritious food. It might take in bits of rubbish, or simply sub-par food. Or perhaps nothing will come into its mouth at all, and it will go away hungry. Being ‘open’ by itself is not beneficial.
To begin another metaphor, experience is only as good as its milker. We must use our experiences. Not as passive fish with open mouths, but as intelligent, critical Watchers who are continually seeking what is True above all.
God says that He uses all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Let us Watchers who follow Him, take Him at His word and ‘milk’ our experiences. Let us stop questioning ‘Why have you ruined my life in this way?’ and ask instead, ‘how is this experience an opportunity and privilege?’
//What privileges do you see in Watching? How could you possibly use your experience to cultivate these privileges?
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