It’s easy, for us Watchers, whose lives are so embroiled with the pain of our Loved One, to forget those around us who aren’t Watchers. To overlook the lives of those Wider Watchers – our friends, our relations, our own other loved ones, who watch us as we Watch our suffering Loved Ones.
This is the final post is a short series about Wider Watchers. In Who are the Wider Watchers? We thought about how we are all actually Wider Watchers to some extent, and Wider Watchers (unlike Watchers) have the choice to Watch and to love, and this makes their sacrifice even more beautiful. In When our Wider Watchers hurt us? We pondered what it looks like to respond when Wider Watchers hurt us or our Loved One through their words or actions. In this post, we will discuss what it means to love our Wider Watchers, how to care for those around us who are not Watching as we are.
Why is this important?
You might argue that there is no need for a special post about this. After all, if we all just act like civilised human beings, there’s no need for a specific address on how to ‘love’ those who are not watching as we are.
On one hand that’s true, and on another it’s not. You see, Watching means that we are used to having the pain of one person impact our life. We are used to focussing inward, towards them. We know what it is like to relate to people who are suffering.
And we might, in the process, discover we have a lot less patience for those who are not.
This, my friends, is somewhat natural.
It is also a problem.
Their problems have significance too
On the whole we find it easy to ‘rate’ people’s problems. A broken arm is more important than a stubbed toe. Cancer is more important than a broken arm.
If we’re only looking at the physiological side, this is true. Cancer does cause more disruption to the body system than a broken arm. To say otherwise, would be ridiculous.
Yet at the same time, we are not merely a physiological entity, and no heartbreak exists in isolation. It can be hard for us to listen to a friend complaining about their broken oven when we have the image of our Loved One’s broken body imprinted on our eyelids. That’s natural.
And yet… we need to reign in this natural impulse to judge, to condemn, to sigh and roll our eyes, to avoid and to snap. Because there are always things we don’t know.
We don’t know what else is going on in their lives. Perhaps there’s some other much more personal pain which they are also dealing with, and the stubbed toe is just the last straw. Or perhaps the oven is much easier to complain about than a failing relationship.
We can’t know what they feel. Because in the end, it’s not the magnitude of the problem but it’s impact which is important. Different things affect people in different ways. There’s many reasons for this, but the bottom line is, we are not equipped to judge their level of pain. We can never be them, and there is never a time or place to say “you should not be hurting this much. Your problem is small”.
It is important to them. The long and short of it is, however tiny their problem may actually be in comparison to our own, however much we think they are overreacting – they still perceive themselves to be in pain. What they are sharing is significant to them. Significant enough for them to want to talk about it. And this is where we love people. When they are in pain. When they are disillusioned with the world. When they are hurt. Who are we to explain to them that we only care about their ‘big’ problems? That we only want to be a listening ear when we think their troubles merit one?
My friends, such thinking is not love.
Their world is not ours
When something overwhelms my world, it never fails to surprise me that the sun is still smiling. I can’t comprehend how come my world is falling apart yet the blue sky above me hasn’t even begun to crumple.
The truth is, what happens in our own lives very rarely impacts that of the Wider Watchers. Unless we speak, unless we share, unless we live intentionally intersecting lives, our troubles can easily pass them by, as their troubles pass us by.
Humanity may live in a community, but we also all live in our own world. We have independent lives, just as we have communal ones. Do we, as Watchers, know, remember and constantly reflect on the passing struggles of our friends?
Surely often huge events in their lives can go unnoticed.
Why then, do we expect them to remember everything we have told them? Why do we demand that they keep up to date with our troubles?
I am not proposing that we do not try and share in the lives of others – surely that is one of the biggest blessings of being human and also the second biggest command of the Bible. Love others.
But I am urging that we extend grace. That we remember that although our Loved One may be the centre of our own world, they are not the centre of everyone’s. And that hurts, but it is okay.
It is even necessary.
We must cross worlds.
In the end, that’s all loving comes down to. Taking a moment to try and step inside another’s shoes. To remind ourselves that all problems are problems, that all pain hurts. To spare some time, some thought, some love.
To acknowledge that chronic sickness isn’t – in itself – any more important than another burden. Yes, it is important, but it is not everything. Just as their problems are not everything.
That’s the secret, I think, to loving. To realise that our problems are not our world. We are not our world.
But others are not our world either.
It is only when we make God our world that we can enter into the worlds of others. Perfect community and perfect love exists when each of us individuals make God the centre rather than ourselves and our pain. When that happens, each of our universes begin to spin on the same axis. And as they do so, they start to intersect. When this happens, a beautiful picture is created, far more beautiful than each world spinning on its own.
Long distance relationships are hard. It’s a struggle to love someone residing in a different universe. Yet essentially, that’s what Christ did. He literally came down into a world not his own, a world without Him at the centre in order to save us.
Let us be just as willing to cross over into other people’s worlds. To acknowledge that their issues are important, that their universe doesn’t have to revolve around us, and also that their world is worth entering.
Because Christ entered first.
// Do you find it easy to love your Wider Watchers? Why or why not?