As a general rule, I am not outwardly expressive emotionally. I can’t even begin to untangle all of the reasons why this is so, and, really, it’s not important. What I want to talk about today is the duck’s feet that paddle beneath the surface, rather than the appearance of the duck itself.
There has been a very tragic rash of suicides among the youth in this area. Cancerous despair spreads, toppling one after the other. My heart breaks because this need not be so. Here we could talk about the signs of depression. We could discuss how to talk someone off the ledge. While these are worthwhile topics, I think it’s important to address something much simpler.
The most “together” of people can be in the midst of a battle against negative thoughts and feelings so torrential they are barely hanging on – and they don’t say anything. The quiet, almost placid kind of sad or mad is the most dangerous. It is not exposed to the light of truth. The truth that sets us free. Why is that? Fear, pride, bitterness. Could be anything. That woman who annoys you because her house is never dirty and her children are always obedient – should could be sobbing in the dark of night. That man who makes you want to scream because he never loses his temper could be standing in his garage, wondering if anyone would miss him if he were gone.
Do we ever think about that? Do we realize how important it is to speak words of gentleness and encouragement to anyone and everyone? Are we truly invested in the people around us?
My natural bent is to be quite critical of others. I know that. On the flip side, my natural bent is also to keep everything to myself. This duality means that I, perhaps better than others, grasp the value of a good, uplifting word in the midst of a sea of negativity. And that sea? Many of us are swimming in it.
I don’t know about you, but I can be awake for .025 seconds and have 16 terrible thoughts about myself. Horrible, nasty things that I would never say to anyone else. Words like ugly, fat, stupid and worthless roll around in there. It’s not something I think about. I’ve been tuned into the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil for so long that this my default setting. If I had to guess, I’d say that this may well be your default setting, too.
What do you do with that? Knowledge is power, they say, and with great power comes great responsibility (thank you, Spiderman). If we – if I – know the struggle to base identity and self-worth in the love, grace and truth of God as revealed in Scripture, then what are we doing about it? Are we looking to lift others up, or are we contributing to the never-ending stream of trash that courses through them each and every day?
Do we gossip? Sticks and stones indeed break bones, but words – they break the spirit. Shoot nasty looks at each other? So much is communicated in a glance – or lack thereof. Blow things out of proportion? Many try to control life and others by being Drama Queens. Convince ourselves that we’re martyrs, that the world is out to get us? Nobody has it as tough as we do.
Are we completely focused on our own navels, or do we have any sense at all of the pain of others?
We are all in a flood of emotions, every day, whether man, woman or child. Christ offers us the peace and discernment to get through that. He is the saving raft. Are we staying on? Are we helping other people to climb aboard?
Or are we pushing them into the sea?