the slow, silent thief of the past year

I had an embarrassing meltdown recently.

I’m a sensitive person. That’s really no secret. I think through all the implications of how things affect me and affect others. But every once in a while, my big emotions even surprise me.

My daughter has survived almost an entire year of virtual kindergarten. Those two words should never coexist, but they have now for a whole year. Thankfully, her kindergarten teacher has been such a gift. You know when it seems like people were made for their job? That’s Mrs. G. She is patient, upbeat, cheerful. She was made for kindergarten and she was a gift for our year. I have thanked God for her constantly.

Next week, our kids go back into school full time. Praise the Lord. Because of the nature of this virtual world, our elementary school has designated two teachers from each grade to remain virtual teachers only. You guessed it… our Mrs. G will be a virtual teacher only, which means my Olivia will join a new classroom this coming Monday. New teacher, new friends. Guys. When I got this email, I was just about inconsolable. I’m not exaggerating. I couldn’t help it. It’s been a hard year. My little kids have been so resilient, so flexible, and with about twelve weeks left in the year, we have to start over. Again.

We all know that our breakdowns usually aren’t really about the initial news, right? My emotional episode wasn’t truly about Olivia having a new teacher.

It’s been the slow buildup of change and redirection and restarts and steps backwards.

Underneath our little kindergarten moment stood a year of government and school politics, medical uncertainty, division, racism, and questions.

Within each of us is a dam that eventually bursts if not addressed.

I took some time to really ask God what was going on in my heart. I’ve been swinging so far from apathy to complete brokenness over the things I see around me. I worked really hard to reword His answer to me so that I wouldn’t have to post my journal to you, but there was no way around it. His words were for me, and may be for you. If His answer isn’t for you, feel free to skim right on past this chunk of words. But my guess is, most of us have been feeling similarly. Here’s how He answered me:

You are still running a little. For the sake of growth, you are abandoning deep process. You brush off the hard stuff and chalk it up to maturity.

Growth and empathy can – and have to coexist.

You have cut off one part of you and in turn it has shut down the whole. You must allow yourself to be hurt. You’ve strayed away from true vulnerability. Offense comes much more quickly this way.

You’re afraid to be truly you again. You are messy and imperfect. I love you just as you are at your core. You’ve allowed your healthy boundaries to create taller walls than your empathy and the calling of your identity.

At your core, I have made you sensitive and empathetic. Self-preservation has numbed these pieces of you.

You have to let all of it in to be complete. I will help you sift. I will be the filter that protects you so that you aren’t overcome. But you have to be moved by what you see in the world. Be angered by the things that anger Me. Be sad. And then let Me take the lead. It was never my intent for emotions to bounce off of you as if they were hitting armor. I gave you the armor of God. Your breastplate is not for self-preservation. It is for righteousness.

Let it in. Hold it. Weigh it. Feel it. And with open hands, drop it at My feet. I am your safest boundary. Your boundary lines have fallen in safe places. Trust Me enough to let Me be your protector. You have relied on yourself too long to hold that title. I want to show you what it means to have a Father who protects you.

I know… ouch.

Here’s what I took away from my Father’s little chat with me: vulnerability is Godly. Compassion fatigue is far too real. It’s a phrase we heard at the beginning of last March, but has faded away as we’ve all held onto survival. Comfort has become our new god, because everything has become so unbearably uncomfortable.

The hurt and the pain and the injustice in the world is so big. The list of wrongs never ends. It piles up so tall that we can’t see the beginning from the end, and each news report is just another number. And as we become numb to the brokenness around us, somehow simultaneously, we find ourselves numb and a little disconnected from God, too.

So what are we supposed to do?

Christine Caine said it this way: “The evidence that we see Jesus is that we see people.” It’s simple, and somehow, so difficult. We can’t separate our relationship with God from the brokenness of the world because to love God is to love what He loves. It isn’t our job to redeem the world; it’s His. It is our job to love the people in front of us.

I’m not just talking about our family or our circle, although that’s a sermon in itself. It’s truly seeing the cashier at the grocery store, the barista at Starbucks, the lonely woman at the dog park.

It’s the fine line of awareness with the injustice that surrounds us without being sucked into hopelessness.

It’s all a risk. To open ourselves up to vulnerability means having a broken heart for others. Seeing them. Helping them. Acting. Doing. Praying.

To be honest with you, I don’t know what exactly this all means for me yet. But I know that the first step is the step away from apathy and toward compassion. To be vulnerable and compassionate is a risk. It risks your comfort, and confronts you with your own selfishness.

If this year has slowly and silently stolen your compassion, now is the time for redemption. Ask God to renew your compassion for others and make you aware of your temptation of self-preservation. Make no mistake: you are not the best protector of your heart. That role belongs to your Savior. Let Him take His rightful place in your life as protector. Let Him open your eyes so that His heart doesn’t break alone. He’s chosen you to show people that Jesus sees them. Sure, it’s a risk. But it’s a much greater honor.

This is how we have discovered love’s reality: Jesus sacrificed His life for us. Because of this great love, we should be willing to lay down our lives for one another. If anyone sees a fellow believer in need and has the means to help him, yet shows no pity and closes his heart against him, how is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? Beloved children, our live can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds.

1 John 3:16-18 TPT

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