Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Oh, what a tangled web...

“Precisely because we are so inclined to think in terms of individual greatness and personal heroism, it is important for us to reflect carefully on the fact that the compassionate life is a community life. ”
Henri J. M. Nouwen Donald P. McNeill Douglas A. Morrison 
I've been thinking a lot about community recently.  
More specifically, I've been thinking about connections/relationships within our communities.  

I think it's easy to forget - often - that we are all connected to each other.  We don't stand alone, ever, in this life.   We're always touching - or being touched by - another person, even if it doesn't feel like it.  

It's so easy to feel alone.  It's so very easy to feel like no one understands you, or no one cares about you.  My gosh, I go through days with these exact thoughts going through my head.  It's also usually when jealousy gets the best of me:  "Why does so-and-so always have more friends?"  or "Why does so-and-so get invited to everything and not me?"   It's so easy to give in to that temptation and start to believe that I am all alone in this world.  

It's human nature to focus on our own self.  It's not that easy to focus outward - we're naturally inclined to focus inward.  It's habit to focus on the individual....and completely miss those surrounding the individual.  This is especially true when it comes to our own lives as Americans, I think.  Our culture celebrates the individual, and encourages us to focus on our own needs, and our own wants.  Often, we end up with a sort of tunnel vision when looking at our lives and completely miss everything (or everyone) on the periphery. 

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago and he made a comment that has really stuck with me.  I was focusing completely on myself and our family, and about situations we've been encountering in our recent lives, and he very rightly pointed out that maybe, just maybe, we weren't placed into those situations for ourselves.  He gently reminded me that sometimes God could very well be putting something into motion that had absolutely no bearing on ourselves...but yet He was using us to work within someone else's life or heart.  Basically......if we stopped focusing on ourselves for a minute, we'd recognize that we are intimately tied to other human beings, and everything we did or said affected those other humans.  The situation that I had considered from only my own point of view took on a completely different meaning when I opened my eyes to everyone else involved.  

I'm an melancholic introvert by nature - it's very easy to lose sight of the forest and focus on each individual tree.  I run into a roadblock - a tree - and can't seem to find my way around it.  My vision becomes completely and totally focused on that tree.   The melancholic in me starts to stress, and starts to think the worst.  The introvert in me starts to pull in onto myself:  when I stress and start the "what if?" process, I stop trying to reach out to the outside world, but instead, try to comfort myself with reducing that external stimulation.  That tree becomes the only object in my view, with the rest of the forest fading away into a background blur.

If I can't see the surrounding trees and forest, I hardly ever remember about the birds living in the tree, or the fruit growing on the tree.   I forget that the tree has its own purpose, and that purpose probably isn't just to get into my way.  Instead, that tree is giving another life a chance to grow and thrive.  My roadblock is someone else's stepping stone.  When I realize that, my job becomes not to bulldoze the tree....but instead, to nurture it and keep those within the tree safe.

When I take a moment to step back, shake my focus away from myself, and truly see the community around me.....then I am able to live compassionately.
When I step back and look at the community around me....God can begin to use me for His design.
And isn't that what I want?  Don't I want to be completely and totally open to His will in this life?  Aren't I striving towards a life that is only being lived for Him alone?
I can't do that without community.  I can't do that without looking outward.  I can't do that without seeing those around me.
I can't live for Him when I am only thinking of myself.   
If I focus only on the tree....I miss the beauty surrounding it.  I miss Him, working in and through us all. 
Help me to focus on You in my daily life.
Let me be willing to let You work through me.  
Let me touch those around me with Your love.
Help me to live compassionately for You.
I ask you not to remove the struggles in my life....but allow me to see the beauty within them.