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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Right Amount of Empathy

I just finished reading a book the other day (THE FAULT IN OUR STARS OMGGG) and my biggest assessment, question, and analysis was..  

was there hope? and why was it so hard for me to find??

I have to have hope. In the books I read, in the movies I watch. It is my biggest criteria. If there is even a teeny, tiny, five second glimmer in the end credits or the final pages that I can latch on to and believe the characters have turned their life around, I am all set. Anything less, no way. The time my brother recommended I watch the movie Seven (WORST MOVIE EVER MADE) //  I called him indignant and emotional and annoyed and demanded to know why he would ever suggest I watch such a thing.

His response?
"oh yea. i forgot. you don't like things that don't have hope."

that's right, I don't. 
hopelessness does me in.

It does me in even more than the average person because I am unbearably empathetic. I hear unexpected bad news or hear of suffering and I can just hold it together long enough to finish the conversation (sometimes). In the counseling world,  you would say I "overidentify." I get lost in the emotion, I feel so much, my heart is a BLEEDING HEART almost to a fault, I get down in the mess with people instead of helping them up. My boss and my coworkers and my friends tell me continuously that my empathy is an asset and is what makes me good at my job and there are days I agree. It's when my greatest asset becomes my biggest weakness that I stumble in the weeds.

There are a few things I've learned as I've grappled with overidentification in ministry and what it means to not be ultimately responsible for people (gasp!) but to point them to the Hope that is. 
  • Our bodies respond to the stimulus of pain. We're flight or fix. When we see our people in pain, we feel pain ourselves. My corner tells me that I am just learning how to change my response to the pain I feel. When I feel pain, do I turn around and flee because it's too much? When I feel pain, do I run to fix? Or am I learning to be somewhere in the middle? 
  • Jesus wants to take the night shift. To the nights we toss and turn because we're thinking about our people, Jesus says, "you can sleep at night because I don't." Give Him your mind and give Him your thoughts.
  • People, I could scream this from the rooftop until I'm blue in the face DON'T YOU DARE DO THIS LIFE ALONE. It's tough and we need each other! I'm always forgetting this one and I'm in the ring fighting and battered and I look back to my corner and they're saying WILL YOU GET OVER HERE AND LET US ENCOURAGE YOU AND GIVE YOU REST. Isolation is never the answer, my friends. Let their prayers wash over you. 
  • Do what brings you life. Or as I like to call it, treat yo self. 
  • "They are going to remember you were there long before they remember what you said." One of my best and favorite learnings and one that I still sometimes get stuck on because I am such a word person. But much more than answers or advice or a well-structured argument, it will be presence that will matter most, just the fact that I was there. It will be love, more than absolutely anything, that will show the light and love and hope of Jesus. 
So, I can watch Breaking Bad without getting sad. I can love people am still learning how to love people without getting lost in emotion. I am learning the ins and outs of self care. I am learning that I am not hope (praise God), but a tool for such a time as this to point people to Hope. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


writers write. 

i heard this blatantly obvious, yet profoundly deep statement this weekend at the Simply Youth Conference. it's one of those redundant statements that makes you laugh as you jot it down, but the more you think on it, the more real it becomes. 

writers write. 

i am a writer. my very fiber is words and i connect with God through my own words, through His words, through the words of others. i could read all day, i could write all day, if i'm in the mood, i could talk all day. if you see me looking upset or not myself, ask me "when was the last time you wrote?" because my thoughts get cloudy and distract my mind and writing is my processing clarity and grace.

so, writers write.
and i'm a writer.

writers write because they have stories to tell. they want to give stories a voice, to help the next generation move and hope. writers want to give a pulse to their pain, turning it to asset, praising God for wasting nothing. writers create because there's a belief that vulnerability breeds more vulnerability. they write to remember because remembering produces gratitude. they write for freedom, because words on paper ground and steady and save.

i write because i'm rich.

i'm rich because i've been given good things by a good God. i'm rich because i have wrestled and cried, "i don't know" and heard the Lord say, i know. i'm rich because i am loved. i'm rich because life is hard and i'm showered in grace. i'm rich because i've been chosen for SUCH A TIME AS THIS. 

in the very depths of challenge and pain, there is treasure beyond anything we could think or imagine or comprehend. 2013 was my richest year, because it was my most challenging. in pain and sadness, there were fountains overflowing with words (even when there wasn't) and i filled three moleskines. at the beginning of the year, i made the resolution to "write every day, because there's always something to write about" and so i wrote and wrote and wrote. i wrote because the Lord is rich in mercy and He's rich in love. 

writers, write on.