Lucado's story today is about a young wife whose husband became terribly disfigured in a fire. He refused to have his face corrected with surgery and refused to see his wife, believing he was being punished and would have to endure a painful, lonely life. In the story, his wife goes to a plastic surgeon to ask for surgery that will disfigure her face, too, so that her husband will see that she is willing to suffer alongside him.
In case you didn't get it, it's a metaphor. God was willing to suffer alongside us because He loves us.
I read that, and then I realized quickly that I didn't have anything else to say about it. Good job, Max Lucado, on being thorough. But I made this writing commitment -- publicly -- so I knew I had to reflect more on this and come up with something.
Of course that means I just put the devotional book down and went on about my day hoping something would come to me. I kept thinking about it, but I still had nothing to say. God loves us. A lot. That about sums it up.
Then I read tonight that Kent Haruf died this weekend. He's one of my favorite authors. I think his last book Benediction, is my favorite of his five. Three of the books are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. The plots of each delve into the private, often silent, sufferings of several people in the town. Ultimately, even those who are suffering themselves become givers, unknowingly providing comfort or companionship to someone who really needs it.
This sounds kind of depressing, but go with me here. The books resonate with me so much because I see suffering people everywhere. Some suffering is obvious -- the cancer patient or the kid at school with no coat when it's 38 degrees outside. But other suffering is not so obvious: people with financial trouble, jobs they hate, difficult family relationships, mental illness. Part of being human is to suffer. It's overwhelming and heartbreaking. It can consume me if I choose to dwell on it.
Back to the scripture...God chose the suffering of being human because He loved us so much that He couldn't let us do it alone. Whoa.
So what does that mean for me? I can't take on the suffering of the all the people in the world. Even if I could, I wouldn't have the strength to endure it.
But what I can do is notice. Smile. Listen. Be a little more patient. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. We don't know all of the suffering the people around us are enduring, and we don't have to know to make a small difference. If we exhibit kindness in every encounter, then someone is bound to benefit. It seems like the least we can do given the immeasurable sacrifice that began with the first Christmas.
My prayer today for you and me and all of us is that we are more aware of the people around us. That we will notice when others are hurting and provide any comforts in our power to provide. That the light of Advent shines through us so brightly and constantly that it becomes the first thing others say when they describe us. Amen.