An American Story: Poverty of Perspective


I gauge my happiness by my comfort, by my lack of worry–

A few months ago, I struggled for a few days with renewing the insurance for the boys. Someone had checked a wrong box on a computer somewhere, and I was on the phone for days trying to find the right person to fix it.

The worry that loomed over me because of a simple wrong click in the system was constantly palpable.

It is our American poverty to believe that life is only lived when we are free of worry.

I heard an interview on NPR last week with a mother in Yemen. Today they live in constant fear– constant worry that their children will die hungry and terrified, and that they will never taste anything other than bread and tea.

And I worry that my stress will get the best of me because my boys holler too much in our little apartment.

A few days ago, I sat with the boys and thought, “I am so much more content right now, so much better off without the stress of those few days.”

But what happens when the stress doesn’t go away, when worry lingers all over the place, hiding in corners and never letting go?

And the American church doesn’t help us weather any storms in our lives, because we often step through the doors with a smile plastered to our faces, everything is fine coming from our lips.

And I’d never wish this suffering on them, this hurt that carries so much weight over their tired bodies and hearts.

But for those who live into their suffering, there is an amount of dignity and grace that they carry, and I am always in awe of them.

Because I have a poverty of perspective, it takes a moment to remember that other mom in Yemen who is struggling to understand that our souls are wired somewhere deep to hold intense sorrow and pain.

But here, we are afraid to suffer, afraid to be uncomfortable, afraid to be on the dark side of anything.

And so when things get uncomfortable, we take another pill or schedule another appointment, and our world nearly collapses because we don’t know how to function without comfort.

The tension of our world is that things are good and things are bad, and we are healed but not really healed, comfortable but really pretty uncomfortable.

But when we suffer, we learn lessons that stream from a deeper vein than the ones we learn when we are okay.

Our cycles of healing are off, our perspectives are linear instead of a more human-like walk of back and forth over and over again until we get somewhere new.

But remembering the way the world works might give me a moment to stop next time, to remember that I can step into suffering and learn something there.

And the reality is that we all suffer with something, and if we recognize that the community of people around us all suffer too, we walk in it together, and we don’t run away.

Then the world seems to grow smaller, and our differences disappear, and our Americanness becomes humanness and our suffering becomes a journey,

and we are ever closer to Kingdom, where Jesus gathers the hurting close and calls us to the light.



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