Well hello there! I’ve been promising folk that I’d blog for ages now, but nothing ever materialised. I’d started at least 10 different posts on my phone, but nothing ever felt right. What I think it boils down to is there are still aspects of the last year that I’d like to believe didn’t happen. If I write about them, it makes it real.
I can’t say everything has been bad. It hasn’t. I’ve met some heroes and heroines along the way, people I hope to know forever at this point. I’ve also encountered some familiar faces that became not as familiar as time passed. The paradox of feeling extremely isolated and concurrently made into a heroine is quite difficult to explain. The one thing I know for certain is that I’m still here. It doesn’t seem like much of a victory, but when you spend countless night wishing you weren’t, simply being alive still is everything.
Another reason I’ve been avoiding the blog is because I wanted it to start off a cheery note after my anticipated return. I figured it wouldn’t move in this direction, not with the heaviness I feel about a certain matter. Maybe I won’t be able to tell about the sunshine until I talk about the unnecessary rain. What I say may offend some. Some may believe that I don’t have the right to speak on such a matter. That’s ok. You’re free to feel this way. I will continue forward in the face of probable offence. I don’t need to be vindicated. My survival is vindication enough for me. I will write about it because I don’t want anyone to ever experience what I have in the way of compassionless living, especially involving those who claim to ascribe to Christianity.
”Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” –John 15:13
Don’t get scared. I’m not about to go into a profound exegesis about this scripture. This isn’t a sermon, but instead a letter from my heart about the condition from which it is trying to recover.
My family taught me that scripture as a young person. I have lived by it religiously ever since. There isn’t much I won’t do to help my fellow man, even if it leaves me at a deficit. I have the faith that if I give everything that God will in turn replenish everything so there is no need to be afraid of lack. I also believe in the principle of reaping and sowing. If I plant goodness into the world, I’ll have an abundance of it when I need to cash in.
I was in utter dread when I got the phone call from my physician last June saying that I had an invasive ductal carcinoma- a rapidly growing, malignant tumor in my right breast. I remember being frozen in place. Not only did I have cancer at age 30, but my family did not live in the same city as I did… not even close. I was going to have to depend on the love and kindness of friends and strangers during the most critical time of my life. My life was literally in the hands of strangers. As I’ve said, I’ve always been one to lay my life down for others, but I’d never been in the predicament where I needed people to make that type of sacrifice for me. Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen. In some ways, I was right.
I won’t go into many details, but I have had to move from 3 different “Christian” households since last September. My first move came after my first round of chemotherapy. I received a letter from the church that I attended that I needed to find a new residence (the church owned the apartment). Apparently, I was making my roommate uncomfortable in her own space. This translated to she wasn’t willing to clean up after herself in the kitchen (I always cleaned) or not use my bathroom. That became a trend. People became exhausted with my presence in their home because it required them to be clean so I wouldn’t get sick. Seems petty? Well, I don’t think the cleaning was the issue. I think it was more about accountability. It was about having to live the words they preached. It is easy to say you are a certain person when you never actually have to prove that you are.
I can’t remember who said this, but there is a quote that says, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s tested.” Congruently, I am hard-pressed to believe anyone who professes to be a Christian until they are challenged to be such a person beyond their level of comfort. In each situation, things started off well. As time progressed and these minor changes actually pointed to a need for lifestyle changes, things got ugly. We can withstand just about anything as long as we feel like it is temporary. Lifestyle changes hurt. They challenge you beyond comfort. It isn’t easy to have to suddenly have to face some issues you’ve buried, never to ever be fixed. It’s like dirt under a rug. Nobody comes to your house and looks under the rug. They will compliment that nicely woven Persian accessory and go about life. You’ll know the truth, but have to do nothing about it because nobody else knows. Then sometimes someone comes and accidentally moves the rug. All hell breaks loose. Now you feel obligated to explain why you’ve been perpetrating this whole time. People really, really don’t like that. Really.
I didn’t know that everyone didn’t grow up like me, having to change whatever I needed to change to care for others. You see, Mum told me that it was a great blessing and responsibility for God to entrust the lives of other people to you. I know that I have the power to encourage and discourage people. No, I can’t control anyone, but I do recognise my ability to do some major damage to others if I do not understand my relation to them. I am my brother’s keeper. My words and actions can and do greatly affect the people around me. Therefore, I must always be cognizant of who I am as a person, and make the necessary adjustments to be a true servant to humanity.
My compassion grew from my indignation of the treatment I’ve experienced, from the words I’ve endured. I can remember the worst thing I heard was, “You better not commit suicide after all we’ve done for you.” In the moment I was in disbelief that someone was telling me that I needed to not kill myself solely because of the MINIMUM sacrifice others had made for me at that point. Oh, don’t think yourself so important, my dear. As much as I have wanted to curse people out that have had this overly righteous attitude toward me, I haven’t. What would it have changed? Nothing. Instead, it is more beneficial for me to remember the pain and let it shape how I treat others. I am extremely conscious of the compassion I have for others. I was aware before, but now I can see how it can bring a person to the edge of destruction when we choose to be fair-weather Christians (which, by the way, isn’t a real thing. You’re just a hypocrite).
Many of us will help others… as long as it isn’t an inconvenience to us. Our charity towards our brothers and sisters seems palpable when we are free to give from our abundance. That’s not sacrifice. Giving $5 to a beggar that you were going to use on a frappuccino is not sacrifice. It’s mildly inconvenient, and that’s a stretch. You never NEED a frappuccino. Sacrifice can be giving up what you want to keep but also what you feel you need to protect or need for yourself in order to help someone else. This can mean material things, but it’s actually pretty easy to give stuff away. We can always acquire more stuff. Giving yourself away is an entirely different ball game. Why do I have to give away part of my essence to help someone else?
If you aren’t Christian, this may not be a part of your belief system. You can be out for yourself because you make the rules for your life. I’d still admonish you to give of yourself, but that’s as far as I can take it. However, if you profess Christianity it is not an option to give of yourself- it is a requirement. Jesus said there are 2 commandments that we MUST follow: loving Him with everything we are and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Do you give up on yourself? Don’t you keep moving even when you don’t feel like it? In the same manner that you fight for your own life, you fight for those around you. Your life, your biological family, your 2 friends that make you feel good about yourself are not your only responsibility. The same way you fight to protect your children is the same way you go hard for the stranger under the bridge. Or even more so for those who may be rubbing you the wrong way but need your kindness. That, my love, is what shapes your character. Giving in spaces and to people that are seemingly disposable.
My point is that whatever point you think that you should end your charity to others, you must go 10 steps beyond this. Your stopping point is based on the strength you imagine you have. When you push past this point, you allow the divine to activate in you, which is what the end goal should be for a Christian. Every day we should look more and more like The Christ. It isn’t an easy life to live, for it costs you everything. Then again, you gain everything simultaneously. And that which you gain is imperishable.
I hope this inspires you to love beyond selfish ambition. Someone’s life could literally be depending on your charity.