When I was in college, I had a roommate who felt everything very deeply, and sometimes it seemed as though she'd cast me as a supporting role in the drama of her life. I'm ashamed to say I lived like that for a while, thinking I wasn't all that interesting and her problems were more important than mine. However, despite what she thought and Givorgy jokes regularly, I am more than the drama of people around me. After a series of shocked uber drivers who heard the elevator pitch of my life, I finally recognized that the American visiting one of the only outpatient physiotherapy spinal cord facilities in the world in Australia after her year long sabbatical in New Zealand before returning to her work at an international Christian school in Germany is rather interesting. I'm somewhat of a fascinating person with complex emotions (I'm still learning about those), motivations, hopes, dreams, and very strong feelings about the Oxford comma.
That happened almost exactly a year ago, and I've continued to grow and mature and gather more hilarious stories of the antics of my students and their learning experiences in my classroom or at my picnic table for the newly named "tea-ology" sessions. I've also made significant progress on my third book, started dreaming of the fourth, and progressed significantly in my walking ability and ongoing miraculous physical recovery. This growth came with the backdrop of a global pandemic and riots in my passport country. I'm one of seven some billion people in the world, and there's a tension in the recognition that while I'm a fearfully and wonderfully made individual, I'm a part of the human race and there are systems of privilege and oppression at play around me always.
Earlier this week, someone who's been praying for me regularly messaged me to say that God had told him to pray for my healing along with my "incorporation" and "response." He said he didn't know what those words meant in connection to me, but that there was a strong sense they were from God. I didn't immediately recognize what it meant either, but after praying a lot about that and what I should write in this week's post and listening to my pastor's sermon from last Sunday, I might have figured it out. You see, about a hundred readers followed me here to this platform when I moved from the initial blog I started after my accident. Most of my few hundred readers there were interested in my physical recovery. The portion who kept up on this website find a fuller picture of my recovery and my life as a teacher and mentor of young people. There's still a whole lot more to me as a person, and I'm writing this as a response to the various segments of my life that I'm working to incorporate better.
A month ago I wrote about my growth in understanding my privilege, and this week I wanted to again be intentional in my words to promote the voices of others. Celebrating those who are wiser and more appropriate to address the current moment isn't giving up my platform but rather the obvious choice in this moment. Derrick's message this past Sunday was about how we all need to humble ourselves and ask for wisdom, and I'm so grateful for his emphasis on how everything we do needs to start and and with reverence for the Lord.
I'm humbling myself in a lot of ways in my life, and one of the most significant is in how I'm willing to step up when I hear my pastor say that he is weary. You see, I'm feeling weary from a lot of things this week - personally, professionally, publicly - there are lots of options for why. One of them is the uncontrollable muscle spasms in my legs. I can't turn those off. I can (and did) turn off Facebook this week, but my pastor can't turn off the color of his skin and the discrimination that comes with it.
While praying and grieving for a lot of things this week, I was reminded of something that happened shortly after I was in the hospital. I'd returned to teaching that fall, and one of my former housemates had a rough conversation with me. She told me that it was traumatizing for her to see me around campus and she was struggling to process her emotions. She recognized that it was not my fault, but she was honestly processing with me. Initially after my accident where she'd watched me fall and break my back, she would regularly visit me in the hospital and spend the half hour car ride mentally preparing for the sight of me disabled and either in a wheelchair or hospital bed. Once the visit was over, she had another half hour car ride to process and put away those feeling before returning to her real life. With me back on campus, she had no time to compartmentalize her compassion for me. It was overwhelming for her to be confronted with my disability at any moment; I'd never had the luxury of turning it off or forgetting about it since the moment I fell.
We all have limitations, and compassion fatigue is real. However, I also recognize that it's important that I not just turn off my concern for others because there are too many news stories of injustice for me to absorb. Instead, I'm going to do what Pastor Derrick encouraged and ask the Lord for wisdom as I seek out the sustainable, God-honoring steps I can take to use my voice to promote justice and love and growth and learning.
I'll link below to Pastor Derrick's message, but even more importantly, I think it's really valuable for everyone who reads this post to spend the 20 minutes to listen to Pastor Brandon respond to why this moment matters if you haven't already done so. I have so much love and respect for these two men who have consistently pointed me towards Jesus, and if you have concerns about what they've said, I encourage you to reach out to me directly for a private conversation rather than criticizing them. They deserve a break, and I'll step up to field your questions.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise."
Psalm 111:10 NIV
Pastor Brandon's Response
Pastor Derrick's Message
Additionally, I highly recommend listening to Denver Seminary's podcast with Pastor Brandon as a guest: click here to listen.
Remember, I'm still learning here. I'm a whole lot further along than I used to be, and I hope that I'll keep growing in my understanding as I keep my focus on the Lord.