Burning and Being Afraid

Though I hesitate to even write this down, much less post it in a public space, I believe there is something important in this meandering mess of soft-focus snapshots my brain is trying to express. While I may be coming at these ideas from a different perspective than most, I hope I don’t offend anyone so much that we can’t make it to the end of the rabbit trail together. Deep breath. Shameless honesty.

I have zero tears to shed right now over the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Let me assure you, somewhere, in a distant space inside my head, I can acknowledge the sadness other people have expressed over the destruction of such a beautiful old sacred space. At the same time, as I scroll past post after post in my Facebook feed and so many friends share their grief in status updates describing their tears, I feel a bit lost.

Though I believe I ought to know better than to actually ask why, a part of me still wonders. Am I completely out of touch with the collective reality of feeling connected to this historic landmark? Did I miss something?

Or maybe, perhaps, could it be that this is one of those touchstone events that opens up the doors to grief that would otherwise be shuttered away in the dark? Could some of those tears have been gathering force days, weeks, months, years inside a life, yet tacit community standards don’t allow for its public expression?

In the course of daily life, if we’re paying attention, don’t we come upon beautiful things burning down with some regularity? My son came to tell me he tried to make a new friend, but the other child didn’t want to play with him. One of our favorite local businesses wasn’t able to convert enough sales to keep their doors open. A friend is sporting bruises again from her ongoing battle with a seizure disorder. There was another school shooting, another racially motivated attack, another amazing being created in the image of God abused.

survive the drowning-s

Yet, somehow, we don’t or we can’t or we just feel we shouldn’t cry about all those things. Or maybe, we’re afraid. Maybe, so many times have we seen beauty going up in flames, we’ve begun to fear letting any tears fall will cause an unstoppable flood coursing down our faces, forming such great pools of sadness that none can survive the drowning.

I am afraid.

I’m afraid the pain will prove too much. I’m afraid, if I let go of this mask of composure I work so hard to hold up to my face, I’ll lose everything. I’m afraid if I ask the questions I really want to ask, I’ll discover I don’t actually like the answers very much.

Because, what if in all this grief, all this pain, all this heartrending sadness there is something I can do? What if I add my thimbleful of water to put out just one tongue of flame? What if, should I choose to reach out, to touch someone else, to reflect just one beam of light into the darkness, that you may be encouraged to do so as well?

What if Marianne Williamson was absolutely on to something when she said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”? Because, if I have the power to highlight beauty in just one situation in one person’s life, what happens if I chose not to shine?

Could it be the bravest act of all is simply to be yourself? To open your heart and your life to let someone else in? To stop pretending we have it all together and we don’t really need one another and we can do it all on our own?

There is something about tragedy that opens our eyes to the truth that we can’t do it all on our own. We do really need one another. Despite all our pretense, we don’t have it all together.

Please, don’t misunderstand me; I am not intending to lead a guided guilt trip. I pray that reading my disjointed thoughts and questions and concerns has not stirred up a shame storm that is even now beating down in stinging drops on your neck. Because while we all need one another, we also all need to recognize our own limitations.

I can’t put out the flames of a whole cathedral with the one bucket of water I carry. No matter how much I may want to solve all the problems and save all the children, I can’t do it. I don’t even know where all the problems lie or who all the children are. I have only a tiny little platform to offer my own questioning answers. I can’t claim the wisdom of the ages, only what I have seen and thought and felt myself and the truths of experiences others have been willing to share with me. What little I have, I’m sharing with you. I’ll leave you with a final question, one I want to ask myself more often.

Who stands before you waiting to catch a glimpse of the beauty you hide inside yourself?

2 thoughts on “Burning and Being Afraid

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