Give us a few links and we’ll complete the chain. Sketch a few shapes and we’ll fill in the picture. Hum a few bars and we’ll finish the song. Humans are designed to add the details so the story comes clearer. Even if it’s not the real story. Even if it’s not the right song or the intended picture. Our minds like wholeness and are so dissatisfied with the unfinished, we finish it.
The funny thing is, completion is so satisfying it will seem right even if it’s wrong. In fact, when we are shown the “real” facts of the case or the actual story line, we are surprised. Come on, I know he said that! We may even insist on reading the original work or listening to the recording to convince ourselves we are in error.
I find this fascinating, even as I find myself completely guilty. I complete the story with my version all the time. Jump to conclusions. Suppose the ending. Presume I know what that person is thinking or what he’s been planning or what motivates him. But I don’t. What I “know” is actually a creation. My mind has been filling in the blanks based on my information, my experiences, my know-how, my culture, my upbringing, my…everything. I make no apologies: this is how I am made. And so are we all. Created to complete the story. Our story.
This does get kind of comical when you’re a by-stander to a conversation where one person is trying to solve another person’s problem based on their own symptoms, their own treatment and their own outcome. We seek to be empathetic and we are trying hard to help or solve or correct, but we have filled in our own details and these may be very different from the facts of the case.
It is why testifying as a witness is such a tricky business. We believe what we’re saying but it just may not be true. It’s why speaking up without authority or diving in without full understanding is not fruitful and can be damaging. We are experts in our own lives and may be experts in our own fields, but this doesn’t mean we hold the solution to the problem.
I am reminded of this as today is World Malaria Day. A child dies of this preventable disease every 60 seconds, many thousands of them in Africa where our church has a hospital seeking to address this problem. That’s pretty much all I know. I do not know these children or their mothers. I don’t know what their homes look like, or even if they have homes. What I know is my own life, which is malaria free. So, what is the problem?
The problem is that a child dies every 60 seconds. Period. Just imagine what it must be like to hold a child who is dying from malaria. Who is suffering from attacks lasing 6-10 hours of chills and shaking followed by high fever, headaches and muscle pain. Imagine having no resources to comfort the child and no hope of curing them.
I can only imagine that dimly. I am very far away. But today I am trying to learn more about it so I can imagine it better. Because I suffer from a disease called nearsightedness. It can be treated with corrective lenses. These will help me see what is real and lend clarity to what might be done., including what I might do.
Nearsightedness, after all, is treatable. Shortsightedness is terminal. That cannot be how this story is meant to end.
When the scrappy outside back (White) battles the opposing team’s forward (Blue) to win the ball near the touchline, we cheer her on. One shields, the other pokes. One leans, the other muscles in. The referee lets them play. All fair. No foul.
Blue turns sharply toward the field just as white lifts her head. White’s head collides with blue’s jaw. Blue goes down holding her chin. White hovers. I can see her mouth the words, “Are you okay? I’m sorry.” Blue doesn’t respond. I hear the hiccups of her tears coming. Her coach is running on. White still hovers. Her eyes fixed on blue who is standing now, crying and holding her chin. She does not look at white. White does not leave.
Coach examines blue and wraps an arm around to usher her off the field. Parents on the sidelines offer quiet applause in support of blue’s effort, a sideline salute. Our applause is muffled in gloved hands. White takes a step with blue and her coach and then turns back to the field, to her position. I am watching her face. Freckled and frowning, all compassion, all confusion. There is nothing to be done. A white teammate in-bounds the ball and the game goes on.
I am surprised by the tears that well up in me as I have watched this scene. Where do these tears come from? These are not tears of pain, nor sympathy, nor concern. There is something more here. Something that can’t be seen, only felt. It’s what starts the tears in me. Watching a kindness, especially an unreciprocated kindness, in a place not known for kindness or concern, gets me ‘right there.’ Where is right there?
It’s the same place in me that fluttered when…
- I saw the NC State jumbo-tron photos of Ian in memorium
- I heard Curtis Finch sing gospel
- I got news that my daughter was safe when I feared otherwise
- I saw the woman in the wheelchair ringing a silver bell in support of runners going by in the race
It’s that “choked up” place that, for some of us, is connected to a spicket that accesses our tear ducts. A gentle place. A tender spot.
A friend once told me that tears mean the Spirit is present. Tears like these.
I have come to expect them. Spirit tears. They are different from the “regular ones.” (My spicket has several on/off valves for sure.) But these…they seem to come even without warning. At unpredictable times, at least by other peoples’ estimation. They’re almost a signal to me from some place inside of me that says, “This is a special moment, a Holy moment. Hold onto it. Remember it. Revere it.”
It’s funny how the holy gets hold of us that way. Sneaks up and grabs us to get our attention. And all that’s left are a few Spirit tears, that distort our vision for a moment.
I blot them, and usually look around to see if anyone just saw me crying. I mean, who does that? Tears up when a 15 year old, pony-tailed kid, bends over to see if a girl her age that she’s never met before is okay? Ha. Just the memory of it has my vision blurring again. Another Holy moment. I can’t command them and I don’t know when they’re coming, but I am ever so glad to know when they’re here.