In January I was selected for jury duty. The charge was auto theft and meth possession, with intent to sell. (I tell you that now because it’s over, and because everyone asked anyway.) The first day of the trial I felt prickly and entitled, because obviously I have more important things to do than serve on a jury, and obviously I am more important than the other 36 potential jurors who were dismissed instead of me.
As the trial went on, I began learning about the people in the jury box with me. You guys, I am so quick to invent stories about others. Usually the stories I come up with are way less interesting than the real thing. Juror 2 turned out to be a veterinarian at Sea World, married to a Brazilian woman he met in Mexico. Juror 7 used to have an office job but started working for UPS because he likes being on the move all day. He met his wife at a party in college, and they’ve been together five years now. The more I learned about them, the more people in that courtroom took on color and shape.
Jury duty got me thinking about how dangerous our assumptions can be, to ourselves as well as to others. More often than not, they’re way off the mark.
Here’s the thing: I don’t only make up stories about strangers. I do it with people I know, too. I’m quick to assume their life feels a certain way. Generally I do this when I’m at a low point, and it feels darkly gratifying to wallow in my personal struggle and assume no one else understands or fights the same battles I do. Assuming we fight alone is one of the biggest lies we can believe.
I feel like this should be said, because other people have written things that have saved me. Everyone is fighting a battle—everyone—and we hurt ourselves if we assume we’re alone. For a year and a half I’ve fought an on-again, off-again battle with anxiety, confusion, and fear. And I doubt most people would know this by watching my life from the outside. Is God up to something? Yes. Have I grown and progressed and seen His face? For sure. Does it suck tremendously at times? You better believe it.
This is me raising my hand and saying, me too. You are not alone. You’re not crazy, either. Life is really hard sometimes and unfortunately, this is to be expected. Being human can be a tough ride, especially if you’re a sensitive, deeply feeling, INFJ-type (ahem).
Don’t assume you’re alone. Don’t invent stories about the people around you that feed the lie that you are unlovable, or not good enough, or struggling with something no one understands. If I’m learning anything it’s that, as Mariko says, the body heals itself. That is to say the body of Christ, made up of people who are—without exception—broken. By owning up to this, we heal each other. We can speak waves of truth over each other, and waves upon waves of grace will follow.
There are a few ways to fight back while you’re in the painful middle. First: tell the fear and the lies to get the hell away. Seriously. Sometimes when I’m heavy with worry or guilt, I let myself believe I should feel those things. Like they’ll help me gain some ounce of control or that—yikes—Jesus wants me to feel them. But if they’re not love, they’re not from Him. He sees our potential, and that potential is a free self powered by His unambiguous, adamant love. Fear and lies have no place in our lives and we have the power to tell them off.
Second, choose to see whatever beautiful things come your way today. I waver between being blown open by wonder and crushed by the heaviness of the world. Given the choice, I’d take the former every time. I’d rather choose curiosity and delight and keep choosing it every minute of every day. I’d rather draw nearer to what I don’t understand than back away in fear. Though it’s really hard, keep opening your eyes wide in wonder and belief—it will fill you with light, I promise.
There’s a way to live in “wide-eyed and keen-eyed thanks,” as Annie Dillard writes. “I go my way, and my left foot says ‘Glory’ and my right foot says ‘Amen.’” The battle you’re fighting can’t stop you from choosing wonder and choosing life. It may be hard and it may be long, but abundance is everywhere if we choose to see it.
We’re better when we help each other live through and out of our messes. The gift and the terrifying truth are one and the same: today is all we have. No matter what you’re fighting, you don’t walk forward alone. You can choose wonder instead of fear, even though this choice is hard and constant. You can live in wide-eyed and keen-eyed thanks.
Glory. Step. Amen. Step.