“You’ll look back on this summer as a mark of your becoming,”
Janice had my friends mesmerized – as usual – some in tears. The thought of leaving our 63 year old big sister figure for six months was bittersweet.
“This will be a summer of transformation.” Her simple words always seemed to be so casual but so significant at the same time. A dozen hopeful heads nodded in agreement. I think I mimicked the motion half-heartedly.
I wanted to believe her too, I really did.
But – I am only going home.
And of course, home is no bad place to be. I know that. But – Janice’s dramatic send-off much more appropriate for Lou – who was soon to fly to Canada for the month, and Ashley, about to spend her entire summer mentoring human-trafficking victims in Uganda.
I know home is where I need to be, but I couldn’t help but feel misplaced or perhaps insignificant. Ordinary.
“I want to leave you with two challenges.” Perhaps this part of the conversation would seem applicable to me. “To learn something about the world everyday, and to reduce someone else’s suffering everyday.”
Frankly, Janice could tell me the sun would turn purple tomorrow and I would believe it. I hope my spazzy energy and lack of vulnerability will mature into her constant poise and understanding. But this – I knew, would be no simple task for my empty tank.
The small amount of life I’ve spent with the friends that surrounded me had come to show me this was no ordinary circle. These hearts – these Christ-chasing hearts – would wear these words on their sleeve for the next three months.
Janice and I exchanged a smile. Only briefly, but enough for me to feel understood by her eyes. She knew “Reducing someone else’s suffering” was what I’ve been devoting every ounce of my being to for the last 8 months. And humbly, I admit I have come to terms with the understanding that I cannot sustain this outpouring forever. Watching someone you love hurt is painful in itself. Being a front line soldier in the battle they’re fighting is unpredictable, it is tiring, it is self-sacrificing.
Of course, my loud and optimistic self does a darn good job making sure the hard emotions of this job are concealed behind the happy-go-lucky version of a poker face.
We drove home in silence. As much as Lou loved Janice – her words always made her think of her mom, and I know the pain I felt, as usual, was nothing compared to hers. But that’s the crucial mistake you cannot let consume you. Since November, I have refused to validate my own hurt.
We drove to Jack Johnson and I thought about purpose. I have thought a lot about purpose since Lou’s mom died. Her loss makes me wonder about God and about people and about the world and who holds it and how there can possibly be such good and such bad and such joy and such hurt all in one life.
Maybe our purpose is something we’re born with. Maybe its God-given. Maybe its constantly changing. In eight months, even the very thing I directed every bit of my energy to – carrying my best friend through her grief – seemed impossible. I’ve spent most nights lying awake wondering why God chose to put me here – and why such an important purpose could be wasted on a person who humanness was beginning to wear her thin.
Perhaps, I thought, my purpose could be to reduce the suffering of others.
I hope to find out.