Suffering and Stories
“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
~ The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
This will probably sound absurd, but there have been times that I have found myself seriously affected by the suffering of people I have never met and could do little or nothing to help – sometimes to the point of sitting up at night crying. War crimes victims, tsunami survivors, women in Afghanistan, parents of starving children. Such are the perils of being ridiculously sensitive. What finally helped me to avoid being emotionally overrun by the terrible suffering which plagues this world was the passage above. The Christ character of the Narnia Chronicles, Aslan, is explaining to the young Shasta a series of difficult, frightening and seemingly unfair events that had occurred. When Shasta asks about his friend, Aravis, he is informed that’s part of her story. I love that concept. We all have a story to live. “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.” Those people who live on the other side of the world and are suffering sometimes unspeakable things? They have stories to live as well.
Frankly, one of the things that I really hate is when people look at me and my life and react to it with horror or pity. It’s so disrespectful. “Wait a minute!” I want to say, “you don’t understand! I have a great story. Sure it’s often been hard and there have been times that I’ve wanted to say that it’s too much and give up, but not everyone could live this life of mine. And the end is promised to be great.” (I keep telling my mom that if the road I’m on is this hard, the place I’m going must be really great.) Why would it be any different for someone on the other side of the world? They have their stories to live as well. If I allow my empathy to compel me to whatever action I can take on their behalf, that’s of course a good thing. But it’s much better to offer it with respect for another human being living a story that’s harder than most rather than with tears and pity for having such awful lives.
Then there are those times when the people with the difficult stories aren’t on the other side of the world at all. They are in my own circle. Sometimes in my own home. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by guilt for not being able to do more to “fix” their problems. Or for the role that I and my messy story have played in making their lives difficult. My kids have been through an awful lot in the last couple of years. I have to remind myself that it’s part of their story. I wish I could write a nice, easy story for them, but really even a fairy tale requires some peril and darkness to be any good. And I know that my messy life has sometimes forced my parents to deal with situations and problems of the sort that they could quite easily avoid otherwise. But having me in their life is part of their story as well.
I wish I could do more to stop the nightmare stories and the horror stories that far too many people have to live. I don’t for a minute believe that God desires anyone to have to live a story that includes being a little girl having her genitals mutilated or a boy watching his family slaughtered or any of the other horrors that have kept me up at night. But I do know that He has promised redemption to his creation. I don’t know how he works it all out in the end, but I’m sure it will be a fantastic story.
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Do Your Children Know Their Own Story?
Sometimes You Just Have To Be Your Own Cheerleader