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What If It Was You?

By Vicky O. Misa (First published Sept. 2, 2010)

There once was a boy who, like most little boys, wanted someone to teach him about life and what it meant to be a man. Most look to their fathers for this role, but this little boy didn’t have that luxury early on. In fact, by the time his stepdad came along – someone who actually could show him – his mind was already tainted by doubt and fear. So, alone, he trudged through life’s lessons, figuring them out one by one the hard way. Often, he learned the wrong way, the dangerous way. And having the passionate, all-or-nothing kind of personality that he had, he suffered many disappointments that hurt him very deeply. On top of that, he never learned how to express himself. He tried to fake it, like many kids do, but that left him feeling hollow and disturbed. The things that crushed his spirit were overwhelming and threatening. Whatever the reasons, whatever the events, something – or some string of things – broke this precious soul into pieces. He was certainly affected when his father abandoned him and his large family. To make matters worse, they didn’t realize – in their own pain and attempts at self preservation – that they were unwittingly neglecting to help this already-hurting boy. He certainly seemed okay from the outside. But whatever the case, a tragedy had been set into motion, a boy was overlooked and slipped through the cracks. He didn’t know the first thing about how to put his life back together because he didn’t know what it was supposed to look like to begin with. He felt alone and rejected. The devil took advantage of this situation and whispered mercilessly to the boy that he was worthless, unloved. This message haunted him for years, playing in his head over and over like a broken record; he eventually came to believe it since nothing and no one intervened to prove otherwise. All alone with himself, he stuffed his feelings deep down inside and grew increasingly anxious, wondering what was so wrong with him that he could be discarded, deemed unlovable?

Fast forward a few decades.

The boy has grown into a man struggling to survive in a life full of rejection. It’s all around him. It’s all he can see. Still not knowing how to cope with the torment that’s thrashing inside of him, he tries to outrun it. If it can be done, he’s seen it, thought about it or tried it. Unable to rid himself of the anxiety and feelings of hopelessness, he lashes out in his misery. He unintentionally hurts those he loves. And to get away from what he’s done he has to run that much faster and harder. What he used to do to forget is no longer enough. The pain is too great. With an evil grin, addiction shackles itself to the young man. Years go by. The cycle continues, gaining speed and intensity. The man nearly loses everything dear to him. His family has written him off. He feels rejected and abandoned. Again.

In a last-ditch effort to break free from this overwhelming horror that has become his life, he gathers up all the courage he can muster and tries again, despite his fear. He tries to make new friends. He’s learned all too well that his old friends can only steer him back into the abyss. He goes out to hang out with some new guys. Some of them sit far away, saying nothing to him. As usual, he feels out of place, that all-too-familiar sense of not belonging. Perhaps one is shy, not sure of how to connect with a stranger. Maybe another is embarassed to be seen with this long-haired, tattooed rebel. What will ‘decent’ folks think? There’s a reputation to protect, after all. The man goes away feeling ignored and rejected. Again.

Another day the man approaches a woman who’s been in his shoes. He's hoping she can help.He asks if he can talk to her. She says, “Just a minute,” and turns back to scribbling in her journal. He walks away feeling all alone. Rejected again.

Another man is all too eager to come to the rescue. He knows exactly how the man feels. He leads the man back into self-medication. Hello past, he thinks, I know you. Back to square one. The man reaches out to his wife. But she is just so exhausted from the stress of long hours at her job, financial troubles and the pressure of keeping her disjointed family from completely falling apart. She feels annoyed by his constant need for hand-holding and tries to slap a band-aid on his feelings as she rushes out the door. He sits there, alone, feeling abandoned, neglected. Again.

His kids avoid him – the younger ones because they never know what to expect when they get home from school, the older ones because they are fed up and frustrated by what he puts their mother through. He feels rejected. Again.

Others may occasionally ask about how he's doing but, for the most part, offer only silence or indifference. He feels ignored, unloved, empty.

Suddenly he is hit with an onslaught of loved ones dying – abandoned again, not much left to cling to.

People the man respects appear to suddenly walk away from long-time commitments without explanation. He feels the ground beginning to give way beneath him. He wonders who are these people he has turned to for help and guidance?

Oh, that’s right. We’re the salt and the light of the world.

Problem is, our salt tastes like dirt and our lights are hidden under baskets. We say things like, “Hang in there,” and “Just keep your chin up,” to his face, but secretly mean, “Try harder,” “Get over it,” or "I've got enough to deal with. I don't need yours." He screams inside his head, “Please care enough to notice that I’m doing my best! Help me!”

All the while, the devil’s laughing as his army marches forward, snatching up other hurting and broken people just like the man. Yes, he’s leading them into a trap, but they don’t see that. What they can see is someone finally standing there with open arms. They don’t even care whose arms they are at this point and they don’t need coaxing. We’re driving them right to him.

I realize we’re only human and we are just trying to get it right ourselves. But aren't we supposed to be helping each other through life instead of making it worse? So many of these interactions could have turned out more positive if we were actually putting into practice what we say we believe.

Let’s look at what happened:

The man: He keeps placing his faith and trust in the world and in fallible humans.

The man’s family: Decided the road was too hard, hurts too much. They quit trying.

Old friends: They’re lost, just fumbling around in the dark, clueless. They are the epitome of ‘Misery loves company.’

The guys: They let their personal issues become stumbling blocks.

The woman: Forgot what it was like to be in his shoes. She didn’t recognize his cry for help.

The eager man: Hasn’t made it out of the pit himself yet. His passion outweighed his ability.

Wife: Hasn’t figured out that it’s not about her.

Everyone: We don’t realize how many hurting people are watching us and our actions (and non-actions) to see if we've really found the answer or are just faking it like everyone else. We don't know what they've been through, we don't know what their issues are, and we don't realize the influence we have over them. It's time to reach outside ourselves and 'sweat the small stuff,' it has a much greater impact than we understand.

The way to do that is ridiculously simple: Apply more Jesus, less us.

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