I’m living in a burning house. It isn’t the first time. Virtually everyone who reads this has–if not presently–lived in a burning house. While it may not be cancer, failing health, and lost careers, it could have been a husband asking for a divorce (out of the blue), a daughter who attempts (or succeeds in) suicide, or a thousand other things.
The great temptation when you are in the house, is the inability to look out the window. That is the “sin” of suffering. . . the failure to see the pain in others. Sometimes their pain is as great or greater.
Then you meet those who say, “Oh, you still have cancer. . . I thought you finished with that last year.” Then you want to scream louder, as if no one has been listening and you are completely alone.
Then you hear, “You get to write and talk about your suffering all the time, while most of us suffer in silence.” Then you start to become egocentric in other ways, by thinking, “What’s wrong with me that I have to share my agony with others.” While these sound the opposite, they are both “me” focused.
The Message says it like this (Philippians 2:4) Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Yasmin Mogahed (Muslim psychologist) says it like this:
Along with all the constant prayers about the specifics of the illness, there must be a constant petitioning of God to help spare me from the self-adsorbedness. Help me to think about the pain of others, my friends’ cancers, my brother’s cancer, my sister’s loss, my friends’ illnesses, their losses, and fears.
When I have worked with the suffering (like in a refugee camp) it is amazing how the “self” fades into the fabric of the background. You forget to eat, sleep, poop, and have to remind yourself to breathe. There I am certain that I would forget that I am ill.
This sounds strange but I wish so much I could in such a place right now. Where there, outside my burning house, the suffering is so horrific, that you barely smell your own embers. Not thinking about yourself is the natural default there. It takes no discipline.
But on the other end of the spectrum, where you are in isolation, your cellmate is your own ego. . . and there is no escaping him. The only voices that you hear there are your own cries for help.
Damn you Covid! Get me out of this cocoon. . . or give me enough imaginative power, so that I can visualize the other’s suffering . . . without the opportunity to see them.
Open my eyes wider. Clear the smoke from the windows.