I've just spent the last hour trying to clean out my email inbox. (I'm still getting these warnings that the mailbox is precariously full, though.) This is more a statement about my inability to make quick decisions about what is necessary and what is superfluous in life, than it is a question of pressing the delete button over and over. These are the things that weigh us down in life--I'm convinced of that. When your garbage cans and email inboxes are overflowing, it means things have caught up with you.
I've got more than spring cleaning on my mind, lately. It seems like it's time for me to do a little soul searching too; or maybe you would call it a re-balancing, like the way they re-balance the tires on your car so that uneven weight distribution doesn't cause noticeable vibrations.
I've spent a bit of time over the last week reviewing some news stories and videos about the Japanese people and their state of emergency after the earthquake and tsunami. They are not dealing with petty things like cleaning out email inboxes. They are dealing with issues of survival. They are trying to find someplace solid on which to stand. They're looking for lost loved ones and dealing with a death toll that some say is hovering near 22,000.
What can I learn from the Japanese? They are going through hell right now. They are learning to cope, to endure, to overcome. Everything is critical in their life right now.
I do not face these same challenges. But I'm called to the same actions of persevering, enduring, overcoming. In light of their overwhelming pain right now, the light bulb has gone on in my brain: it's called Perspective. I see things differently. I realize that I have some challenges in life, but I am not challenged to the point of death and despair. I realize that there are things I don't want to do in life, but I am not dealing with the daunting undesirable task of searching through dead bodies so that I can identify a loved one. I'm not in a season of crisis. I'm not, in any way, at the end of my rope, so to speak.
So on behalf of those who are in crisis, I contribute to the Red Cross relief efforts through my local grocery store. But more than that, I pray--for divine help, miraculous strength, a way...where there seems to be no way. And then I also set my mind about how I will deal with the challenges in my life. I want to have the right attitude, the right undercurrent of thought about every big and small problem: this is just an obstacle, a minor issue, a relational blip, a financial challenge; and I can deal with this.
It's not a feeling of guilt that teaches me this perspective. And it's not so much relief either--relief that I'm not living through the aftermath of catastrophe-- but it's the understanding that in between those two opposing worlds of guilt and relief is the healthy balance of an appreciation for Life, sweet and full, messy and frustrating, challenging and precious.
I think our Japanese friends would tell us this, that when all is said and done, a hand in yours, an embrace of comfort, an understanding look, a listening ear--these are the things we all cherish, no matter what season of life we're in. This is what Life is--the flow and the undertow, the crisis and the calm after the storm, and everything else in between that makes us look up for help and then reach out for those around us.... gratefully.