Eye Contact

Nichole Nordeman’s newest album “Every Mile Mattered,” has not yet been released, but there are 4 songs available for download, with the advanced purchase of the album.  One of those songs, “Dear Me,” feels incredibly personal.

On January 29, 2016, I got a concussion at work.  A year and a half later, I still struggle with headaches, sensory overload, and other symptoms from the traumatic brain injury (TBI).

On the outside, I look healthy.  I smile, and try to enjoy life, in spite of the pain I feel within my body.  Sometimes, this outward appearance of health leads people to believe that I don’t really have pain inside my body.

The pressure to LOOK sick, in order to be believed, can be stifling.  It hurts, perhaps more than the headaches, because it’s an attack on my very being-on my integrity-and one that I’m powerless to confront.  I used to always be believed, but, then again, I used to always be above average, capable, and helpful.  Now, I’m a little less so.  This past year and a half, I was even a burden.  I was easier to write off.  If I wanted to be believed, it felt like I had to let my illness rob me of my joy; and, even then, it was just me hoping that these able-bodied skeptics, with seemingly all the power, would either believe me or just give me the benefit of the doubt.

That’s when it hit me: I USED TO BE THE ONE WITH THAT POWER!  Sometimes, I still AM the one with that power: the power to affirm another human being!

Before the concussion, I would carry around granola bars in a bag, because the Bible says  “give to everyone who asks you” (Luke 6:30), and I thought that was a simple, clever way to obey.
I did invite a homeless woman to join a friend and I for lunch once, but, honestly, I didn’t believe she’d actually come.  She asked for money, I didn’t have granola bars on me, and we were heading to eat, so I invited her to join.  She declined, and I insisted, believing that her reluctance was proof that she really just wanted money for some sketchy reason.  Finally, she agreed to come.
It was only when we were ordering, that I realized that the reason she declined was because she had no teeth, and was embarrassed to eat in front of us.  She ordered something soft, explaining that she had a hard time chewing.  Then, when the food arrived, she got up to leave and sit at another table, so she wouldn’t spit in our food. Obviously, I insisted that she stay and eat with us, and I ate my food-spit and all-along with my arrogance.
But I still hadn’t learned my lesson.  Not yet.
After over a year and a half of struggling to be believed, and finding such freedom in the friendship of those who did believe me, I do finally see things differently.
The day before yesterday, it was a 90 plus degree day, and there was a small-framed, nearly-toothless woman, crumpled under a wool blanket, begging on the side of Boylston street in downtown Boston.  Normally, I would have either walked by, or stopped, purchased her something, and walked by.  But I’m not the old me.  This time, I got her the drink she requested, and I got one for myself, and then I sat next to her and talked.
We had an amazing conversation! As we sipped and slurped, she shared about her Neuropathy, which is why she likes to keep the wool blanket on her legs.  She pointed out people she knew walking by, and told me about the “family” she’d made on the streets.  She shared about her day, and we had some laughs.
I couldn’t help but think to myself “I used to miss this?! I might have walked by this beautiful woman that you (God) created, and given her a granola bar, rather than paused and enjoyed her company?!”  My heart swelled as she spoke on and on.
“…Do you remember now the things I said I thought that I deserved
My flag, and safety, a place to learn
The things I know I didn’t earn
And ‘bless their hearts, I’m sure it’s hard, but handouts don’t help anyone’
And all the talk about ‘the system’
‘I sure hope someone can fix them’
I said those things
Dear Me
This is a letter to the girl I used to be
You’ll see, you’re gonna take the long way
And there is nothing you could do or say to separate you
From the love of God who made you just exactly as He meant to
And you cannot imagine all the places you’ll see Jesus
But you’ll find Him everywhere you thought He wasn’t supposed to go
So, go
Go
And hold all the mothers, whose babies bleed from bullet holes
And feel all the hunger, the bellies and the bones
Shout for the prisoner, cry for justice, loud and long
And march with the victims, as Jesus marches on
And sit at all the tables, ‘cause Jesus eats with everyone
And dance to the music, if you can’t sing its’ native tongue
And cry for the wombs, the mothers and the empty arms
And hold high the warriors, fighting now for freedoms’ song
And love, love, love, love like it’s your own blood
Love, love, love, love as you have been loved…his name is love”
-from Nichole Nordeman’s “Dear Me”
When I was getting ready to leave, I asked if I could pray for this woman, Joanna, and she took my hand, laced our fingers together and tucked my arm next to her body. “Let’s pray!” she said.  I could have cried!  (Which, since the concussion, isn’t exactly news, but it was a beautiful moment :-P)  We prayed together, and I left.  I’m glad she stopped me.  I’m glad I stopped.  I’m glad that God is always more than I currently know.  I’m glad that there is more change he is working in me, and more beauty that I will experience as a result.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”-John 10:10
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