Heartbreak, Relief, Shame

I started this blog to explore how I might become a better math teacher. Today I’m writing to explore how I might become a better person. A better husband. A better father. A better neighbor. A better stranger.

I have more questions than answers.

I’m not quite sure what to say, or how to say it.

Anyway, if you’re interested in following along as I stumble along, here goes.

Alton Sterling on July 5.

Philando Castile on July 6.

Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patricio Zamarripa on July 7.

Micah Johnson on July 7.

I’m halfway across the country. White and insulated. Unaffected. Yet entirely affected.

Trying not to return to “life as usual” so quickly this time. (Confession: That’s what I’ve often done.)

Trying to make sense of it all. (Spoiler: I cannot.)

Trying to learn mourning and lament. (Baby steps, thanks to my wife.)

Several days later, another news headline. A new tragedy. More dead.

Heartbreak.

I read further. It’s somewhere else. The Sudan, I think. Anyway, it’s not here. Not us.

Relief.

And then…

Shame.

Shame because I gave myself permission to view another human being as other and unworthy.

Other than myself, my family. Unworthy of my tears, my concern.

The better version of myself doesn’t look away. It mourns. It listens. It seeks to understand.

I’m not there yet. But I want to move in that direction.

Questions and Convictions

I’m not sure how to balance that desire to be compassionate against the reality that my conscience can’t bear the collective weight of human suffering, not even a fraction of it.

Nor am I sure how to balance the tension between compassion for others and caring for my family. (More on this in a future post, I think.)

But I am convinced of this: Christ is not honored when I look away from the plight of the orphan and the widow. He is not honored when I ignore the needs of others because it might cost me something.

So what does that mean for me? In the words of Francis Schaeffer, echoed often by one of my former colleagues, “How then shall we live?”

I don’t know. I’m in the process of figuring that out. But I do know that if my answer doesn’t honor the heart of James 1:27, if my answer doesn’t take into account the voices of the Old Testament prophets, who cry out loudly on behalf of the weak and the poor, then my answer doesn’t match God’s answer for how I should live in these challenging days.

Comments 6

  1. I relate so much to what you are saying. Only our infinite God has the capacity to notice and care about ALL the hurt and pain in the world and EACH individual personally. I sometimes wish that I lived in an isolated village with a population of 70 people so that I could notice and care for each one without the overwhelming burden of too much information about too many people. Knowing too much seems to make me care too little, almost as a defense mechanism. I need to stop and pray instead of stopping up my ears when the evil in the world is overwhelming. Because it isn’t too overwhelming for God. But I am ashamed to say that most of the time, I am just too busy with my own little world.

    On a more positive note: It helps me to think small when big overwhelms me. This week I had deliberate, civil conversations with two people at school whose political views are different from mine. We talked and listened to each other. It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was something I could do.

  2. As a teacher, we have a mission to those who need our advocacy. This is what helps me to “deal” with the difficult student. I am growing a heart for the student who acts out, the student who feels misfit, who is broken.

    I too am broken, and can practice being a broken healer like Christ made himself to be.

  3. I am so thankful you decided to step out in faith and voice your thoughts. I am leading a class at our church called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman and it has given me the conviction that I must die daily to myself and pick up the cross for Christ if I want to be a true follower. Your words ring true, Michael.

  4. Thank you for you honest comments. Like all of you I struggle with all of these things every day. As a teacher I try to balance teaching my students the content and then being Christ in their lives as well. Reminding myself to not to in my nice safe bubble and have Christ’s heart for all those in the world especially those he has put in my path. I constantly pray and read the Word to try and be the light where God has planted me. At times I feel I should be doing so much more but God always reminds me to grow where he planted me and He will let me know when He wants me to move.

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