I haven't written in awhile, but I received a text early this morning from a good friend in Denver that reminded me that what I have to say is worth sharing. He visited me last September, shortly after I had moved to Salt Lake City. He rode his motorcycle over 500 miles through sun, wind, and rain just to get here. It was a true blessing.
Ryan is an artist, and his text this morning was a picture of his latest 4'x4' painting telling me that he's taking the advice I gave him when he visited last year: "Be bold." Against the strong winds of 2013, I seem to have forgotten that I could've said something like that - and more so, that I could've inspired someone else. Especially an artist.
I meant to be bold with colors, but I also meant in life.
I needed that reminder this morning.
Tonight while I was showering, a small spider dropped from the basement ceiling and landed up high on the adjacent wall to where I was standing. I have to admit - I don't like spiders much. I've squashed quite a few in my lifetime. But I found myself perplexed as I resisted the urge to do what I've done a hundred times before, and instead watch the spider try to crawl back up the wall against the resistance of condensation. The spider barely hung on as it made progress measured by millimeters. Every so often, all of the progress it had made was lost because it would slip - tripling the distance it had to go to make up for the lost gains.
I could relate.
The last six months I've experienced (and continue to experience) physical injury, heartbreak, financial burdens, and trying to die to my old self. I feel defeated. I don't know what it would feel like to not have a broken body, a broken heart, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt. And all at the same time. The healing process is a slow one, and broken bodies, hearts, and debt spreadsheets don't fix themselves overnight. But, when will the healing come? I would take just one improvement at this point.
As the spider struggled, I even found myself wondering how it felt. Its legs were shaking just trying to keep in one place. The incline it was facing was literally straight up and down. Was it scared? Did it want to give up? We all have our uphill battles - they're unique to each of us. But as I face my own battle, I realize I've been doing it by my own strength and somewhat alone. I'm not letting people see me struggle - I'm not admitting to what I'm afraid of. And that's not what Jesus died for. He died to remind us that its not our strength that overcomes the darkness, and we don't have to be alone in the midst of the everyday struggles.
While I came to the realization that I need to let people in again, I reflected on my friend Micah who died in August. After he died, I remember wanting to know everything about everyone. That's how Micah lived his life. He cared about every detail about everyone with which he came into contact. I wanted to know people's favorite color, what city they were born in, and what their biggest fear was.
What is your biggest fear? If you know what it is, do you know why it is? And if someone asked you what it was, would you tell them?
Vulnerability is hard. It wasn't always that way for me. But after being burned so many times, it's easy to retreat and decide it would be better to not take the risk. It's "easier" to give up and say, "What's the point?" The problem with that option is that it leads to a heart that gets harder. A heart that stops feeling compassion for the brokenness around it. A heart that loses its ability to love well.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
I got out of the shower and opened the bathroom door. The fresh air helped to dry the walls within a few minutes. When I came back in, I saw the spider crawling with more ease as it climbed its way to the top, finding refuge on a narrow wooden ledge.
I have to admit that was the first spider I haven't killed - maybe ever. Having compassion for a spider might mean that I've officially lost it. It's possible.