Still, it is more comfortable to share through the voice of a third party—a story of someone else's experience. Sharing other people's struggles still makes us dig within ourselves to find and express the unspoken thoughts and feelings of humanity—but without the incrimination of its being our story. If we must share our own, the most comfortable choices are historical events far enough behind us that we can laugh, shrug, or at least assure ourselves that we have since grown.
But nobody's experiences are finished up and neatly sealed off. (We call those memories, and even most memories have unresolved threads.) It's what we are experiencing that creates our need for help.
When I was a toddler, my dad dubbed me "the one who admits it." As it turns out, he made both a descriptive and prophetic statement. I hereby publicly accept the calling.
I had a crazy week—and by that I mean that I felt loco. I only left the 40 acres once, but my emotions sang the scale below Middle C almost all day, every day. I went to bed burnt out and woke up wishing for bedtime—or at least my afternoon walk. I fought tears and lost three or more times most every day.
There's a big problem with this. It isn't me. I'm the girl who laughed, smiled, and acted normal enough the day after a major break-up that my closest girlfriend wondered if the ordeal was still bothering me. (It was, of course—but the tears of my soul often flow inside sealed chambers.)
This Monday morning, I found myself kneeling in prayer and sobbing. Now, usually, I would pray it through, tell my face muscles to smile, start singing Steve Green's "Always", and go have a great day. Or at least pretend to have a great day.
This time, as I prayed, the still small voice seemed to tell me to go ask my mom for a hug.
I didn't exactly want to. I knew Mom would be tender and understanding, but it isn't my style to ask for emotional help. Still, the thought persisted, so I dragged myself to her room.
When Mom saw my tears, her mouth dropped open. "What happened?"
That was the problem. "Nothing," I had to whimper. "I just need a hug." I clung to her and sobbed on her shoulder for quite awhile before I could admit that my tears had been caused by something that had happened 51 weeks before. Humiliating—but I learned something. Compassion doesn't put people through an application process. When people are hurting, I shouldn't judge if they have a legitimate reason, and give them a glorified "move on and get over it." I should take the raw pains of years gone by just as seriously as yesterday's wound.
The week continued, and I just kept struggling. I'd think of my dog's death, and the tears would well up. I would try to study for my Western Civilization I CLEP exam, and feel like the biggest history dunce ever. I'd remember a friend in Washington, and cry just for missing them.
Then I'd send up a prayer and claim a promise. I'd choose to be happy. Get a drink of water. Have a happy mealtime conversation. Go for a walk. It wasn't that the usual fixes didn't work—they just didn't work for long. Sooner than I wished, I'd be standing in the need of prayer once again.
On Tuesday I roamed the woods like usual, talking to God about how humiliated I felt to be struggling with...should I call it depression? Had this ever happened to me since I'd learned about choosing to be happy? And since even this week I'd repeatedly claimed and reveled in His precious promises, why would this ache not go away? What was going on with Cheyenne? I want to be who He is making me into, I let Him know; but I really did like the way He'd had me before.
Or did I? Hadn't I been praying for compassion?
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).
A strange awareness welled up inside. Could it really be?
"God," my voice quivered, "thank You for the pain. Thank You for allowing me this unexplained struggle so that I can sympathize with others who are struggling."
Thursday evening. Crying into my pillow. Mom came in for worship, and began telling me other friends' sorrows. Big things. Bad things. Recent things. Not the historic drama causing my tears.
"Oh, honey, are you crying?" Mom's face melted in sympathy, and she laid her head down next to mine. I could see the pain in her eyes just from seeing mine. I hadn't even started talking yet.
When I did, she listened and helped me sort out what's really going on.
Today on my walk, I thanked God for the pain again. I really do want that compassion He's teaching me.
Even more, I want helpless reliance on Him. I want to know to the core where to hang my soul—and how.
So, in the sea of seemingly silly sorrows, I have kept afloat through the power in prayer, sympathy, and the Word. "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.... I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, ... This poor [woman] cried out, and the Lord heard [her], And saved [her].... There is no want to those who fear Him.... Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing" (Psalm 34:1, 4-6, 9, 10).
Jesus chose to be brutalized by human pain so that He could understand me and test the strength of His promises. Now He offers me the same blessed experience.