I Received Some Bad News Recently
I received some bad news recently. In fact, it's probably some of the worst I've had in my adult life. An unexpected bill came up. Now, normally, when unexpected financial obligations have come, I've cried, wailed, thrown a fit, and generally acted a fool. But no matter how big my tantrum, I realized that I'd still have to deal with the bill. The tantrum didn't help me feel any better, and didn't conjure up any money to pay the bill. Shocking, I know.
So I was just about to go for a run this last Thursday night when, on the way out, I decided to check my mail. A large letter puzzled me, and I opened it before heading out. I caught the gist of the letter: our condo board had decided on an early special assessment that originally hadn't been scheduled until 2018. My portion would be $24,000. No, I did not get my decimal in the wrong place. That was twenty-four thousand dollars! Wait, it gets better. There will be another assessment in February based on actual costs of work, where they have estimated I'll need to fork over another $8000. That, if you're counting, is $32,000 total.
I can't say I fault the condo board or hold any grudge against them for their decision. Not only do they also have to pay their share, but given the new data (an updated engineer's assessment) I probably would have made the same call. But it doesn't make it any easier to swallow.
And so, here I was, in my running gear, letter in hand, ready to head out. I was surprisingly calm, surprisingly faithful. "Somehow", I thought, "somehow, God will help me through." And so I ran, and prayed, and prayed and prayed.
And while I knew I'd be OK somehow, I knew I'd need my friends for their support and faith. I might be feeling good now, but surely the sheer epic size of this challenge would hit me soon and my faith would waver. I called out to a few friends to help me stay sane. It didn't help. I could start to feel my chest heave under the weight. I could feel tears, though they wouldn't come (maybe I couldn't afford to spare any?)
And when I showed up to church on Sunday, I thought I'd be ok. I could tell all of my friends and they'd each take a couple thou here, a few thou there, and soon the weight wouldn't be so crushing. But of course, that wasn't the case. My friends can't pay this debt for me. No one can. I alone own my condo (well, me and TD anyway). And I discovered I was feeling more alone and helpless than before I told my friends. Until I realized that I was expecting something from them that they simply couldn't give.
We all have our burdens and worries in life. As much as I can care for my friends and assist them through worries, lend a hand to help some of their more tangible needs, I simply can't carry any of their burdens on their behalf. I can't care for their sick child more than they can. But I can be there to hold their hand and pray. I can't fix their strained marriage, but I can be there to listen and offer an alternative view of the situation. I can't pay their debts, because, well, haven't you been listening?!?
Now this could have left me feeling more lonely and desolate, but instead I was hopeful. Too often I think we are disappointed by our friends, when we really shouldn't be. I could have walked away from the situation thinking that my friends really don't care about me, when that's not the case at all.
And I realized that I have in God an infinite source of strength, ability, provision. I don't have it all worked out yet, but I know I'll be alright. And I know I'll be more than alright in my relationships, as I give up the idea that any of my friends can serve as a solution to any and all of my problems.
Have you been demanding too much of your spouse? Or your friends? Or your family? Can you imagine what your disappointment does to the relationship? You may not have to imagine, if you've been on the receiving end of that undeserved "you've failed me" look in a loved-one's face.
There may be a time and place for encouragement, for holding friends up to the higher standard you know them to be capable of. But we're talking about something entirely different. Here, I'm referring to them falling short of your impossible expectations, not their realistic standards.
Conversely, do you recall what it feels like in a relationship when you simply can do no wrong, when you know you are loved for who you are - nothing more and nothing less? If you've forgotten that, or never had it to begin with, I encourage you to begin giving it. After all, "give and ye shall receive." At the very least, I can guarantee you will lose a lot of your disappointment, and that's good news!
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