It was a brutal night in February, 2004.
Snow, fast and furious, struck with force the windows of the trolley car. I had just left Tom for the night at a Vienna hospital. My heart felt as cold as my surroundings. The wind and the cold made it difficult to walk the last two blocks home, but I somehow managed to stumble through the blinding snow.
(This is our little garden–imagine that much snow on the sidewalks and on the tram!)
Quickly, I locked the frigid, wet weather behind me and went to close the blinds at the front window. The heavy snow had quietly painted a lovely scene in our small enclosed garden. I smiled. Immediately, I went to the computer and wrote the update to our prayer partners who, I knew, were praying for Tom this day.
. . .the good, the bad, the beautiful. . . . Words quickly came together as I shared the experiences of the day– Tom had lost and was given five pints of Austrian blood, (he now says that is why he loves Wiener Snitzel so much!) the prognosis, the fear, the cold ride home, the lovely wintry scene from the window. Evidently my words were clearly– or sadly– transparent as our team leader forwarded the letter to our European team counselor to make sure I was OK.
I assumed the Pollyanna in me died that night. I have carried that label most of my life, a common one for an optimist. Webster defines Pollyanna as a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything. Is that a bad thing? Critics–there are always critics–say Pollyannism is a negative coping mechanism. They add that a Pollyanna ignores or avoids dealing with the bad, hurtful circumstances of life. A more healthy response in dealing with negative issues is to acknowledge them as what they are–painful, sad, hurtful, devastating —but then focus on the positive aspects. I consider that a good Pollyanna approach and one for all of us.
It is seeing the good while coping with the bad. Smiling through tears. Finding a tiny bit of joy in the pain—————. We’ve all been there. . .
But I am here NOW. Oh, I can smile; I can even laugh if I try. I am convinced my Pollyanna side is growing up, perhaps maturing a little. Or, is she getting old? My circle of life is heavily laced with pain currently, and I can’t pretend there is a ‘glad game’ anywhere.
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94: 18, 19.
I could list my heartaches; you can list yours. A few nights after Harvey made history, I thoughtfully viewed over a hundred pictures of physically broken homes, flattened businesses, flooded cars. Devastation everywhere. Can you imagine the mental, emotional anguish hundreds of thousands are enduring? There is nothing you or I can say to help. I doubt that the Pollyanna-s in Texas have an optimistic view at the moment. And that scripture above probably gives little comfort to most of those suffering. Often, situations just hurt.
I read a statistic this week that challenged my Pollyanna mindset. A pastor wrote that 75% of his 800 member church probably suffer from emotional pain, “well hidden by religious cosmetics”, caused by various wounds of the past. (Wounded, Terry Wardle, 1994, pg 23.) Add to that the sufferings of physical pain, financial pain, grieving with loss pain— and there is a major storm brewing everywhere.
We can only walk through the pain, the suffering–one moment, one hour, one day at a time. Hopefully, we are walking through this with another–one step at a time. I encourage you to find someone walking alone in heartache and join them. Listen to their cries, guard their heart, hold them close. . .
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. . .” Psalm 10: 17
When that word, that truth, is all I have or all you have, I know he hears . . .
. . . my cry . . . your cry.