Every once in a while, I say or do something that reminds others of the complexity of my personal background. Last night, for example, as I was watching football with my roommates while simultaneously doing a few other things, I happened to say ‘about’ in such a way as it struck them as rather Canadian, something that happens from time to time. This morning, a chance flashing of some hand gestures led one of the mangers with whom I have a friendly duel (we pretend to shoot each other down, and the first person who is able to draw and say ‘bang bang’ wins for the day, most of the time with him making excuses over why my win shouldn’t count) to swap stories with me about my time on the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles and East Tampa, where he and his then newlywed wife had a run-in with a drugged out zombie-like person at the corner of Hillsborough and Orient, an intersection I am very familiar with, having driven past it many times on my way home, and near my favorite Steak & Shake location. It later came up in the afternoon when he and I were chatting with another coworker of mine, who seemed surprised that such a fellow as myself would have that kind of familiarity with ghettos and mean streets. I suppose I hide my background well sometimes.
One of the seemingly unresolvable dilemmas of my life is the degree to which it is possible to avoid too much focus on either the great street carnival of life, with anxious worry about what others are doing, saying, or thinking, or focusing to too great a degree on my own immensely complicated internal life and bringing into the public what nearly everyone else keeps private. It appears as if the intensely analytical mind I have must have something to grind into dust like some fearsome and dark machinery , with the result being some kind of insight along with a fair degree of concern. Yet in life there is much to be concerned about. Those to whom we give our attention and our affection also get our concern, as through our fondness for them we become at least a little bit vulnerable at the same time to their behavior, and concerned about how they are doing. We may not always be wise about those we let inside, but at the very least it is not a bad thing for us to be concerned about others, except insofar as it hinders us from living a godly life ourselves because of how entangled we get with others.
Shortly after lunch today I got a phone call from my mother. This is not a normal sort of experience, and even though I was having a very busy day at work with a lot of technical glitches and tight deadlines for reports and projects, I knew that my mother would not call in the middle of the afternoon without a very good reason, and so I quickly took a break from my desk and walked outside to pace along the balcony while chatting with her for about fifteen minutes. From her voicemail alone I could tell that something was wrong, as it was almost impossible to hear her message or make out any words at all. In chatting, I was able to hear that my mom had caught pneumonia shortly after returning this year from the Feast of Tabernacles, that she was taking some pretty strong medications and had a doctor’s appointment (at least a follow-up) on Monday and some lab tests scheduled next week as well, and still struggled with breathing and was too ill for calls and visits, although she made an exception to let me know so that I did not have to hear of her condition second-hand, which I thought was very considerate. The fact that the doctor said she was down to 92 pounds and the fact that she couldn’t recognize my stepfather at times is all very alarming as well. Although I am far away from my family, it does not mean I am not deeply concerned about their well-being. It just means I sometimes feel unable to do anything but pray and feel that concern and express it as best as I am able.
Sometimes distance is not merely a matter of geography. There are plenty of people in my life, far too many in fact, who I wish well, think fondly of, and yet find it difficult to communicate with on a regular basis. My awkwardness in communication, or the difficulties of my relationships with others aside, I feel concern when others are doing poorly, and wish to see them happy and successful. I would want them to wish the same and feel the same concern for me, regardless of the difficulties between us. What is the line between overly anxious concern and appropriately outgoing concern and love for others? It is hard to tell, and for those of us who tend to be sons of Martha, full of anxious care rather than transcendent peace, it is something we have to work with the best that we can and leave the rest up to God to know our hearts and to be merciful and gracious to us where we are not so with ourselves. Sometimes that is the only thing that can be done.
 See, for example:
What a beautiful testament of your love as an honorable and faithful son! I heard the panic and pain in your voice when we talked on the phone and felt so very bad for having to impart that kind of news to you. It was wonderful to talk with you a week later to let you know that I am doing much better, even though we haven’t received the lab results yet. Be assured that you will be first to know. Please also know that hearing your voice and feeling your prayers on my behalf really did help in the healing process, for God Himself states that the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails MUCH.”
Thank you for the care, deep concern and consideration that is woven within the fabric of this blog, for the truth about love is that it transcends the boundaries of time and space. These very attributes came through loud and clear real-time over the telephone. I tend to think that love resides in the dimension of thought and, for me, our conversation proved the point. When I heard your voice, Nathan, I instantly felt your loving concern for my well-being. There was no awkwardness in communicating that as far as I was concerned. All I can say is Thank You for being here. I wouldn’t know what I would do without you.
Well, I’m certainly glad you were able to hear the concern. I tend to be frequently concerned that others miss the emotional content of what I say, or write.
Pingback: This Is Not A Drive-By | Edge Induced Cohesion
Pingback: Second Mover Advantage: On Provocation And Restraint In Hip Hop Battles | Edge Induced Cohesion
Pingback: In Praise Of Cultural Appropriation | Edge Induced Cohesion
Pingback: You’re Playing You Now | Edge Induced Cohesion
Pingback: You Could Be Running Up That Hill, Or, The Lament Of The Free Radical | Edge Induced Cohesion