When it comes to my sons, I wear their struggles. On my face, on my hands, and on my heart. There are some days when I feel as if I am juggling their lives, as one son’s problem is solved, another one from another son bounces into my hands ready to take its place. I get stressed more than I should, and I have had more sleepless nights than I care to count.
How ironic that I went to a Strawberry festival last week and a vendor wanted to check my “empathy levels.” She stood beside a big colorful chart revealing the lack of empathy in this country and how it’s causing disastrous consequences.
I smiled, and I said, “No thank you. I have too much empathy. I’m a mom,” and turned to walk away. Except she said, in her 20-year-old, not-yet-a-mother body, “Really? I bet you don’t. You’d be surprised how much empathy we lack.”
Without blinking — my friend pulled me away and made me keep on walking without saying another word. I was miffed.
For another client, I ran across a review from a “vintage” 1945 book that said “it was the best book anyone could ever read and would have a most powerful impact in improving a person’s life.” The words caught my attention, so I found the book and began to read, Change Your Life Through Prayer.
The book echoes what is in all of the New Age thought books about the power of positive thinking – except this book is able to extract the same message from the ancient scriptures of the Bible. Most of us have forgotten, or just don’t believe that the Bible really is full of Good News. We can’t believe that what the Bible says is really true; that we really can have the desires of our hearts. The problem is not with a tight-fisted God who refuses to give us what we want– it’s with us. We just don’t have hearts full of goodness. Instead, we have hearts full of worry, misery, and unsatisfaction. The problem is what we have let grow in our hearts.
Do we let goodness grow there? Or resentment? Or fear? Or ungratefulness?
Gratitude, as we are reminded in One Thousand Gifts, is one of the most powerful forces of change we can access in our lives.
So, instead of tossing over the problem in my mind, letting the problem grow into worry in my heart, I began to try to push the problem away, just long enough to be grateful. The book explains, if you have a grateful heart, life will be easier. Solutions to problems will come more easily.
It took a long while before I was able to catch it – a blessing of something to be happy about when the world felt like it was falling around me.
Like a breeze, it finally came to me.
For some reason, I started to remember what it was like when a new, precious child was placed in my arms after I had given birth. And my heart began to swell with joy. And I remembered, along with the sweetness of feeling the child in my arms, the rush of love that overtook me almost instantaneously. Out of nothing, out of nowhere. Love just showed up — and I didn’t have to ask for it. Order it, so it would arrive in time for the baby. It was just there.
Have you ever thought about that? How a baby can just illicit so much love and joy with its presence? And we don’t even have to look for it? To try to conjure it up? It’s just generously, and predictably there. How many of us ever consider that love truly is a gift? It’s not something we can create. It just comes. Imagine what life would be like without love? Imagine motherhood without love?
When scientists and the great thinkers of the world try to rationalize that there could not be a God, there is one overriding puzzle they cannot explain. Who started it? Who created the very first cell that divided?
Not only do we have a baby in our arms — but love just comes with the bundle. We don’t have to do anything to create it or conjure it — or even decide to go get it. Love just comes.
And that was enough. That was enough gratitude to sustain me; to help me find more joy in the face of silly, old life and all of the inconveniences life brings us. Honestly, isnt’ that enough to sustain us through a day, a night, and a lifetime?