Have you ever noticed how those who’ve never had children seem to know exactly how you should raise yours?
Or the way people who’ve never been married always have relationship advice ready and waiting?
Your best bet is to just learn to say, “Bless your heart” and let it go.
Try as we may to sympathize, and even empathize, with others’ plights in life, we simply can’t know until we’ve been there ourselves. And even then, our circumstances will never be exactly like someone else’s. We can only try to imagine what it might be like, and it takes a great deal of maturity to admit we really don’t know what we’d do in someone else’s shoes.
Looking back, I now see that I had no idea what it was like to make a marriage work, to parent newborns, toddlers and teenagers, or to put kids through college until I was smack dab in the middle of it and had no choice but to sink or swim. I never dreamed I’d get divorced, be a single mom, get remarried, and be faced with figuring out how to make a blended family thrive.
Experience is the only true teacher.
During the darkest times of my life, I sometimes felt so alone — like I had no one to walk by my side and help carry the load. There seemed to be so many who judged my situation and felt they had the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do (sadly, I’m sure I did that to others before life hit me square between the eyes too). I grew weary of feeling like I had to defend myself, and finally came to the place that I let go of trying to get others’ approval of what they couldn’t possibly understand. At times it felt like it was me against the world and God was nowhere to be found.
Have you ever felt that way — like God was so far away? That if He’s really there, if He really cares, He’s still never been where you are and couldn’t possibly understand?
A former pastor of mine, Dr. Alfred Wright, told a story nearly 30 years ago that I never forgot. It helped me remember during those valleys that I wasn’t alone. It reminded me that I had a Savior who left the glory of Heaven to become just like me, to walk beside me, and show me how to make it.
Pastor Wright said one day he was in his office, staring out the window. It had double-paned glass, and the outside panel had a hole in it from a rock thrown by a lawnmower. At some point, a fly had come in that hole, but couldn’t figure out how to get back out. Since flies aren’t the most intelligent creatures, other flies followed the first one. Before long, a bunch of flies were in between those panes of glass, buzzing around and frantically bouncing back and forth in futile attempts to escape. Of course, there was only one way out, but they couldn’t see that. They just wore themselves out trying to do it on their own until finally they died and fell to the bottom in a pile with the other lost flies.
He sat there watching them and thought, “How can I help these flies, if I wanted to?” He could scream and yell at them, tap on the glass and shout, “Hey you flies!! Right here is the hole! Up here!! Look! Just stop banging yourselves against the glass and fly out!!”
That wouldn’t help, would it?
He had the big picture that they didn’t have. He could see what they couldn’t see, no matter how hard they tried. He was such a superior being to them that they couldn’t understand him, or even realize he was there to help them. They were scared, panicked and thought they were alone, never realizing someone bigger and smarter than they were could help them if they’d just listen to him.
There was only one way he could get their attention and help those flies out of their dire situation — just one way to save their lives and give them a chance at freedom.
He would have to turn himself into a fly.
He’d have to leave his position as Top of the Food Chain, lower himself to life as an insect, and become one of them. Then he could fly into that hole, come down to their level, speak to them in fly-language and say, “Come follow me. I know the way out.”
Then it would be up to the individual flies to follow him, or stay there and die in their glass prison. He wouldn’t be able to force them into freedom — the choice would be theirs.
Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?
We needed Someone to save us because we couldn’t save ourselves. We couldn’t fly out of the hole on our own. I love how The Message describes God becoming Man and dwelling among us in John 1:14,
The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.
We didn’t need someone to give us advice. We needed Someone to come experience what we were going through, Someone to live where we live, and show us the path to freedom . . .
He chose to make Himself fully human, experiencing all we experience, so He could fly through the hole of our greatest despair and say, “I’m here. Don’t worry. I know the way out. Come follow Me and I’ll give you life!”
No matter what is happening to you right now, no matter how deep and dark the hole is, no matter what you’ve done, how ashamed or embarrassed you are, no matter if no one else understands, you’re not alone. There is a God who unconditionally loves you, the only One who really knows every detail of your circumstances, and the only One who has all the answers. He knows what you’ve been through, and He wants to help.
Relax, sit back, and stop banging your head against the glass. The choice is yours . . . don’t stay in your prison of despair . . . fly out after Him . . . He knows the only way out . . .