Am I my brother's keeper?
For whosoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be destroying it. Yet whosoever should be destroying his soul on my account shall be finding it, for what will a man be benefitted, if he should be gaining the while world, yet be forfeiting his soul? Or what will a man be giving in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26
So Josh asked me to stand up in retreat and share a time when one of the brothers encouraged or admonished me, and it made all the difference.
And though of course my mind briefly flitted through my rather dramatic stories, my heart went straight to Max's good word.
That first year at Wildcat School was really tough. A lot of hopes and dreams were smashed and squished and shattered against the blackboard of reality every single day, every single period, and even in between in the hallways and staircases. And my carefully and tender crafted sacrifices were offered up at first with cheerful confidence and quickly with humble hesitancy only to be cursed upon and spat upon, and sometimes slammed up against the wall and shook. With me inside them.
And every morning I would pile into my little rumbling Mercedes, along with all of those lesson plans and happy-faced papers and maybe-today-will-be-differents, and sing little cheerful but vaguely tuneless ditties over to myself and look out at the sunrise bouncing off of the Tucson Mountains, the sunrise reflecting in my rear view mirror, and mutter my rosary off sorts, I look up to the hills, from whence comest my strength; my strength comest from the LORD, and all was pretty good.
Until I made that right hand turn to merge onto I-10 west. And then, man, I would just start crying. And I would cry all the way up Sixth Avenue until I pulled into the cracked asphalt parking lot. Unless I was just sniffling. Or sometimes even sobbing.
And the days stumbled forward, long days of disappointment and bad decisions made with good intentions and with just the tiniest glimmers of hope around the edges. And what can I do with these angry hissing Wildcats?
And I am sure my long-suffering friends and friends sort of rolled their eyes and asked, What did you expect and I am sure it's not that bad, except Jon and Pamela who knelt down before me in mock homage after they had laid their honed-around-the-country and polished Mayan offerings before the restless hordes and watched them go up in smoke as well.
Except for Max. He got it.
Max who publicly defends his child porn guy and his Somalian pirate and his wanna be bomber. And He listens to their stories all day long. The back story. And it's about a lot of things. About abusive uncles and voices shouting through paper thin walls and moving every three months because grandma never can pay the rent and feeling so very, very angry because none of those little black marks on the page make any sense, but it's never about me.
It never is.
And when He was lifted up to bring all people to Himself, and they were cursing Him and spitting on Him and shoving a shaft deep into His side, He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
And something shifted in my head. And the days were still long and hard, but somehow it looked different. Releasing my soul to be smashed and squished and shattered, and yet restored. Every day, His oil splashed down, and I stopped weeping at that right hand turn, and life became about squinting my eyes, and poking around in the bushes, and peering into dark holes, looking for lost sheep.
It's not about me.
And life is like that for each of us. And right now my issues are beyond mundane, but sometimes people look at me funny and make hurtful assumptions, or pull in front of me and make me slam on my brakes or miss the light because they are so busy texting or give stupid answers to my good questions or ask for spare change while they stand there smoking a cigarette, or the list is of course endless. Because the hapless herd of milling sheep is endless.
And yet each has a name. And it is still not about me. And it’s all about them and His great love and nail-pierced grace.
He is no fool who trades what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.