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One of the very first things Rachel and I did after Trey was diagnosed was to decide how we were going to handle what would be an amazingly taxing, burdening, frightening, and overwhelming period in our life.  We could either go into a shell, put up walls, let only a few folks in, or do the opposite.  We could allow this time to be used by God however He saw fit.  Which would be best for us?  Which would be more according to His will for us?  We decided relatively quickly that we would be open, honest, and vulnerable.  It has proven to be the most valuable of decisions we could have made.  Is it the right one for you as you experience hardship and tragedy in your life?  That is not for me to answer.  However, I will say that the loneliness that most people experience in their life can only be compounded in times of trial and tribulation.
     God has used our experiences in so many ways this past year.  We have heard stories from across all boundaries whether it be geographic, generational, or situational.
Maybe we could have foreseen our honesty impacting others walking in similar shoes, even a couple of people dealing with cancer in their own life.  However, Rachel and I could have never imagined how God would use our little boy being stricken with cancer to reach a lonely missionary, a stay at home mom of many kids, a woman whose mother had a stroke, folks who had lost a loved one too early, people who were experiencing the death of a grandparent, or most amazingly, people who were experiencing nothing more than life on an everyday basis.
     The one thing I have yet to come to grips with is probably the number one thing people say to me.  In a given moment, I will get stopped by someone (or more likely they will comment on facebook) and they will say, “You really help me put my life and problems into perspective.  I just don’t get as angry as I used to.  I don’t yell at my kids as much as before.  My problems pale in comparison to what you are going through.” etc.  Perspective.  It seems like the right thing to say, the best way to say, “man, you are going through some really crazy horrible stuff right now”.  Yes, we are.  But, to a degree, everyone is.  Your “perspective” is shaped by your own experiences though.  How else can a child through a tantrum over not getting a toy they want and a 90 year old can bury their last remaining sibling, spouse, close friends, and still function?  Therefor, what I am going through has less bearing in your life than you might think.
     My favorite line is when people (typically moms) say to me, “You have really helped me put my life into perspective.  Thank you so much for sharing.  I have really learned to not take my kids for granted.  I don’t get as frustrated as I used to.  I don’t yell at them as much as I used to.”  I always thank them for sharing how Trey and we are impacting their life.  Then, I pause and think, “Wait, you’re telling me that you don’t yell at your kids anymore because my kid has cancer?”.  That’s remarkable.  You see, I still yell at my kids (not just the older two but Trey as well) as before.  You’re telling me that you have learned something through me that I have not learned myself?  I suppose that is possible.  I believe the truth lies somewhere else though.  You probably desire to yell less.  You decide to yell less.  You plan on yelling less.  However, all you end up doing is feeling worse when you do yell.  The “perspective” you’ve gained from hearing or following our story goes out the window when it’s 10:45 and your 6 year old gets out of bed for the 10th time to tell you that they can’t sleep because they’re worried about growing a third arm in their back like they saw on a cartoon last spring.  Then after you yell, you beat yourself up for being a bad parent.
     No, “perspective” in my opinion won’t get you through your day unscathed.  It won’t help you not flip out.  It won’t dry your tears.   It will just set up another measuring stick or set the mythological bar of acceptable behavior just a bit higher beyond your reach.  Further, I believe it does something a bit more dangerous.  It takes the focus away from whatever hurt you are experiencing.  You shove it down and say, “Well, that doesn’t matter, look what they are going through.  How could I complain, be upset, cry, emotionally respond, to that when they are experiencing THAT?”.  You deny your own pain and ignore the emotional setbacks in your own life.
      You’re forgetting something.  God knows what You are going through.  He cares deeply for you, for your pain.  He knows how lonely you feel.  You are as important to Him as anyone else in the whole world.  Yet, you diminish that which you have to face.  It isn’t as bad as others have it.  So what?  It still stinks!  It still hurts.  It still needs to be experienced.  It still needs to be comforted.  If it isn’t, you won’t be able to move on.  You won’t be able to heal let alone grow.
     Granted, if you asked 100 parents if they would rather their child have cancer or “forget” to bring their homework home for the 20th time this year they would unanimously pick the homework problem.  However, the same 100 parents would not want to go through the homework debacle either.  You see, it’s not an “either/or” world we live in.  We all have issues, we all have problems, we all go through our setbacks and tragedies.  Someone having it worse just does not make ours less painful.  No, perspective does not solve problems…it just prolongs you dealing with them, from truly experiencing them, from healing and moving on.  That is something I am very, very passionate about.  That is something that is so very simple and yet so very overlooked.  That is something I will go into in a future post once you have read this one and been able to put it into…
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