12:09am. I was asleep, blissfully asleep. And then I awoke. Not to a noise or to a phone call—but to the sense of a burden.
A few minutes later, my phone rang with disturbing news. Now one hour later, I have had multiple calls with colleagues in Uganda, and am aware of an emerging problem that seems to need my attention—not just in terms of action—but in terms of awareness. I am asking myself about the underlying texture of these issues, and what they can teach me.
I am so tired. So very tired. Between international travel, domestic travel, and PhD assignments (all within the last seven days, by the way), it is not surprising that I am experiencing fatigue. That said, the additional layer of disappointment—in my fellow-person—in myself, has inspired me to dig a bit deeper into this human experience, and to identify reasons I am grateful that fatigue and disappointment exist in my life:
- If I listen, they will teach me something. If I respond by carving out time to rest and reflect, lessons will likely emerge from a deep place not normally accessible when I am delighted and energetic. Euphoria is its own teacher (for which I am also grateful), but fatigue and disappointment remind us that all is not well, and that there is work still to be done.
- If I am sensitive, they will empower me with empathy. In the so-called “west,” we often speak of privilege—in very negative terms—sometimes rightly so. It can lead to a lack of empathy, to a lack of understanding of Other. But, in my experience, this lack of empathy can be a reality for those of all socioeconomic and geographic categories. The work of translating personal life-experience into a compassionate understanding of Other is just that: work. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you have, it often takes a conscious effort to translate personal experience into visceral and thoughtful action.
- They likely indicate that I am up to something worthwhile, and not simply in the pursuit of personal satisfaction.
- They likely indicate that I have taken risks.
- “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. … I have seen the burden God has laid on [humans]. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of [people]; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, 10, 11)
- They set eternity in my heart. The here-and-now are important teachers, while the idea of all that is yet to come and to emerge—is priceless.
- I believe that I have been given this human experience for a reason, and I don’t wish to waste one drop of emotional-sweat or one ounce of heart-weight. Purpose matters.