Writing Prompt: On and Off
Updated: Oct 20, 2018
" Dispatchers aren’t supposed to get involved with the cases that come through the 911 phone lines, but the truth is, the calls stay with you. You go into the profession because you want to help people. You can’t just turn that on and off." Wingate, Lisa. The Sea Glass Sisters
I feel like this sometimes. I'm not a dispatcher, obviously. But I do know the feeling. I went into this "profession," or complete lifestyle as the case may be, because I wanted to help people. I wanted to be a person who showed others love, who told people that they matter, who treated them with respect and value. And I hoped I'd be a part of seeing people's lives changed. I knew what it felt like to be alone, to be so trampled on by life that you can't even believe the truth of who you are, the value you possess just in your existence. I know what that feels like. And, whats more, I recognize it in the eyes of others when I see it. I just want to help them.... to make it stop, at least for someone. I need to live in a world where there is the possibility of the pain ending. It's essential. I need to know it's possible. But, that's not a desire that can be turned off and on like a light switch or a tv screen. I can't turn the feelings off. Often times when I'm walking through the door of my flat, I'm carrying with me the emotions and feelings of dozens of other people. I can't seem to just shake them off and leave them in the tiny shacks or classrooms or coffee shops where I found them. They cling to me like a fly caught in one of those bug tape traps my grandfather used to have hanging all over his workshop in the summer heat. You get stuck to one of those things and believe me it'll be a while until you feel the release.
This seems to be a part of the ministry world that outsiders don't understand. Supporters and well-meaning friends often tell me to just "leave it at the office" or other such phrases of empty knowledge. But I don't know that they understand what it is that I see every day, what it is that I feel and yet refuse to show in the face of the broken I am speaking with each day. I can't allow myself to feel, truly feel, in the moment... not when their dark, saddened, heavy eyes are watching my every move, interpreting my expressions beyond the language barriers, and searching my very soul for any signs of judgment or condemnation that they feel they deserve. I have to put on my smile, lay hands on their shoulders or hold their hands, and offer them words of kindness, limited wisdom, and unconditional love. I have to put my own overwhelming sadness at their condition aside and, instead, offer them a glimpse of the hope I know God has for them, the dream of more than what they've always known as reality. But, just because I can't show it in the moment, or feel it's full effect at the onset, doesn't mean these emotions go away. They just bury themselves within me waiting to break through the soil and sprout up in my heart.
How do I keep them from taking root? How do I keep them from blooming within me? How do I let them grow and, almost simultaneously, dig them up and remove them so that they don't begin to think they are allowed to stay? I don't know yet. I really don't.
Lord, teach me.