the only life you can save {day 20}

20 Oct

I love others so much that I will sacrifice myself, even when they do not want me to.

I bake the cookies at midnight. I listen, empathetic, the perfect friend. I think about what I’ve said, edit the conversation in my head until I say the right words. I read up on the causes and the issues. I cry over the sermons, desperate, as if everything depends on fifteen minutes in a pulpit. I take the pain deep inside me until I feel I may break, as if I’m Jesus himself.  I do.

This seems normal, something I just do. I do, and doand do. I do, because if I don’t, then maybe they will not love me. Maybe they will leave. I will be stripped, the emperor with no clothes.

So I do. And after so much doing, I forget. What do I need? What do I love? What is the sound of my voice? What makes my heart beat quick, makes my eyes want to open in the mornings? What is love, and what is just a should?

Slow and sure, I begin to say no. I say no to things that no one cared about anyway. I refuse to listen to the critical words that no one but me is saying. I do not love because I must but because I may. Slowly and sure, I begin to recognize a voice as my own.

I am no God. I am a minister, not a messiah. I save the only life I can save.

The Journey

        Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

This post is part of a series, 31 Days of Healing. Check out Day 1 or the complete list of posts. If you want to follow along, you can also subscribe by email or subscribe in a feed reader. Or “like” the blog on Facebook. (We’re all about options here.) And thanks for reading!

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