Broken-down Poetry: empathy


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


It all started yesterday when I listened to the RELEVANT Podcast. I wasn't going to yet (I like saving it for a long drive or while cleaning my house), but my ole buddy Bryce told me that it was epic. So I did.

Well, I started listening, but when I heard that what was epic was also sad, I skipped to 46:05 minutes into it. To hear that Adam Smith is moving away. To New Zealand. (Who else can make the whaleshark voice like him?)

Now, flashback to May 2007 when Ash and I made RELEcakes for the crew... and I took a picture with my "favorite podcaster," Cameron. So why, do you ask, is Adam's departure so difficult for me? Especially since I've said goodbye to Tyler, Cara, and Jesse in years passed?


I don't empathize very well. In fact, I can muster up just enough sympathy for people to keep my distance while still looking pretty compassionate. But when it comes to empathy--the kind that Jesus shows us (Heb. 4:15)--I suck. I mean, I really do. I relate to Dustin Kensrue (ha, here I go) when he said,

“My personality is somewhat inward looking, and, therefore, I am somewhat selfish and self-centered by nature. I am not naturally a very empathetic person. I would have to say that my burden for broken people comes from the influence of Christ in my life, showing me how to love people like He loved them. I have a long way to go.” RELEVANT Magazine (I don't feel like looking up the issue... but Thrice is on the cover.)

So despite my usual tendency to NOT empathize, I was overwhelmed with concern for Adam's well-being. Again, kind of weird because I neither empathize NOR know Adam.

So, that night I couldn't sleep. This could partly have been due to my Grasshopper Shizzle (blended coffee drink, very tasty) I had 2 hours previous or the bouts of spiritual warfare I had been dealing with. But instead of settling on either explanation, I decided to lay there in bed and grapple.

I woke up early. My mind just kept pouring through random thoughts. What could I have possibly been thinking about for hours and hours on end? I have no idea. It was sickening.

So, this time (though in previous days I would have told myself to pray against the spiritual forces keeping me from sleep--as John Eldredge would suggest I do) I just got up and went on with my day. I told myself to "heed not thy feeling" and keep muhself busy. No thinking about random crap that'll stress me out or sadden me--whatever.

By mid-afternoon I was still feeling the same crappy way I felt the previous afternoon when I realized that Adam was heading adios. Uhm, I don't think that's empathy anymore.

I had a sort of "godly sorrow" there for a while, till Satan took advantage of it and kept those soul-heavy feelings remain.
"Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain. " Ps 127:1a

But, like all good and hardy DESPAIR, I started asking God some questions. Questions, I learned today, are good. We just might not get answers--deal with it.

And I realized as I was praying my questions, that they really all flowed from last afternoon. I mean, Adam Smith is directly linked to RELEVANT (hullo, podcaster/managing editor) which is directly linked to my future. Or, so I always thought.

I've been gung-ho about working for RELEVANT for over a year now and I have never seemed to question that I may not be good enough or passionate enough or whatever-enough to work there. Why have I never questioned that?

I think I have always just trusted that Thomas Friedman quote that said that the PASSIONATE people will get the jobs over the geeks. I'm passionate, I know that. But now I wonder if I'm passionate enough.

And, what if that doesn't matter?

And, what if I don't even like working there? I'll have spent years pursuing a dream that fails me.

And, what about college? What if my professors don't prepare me? What if they don't like me?

And, what if I never find true love?

And, (the scariest of all) What if God changes his mind about me? What if he doesn't want me to be Ezekiel or to change the world or to write and write and write or to be passionate or to be whoever I think I am supposed to be....

The questions kept coming. I know that I just need to trust God--there's no doubt about that. I know what it is to close my eyes and jump, and that's what I'm going to have to do. I don't like it, but if I am truly going to call Christ my Savior, I'm going to have to just go--go wherever he says to go.

If it's to RELEVANT, than that's where I'm supposed to be.

If not, then I pray he prepares me for somewhere else.




Welp, my friend Austin always told me how he listened to Coldplay when he was depressed. Understandable. When I'm depressed I listen to the smooth sounds of The Alchemy Index (Vol. 2).

I remember after the overnight at the church for New Years, after one crappy night trying to sleep in a 20 below zero room, and having to wake up at 6 to go home because a snow storm was brewing, I listened to that disk. I listened to those 6 tracks over and over again until I felt good inside.

Then I went home and slept.

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