One of the most difficult things about life anywhere, and life lived across cultures for sure, is that often it’s no one big thing that slays me…at least not yet. It’s all the small things that add up and threaten to take me down. Taken alone, each cut seems relatively minor and superficial, like a paper cut, but they sting. Each and every cut stings and there’s no time to put on a Band-Aid before the next cut comes.
Talking about what hurts seems silly sometimes. It’s just a paper cut, why am I so upset about a paper cut? I minimize and compare. I don’t suffer like that other person who really stood up for their faith in a stressful situation of direct confrontation. No one really hurt me, right? I’m still alive, aren’t I? I discount the cut and fail to treat it.
Again and again the cuts come. Forgetting my passport. The person who cut me off again just this morning. The man who makes me re-park my car so that the nose faces out warning me that I am breaking the law if I don’t. He doesn’t understand that at least 5 people on the road endangered my very life and parking my car in a “cultured” way is the least important thing to worry about now. The lady at the store who will not even try my credit card even though I know it works. I did not bring cash. Smog.
Here in Asia it’s called “eating bitterness” these paper cuts. It’s an old saying about life and just taking it. It results in kick the dog syndrome, though. People just lose it for no clear or sufficient reason. But I know why they lose it because I lose it too.
Unseen cuts cover us all and then someone pours salt on the wound. The salt without the wound is nothing but with the cuts…it brings sudden pain and I react. Kick the dog syndrome spreads like a contagion. A woman picks up a brick on the street to throw at a man. I’ve seen that. A family fights in the apartment above us and furniture shakes and screams keep me awake. I’ve heard that.
I wish for a formula to combat the paper cut plague but it doesn’t exist. I know more now to look at the cut and say it hurts…to cry even if it seems silly to cry over a paper cut. I know that real life seems more death by paper cut than death by some brave act of martyrdom though those stories also move me to tears.
Death by paper cut is not as futile as it seems when I count the Lord’s view of suffering. He calls me to die to myself as He died for me…even in the smallest things. He calls me to persevere and endure and even do it joyfully because He gives me resources I just cannot muster myself.
As I contemplate more on this concept and acknowledge the cuts, I do find more joy because I find grace and mercy. I still kick dogs some days…not real dogs but proverbial dogs. I do a lot of apologizing. It is coming easier to apologize because I get a lot of practice.
But His grace and mercy, this is the salve that allows my soul to lay down and rest.