Averting My Eyes

I admit it. I avoided watching the news yesterday. I couldn’t handle the graphic images of the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan. I couldn’t bear to watch the terror unfold in real-time Twitter and Facebook updates. I couldn’t bear the images captured on cell phones as cars with people in them were being swept away.

I’m sorry. I couldn’t.

God knows I’m a Highly Sensitive Person: an “HSP.” If you don’t know about HSP’s, or if you suspect you might be one, you can Google it. You can even take an on-line assessment. If there were a category of highly Highly Sensitive People, I’d be in it. That framework helps me understand a lot about the way I live (and have lived my life). No joke: my first recorded sentence in my baby book is, “You hurt my feelings.”

So I protect myself from things that have the power to disturb me. I cry at commercials. I refuse to watch heart-breaking movies. I  prefer to live in a bubble-wrapped, hand over the eyes, head in the sand–you choose the image–world so that I don’t become overwhelmed. I’m self-protecting.

A few weeks ago while I was driving, I saw that I was approaching a dead deer on the side of the road. Normally, I look away.  But this time, I heard the voice of the Spirit say, “Don’t avert your eyes.” So I looked. And predictably, I dissolved in a puddle of tears. I cried for the next twenty minutes.

As I was praying the other day about embarking on my Lenten journey, I asked the Lord to show me where I’m tempted. I immediately heard one word. Only one. Avoidance. I knew it was the Spirit’s voice, because in that instance I felt both the prick of conviction and the liberating joy in knowing that a significant stronghold had just been revealed and named for me.

Ouch and thank You, Lord!

Avoidance. It sums up everything about the ways in which I am tempted. I avoid doing bad because I don’t like to make mistakes, I don’t like to be corrected, I don’t like to be scolded. I avoid speaking the truth because I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings or make them angry. I avoid expressing my anger because it’s easier to be passive aggressive. I avoid doing hard things because I’ve made idols out of my comfort and security.

And the list goes on and on.

I read a wonderful quote a few months ago about the writing process. The author said that as writers, we are invited to journey into the white hot center of ourselves and see what’s true. But often, we flinch. We avert our eyes. The invitation is to make the journey there and see what’s true without looking away. And that takes courage.

So God, give me the courage, not only to look honestly at myself, but to look at this broken, fallen, desperate world with Your eyes of compassion. Help me not to flinch, but to see. To really see. And to pray.

In Jesus’ name.

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