If you had not come along.

I traveled north before Thanksgiving and had an appointment with my doctor. He ran tests and administered treatment, confidently reporting improvement in my health. This was comforting to hear at the time, but now that I'm home with more fatigue and inflammation in my brain / body than usual, I'm confused. Lately, I've felt like the Tin Woodman from The Wizard of Oz—neck immovable, joints rusted over, heart elsewhere. 

I think mornings can be unforgiving to many, including the chronically ill. With half an eye open today, I went over roll call, assessing which body parts came to attendance. These first moments of the day are so fragile. I'm aware of it, and want to choose rightly. I want to set my full mind on things above. But to be honest, before I open the dusty blinds, fold the mustard yellow quilt into quarters, or crawl to the bookshelf with twelve bottles of treatment lined up, I feel defeated. 

Here I am, stuck in a body fighting an unyielding disease in a place I do not thrive. I tell people I'm applying to jobs! trying to move out! praying about ministry locations! and that is all true, but then on mornings like this one, I wonder how any of that could unfold. I mean, I didn't even want to make breakfast this morning. Too exhausting. Feeling sorry for myself never brings good, so to stand against such pity, I peeled a banana, buttered some toast, and scrolled through job postings anyway. 

After the brief search for work, I searched for deals on Christmas gifts and pinned a few wish-list items for myself, totally immersed in my own world. Then, I see news of the devastation in Aleppo and the thousands of refugees who are in need—and how can I ignore it? How can I click away? To do what? Return to coupon codes and uploading résumés?

There is so little I feel I can offer to a world that is hurting, but there are people near and far who are desperate for help, for hope. A friend who knows I've been struggling this month called me, listening to my every word. I told her I wanted to be noticed in my need—and isn't this true of us all? Aware of my tendencies to isolate or check out, my friend challenged me to do just the opposite. To keep showing up instead. The truth made me cringe a little, but she is right. 

This is the same message I'm reading from organizations responding to the Aleppo crisis. They need people to step in, to help Syrian families by giving meals and sleeping bags and more. They need us to show up. It feels small, too easy, even, to push a button and give from the safety of home—but the outpouring of help and prayers and funds will not be wasted. It never is.

Several hours later and feeling somber, I picked up our beautifully illustrated copy of The Wizard of Oz. Since I'd told my family I felt like one of the main characters, I figured I should refresh my memory of his story. I flipped to pages 38-39, straight to the rescue of the Tin Woodman.

Dorothy, upon finding the tin man, responded to his groans for help. His joints badly needed oil. All he desired was to be free to move—away from isolation and rust and pain.

So they oiled his legs until he could move them freely; and he thanked them again and again for his release, for he seemed a very polite creature, and very grateful. "I might have stood there always if you had not come along," he said; "so you have certainly saved my life. How did you happen to be here?" 

This story, it turns out, was more than a passing metaphor for my physical condition. It was one I needed to read today, a day I wanted to only look inward and sit on a pile of my own pity. I read the words another time and another time, drawing biblical parallels and continuing to think on things like our need for a Savior, what it looks like to assume solidarity with the suffering, how to respond well to others and do life together, and what it means to have eternity set in our hearts.

I play four newly-learned chords on the piano, with friends and strangers on my mind. Mornings are definitely not just hard or painful for me. I play the simple line from a simple chorus—don't lose hope—and think about those in my neighborhood and those on the other side of the world who are facing mornings and days and nights more heartrending than I could ever know.

Oh Father, don't let those who are hurting, defeated, or overlooked stand there always, with no one to come along.

I don't know where to go from here, I don't. But I cannot look or click away.

if you had not come along