The other night, after I fed Valentina around 1 am, I desperately wanted to go to bed. I was tired.
I wanted to go to sleep but couldn't. I was awash in a tide of evil and pain not entirely or even mostly my own. There is deep pain all around me. Lately, lots of it has manifested--even though it's the summer. You see, I am in a pastoral-like position where I encounter lots of people everyday. I live on a college campus. During the academic year, thousands of people cross my visual path. And every now and then, the suffering of others, combined with my suffering for them, and my own sufferings, washes me away. I am left bobbing up and down the river, gasping for breath. Grasping for a tree branch, a rock--anything to hold onto in order to pull myself out. Bobbing up and down the river, screaming and crying out to Jesus to rescue others and rescue me. I grow weary. I grow tired. Yet, I pray as I am whirled and tossed about. I pray fiercely and fervently for those afflicted and oppressed. I pray for myself and my family.
I have yet to permanently go under.
One of my friends stopped by to visit last night, to see how me and the family and the baby were doing. Her unexpected presence was pastoral care. Her presence--a gift. I confessed my exhaustion and my experience of the night before in the midst of preparing arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans)--my staple food growing up, in the midst of Iliana chatting and performing, in the midst of Shawn trying to catch up on some necessary reading--he had watched the girls all day.
In the midst of dinner preparations and dinner eating and daughter performing and husband trying to snatch a moment for himself--she told me her favorite story. It's about the little boy who was walking along the beach where a bunch of starfish had washed up along the shore. Maybe you know it. I know I've heard it at least once.
There were thousands of starfish scattered along the beach. The little boy's heart broke for them, so he began tossing them back into the ocean. A little while after he began his rescue effort, a man who was walking along the shore stopped, and commented, "Why are you doing this? It's not going to make a difference." The little boy picked up a starfish and remarked, "It makes a difference to this one." He threw the starfish back in. "And this one." He tossed another back in. And so he continued, doing what he could, for the starfish he encountered.
My friend reminded me of what I knew, but couldn't feel--that I do what I can, that I throw the starfish back in.
I can't save all of them, but it makes a difference to the ones that I do return into the ocean (all in the name and power of Jesus).
I do this, all the while knowing and thanking God, that there are many a time when someone had mercy on me--and threw me back in.