We Are Uniquely the Same
It was group therapy. Another dreaded session. I was the newbie, and felt very much as if I was not wanted as part of the group. I didn’t know what they knew, speak like they spoke, or understand what they understood. And I was getting more frustrated by the moment. They could not understand me, and at this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to understand them. Then she spoke. The wise woman, said these unforgettable words, “You can’t understand what she is going through, but you know what pain feels like.” In that moment, the storm of confusion and frustration in my mind calmed into one of those erie summer nights that follows a real world storm. A moment so quiet that my thoughts echoed in my own head. Those thoughts entered my soul and forever changed my viewpoint. You see, at this point it didn’t matter how I was liked or not. Even if we were enemies (we were not), I had still experienced the same emotions as they. No matter how my paths have diverged from theirs, I know their gut-wrenching pain, suffocating shame, their terror of uncertainty, the joy of hopefulness, and the feeling of peaceful reassurance. This is our unique sameness.
First we are born, our abilities not yet fully developed enough to significantly distinguish us from any other baby; at this point, our differences only seen in our looks. Then we grow, shaped by our experiences, and our reactions to them, we begin to settle into more obvious traits. As the world’s storms and pleasures collide with God’s power and grace, we travel a road so unique that another human can never truly “walk a mile in our shoes.” So am I truly alone on my distinctive journey? No, I am actually not alone on my completely unique journey.
We all have differences; different experiences, different betrayals, different beauty, unique loves, inimitable hopes and dreams. But though my grandest dream may vary wildly from the person next to me, the feeling of hope that spurs on the dream is the same across all of humanity. We all experience the same emotions; hurt, disappointment, loss, joy, ache, elation. We experience it differently, but it is the same emotion. We Are Uniquely The Same.
Why is it important to understand that, amongst our diversity, we are all feeling the same emotions? Let me go back to that therapy session. My counterpart was enormously frustrated and confused by something I loved and adored, and considered a huge gift in my life. I couldn’t understand her viewpoint! And that’s when the wise words were spoken – No, I can’t understand her frustration with the thing I loved. But I have known intense frustration and discouragement. That was the moment my heart broke for her – I understood what she was feeling. We have both struggled through the decisions that must be made and the life that must be lived even when life feels upside down and we are stuck between bad and worse. We Are Uniquely The Same.
Oneness – There is it! My heart, connecting with hers. In that moment, the uniqueness of our stories didn’t matter, because we were together in the pain. (Spoiler alert, this same oneness is achieved in moments of others celebration, even if I currently feel like poopy!) That’s why it’s so important for us to dig deeper into the true nature of what we are feeling; both in knowing our own emotions, but also in digging for what the other is really feeling.
Some emotions are not what they immediately appear. Rage – dangerous right? Can’t we just move on, breath, hit the gym? How can we find oneness in this one? Some of my deepest rage was born of the most astounding betrayal I have ever experienced. The beauty of who I am was torn from me, tossed in the dirt and then ridiculed before others. My rage was born of the horror of betrayal, the disappointment of expecting love but receiving hate. A trip to the gym doesn’t touch the scream of my heart when God’s image in me is so scorned. Oneness is born when I sit with the other, hearing the rage that their scorning has induced. We both rage, because we are scorned, though our specific experiences could vary from night to day. The reaction of rage was a protection of sorts to my devastated soul that was feeling the instigating disappointment of such betrayal and scorn.
That’s why it’s so important for us to know our own instigating emotions, and to search for the instigating emotions in others' reactions. Our reactions display our differences and widen the chasm between us. Our unique sameness is in our shared, instigating emotions, the hurt, love, joy and disappointment we all share. We Are Uniquely The Same.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Ps 22.1, Matt 27.46) Lord, in my despair, you knew my heart, you heard my cry, you were with me in the pain. The long nights with no reasonable hope for change, your heart felt the cry of my soul. My God, my God, you were one with me in the utter devastation. My God, my God, I am silenced by your awesome mercy of being one with me in the horror of rejection while you suffered the same for my redemption. I see your love pouring out in this one breath, washing over our divisive exclusivity, redeeming it into beautiful oneness. Thank you for making us Uniquely The Same.