One of the conditions of childhood, at least my childhood, was to envy the animal kingdom for powers I did not possess. Wings were a particular object of my longing. If only I could soar like a hawk through the sky, then I would be happy. One of my daughters suffered the same malady. Her condition, however, manifested itself as feline envy. She wondered why God hadn’t enabled her to see in the dark like a cat.
Now, thanks to modern technology, she no longer needs to accept her biological limitations. Instead, she can purchase a reasonably priced night vision scope, one that relies on starlight, moonlight, and infrared light to pierce the darkness in front of her. Such scopes are great for warfare, hunting rabbits, spotting boats on the water, observing wildlife, or in my daughter’s case, satisfying whatever random curiosity she might have about what is lurking in the dark. I imagine it would have come in handy for Tarzan and Jane, surrounded as they were by all those jungle creatures.
When it comes to seeing through the darkness, there are additional possibilities. In his book Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff processes his grief by observing:
“Our culture says that men must be strong and that the strength of a man in sorrow is to be seen in his tearless face. . . .But why celebrate stoic tearlessness? Why insist on never outwarding the inward when the inward is bleeding? Does enduring while crying not require as much strength as never crying? May we not sometimes allow people to see and enter it?” He goes on to say, “I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.”1
Could it be that by letting others see the crushing burden in his heart, Wolterstorff became more open to seeing theirs? Opening ourselves to the pain of others is not necessarily a path to peace. But it can be. Particularly when doing so makes us sensitive to suffering in a way we had not been previously. That’s when we can sit down beside someone and ease his or her burden simply by acknowledging that it exists.
1. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987), 26.