When You Find Yourself Sitting On The Flaming Dung Pile Of Your Life
That title is a bit dramatic.
Or maybe, it’s not.
Have you ever sat back to examine your life after a few months of gut and heart crushing events? The past few months have been extremely painful. I feel like I am sitting on top of a flaming garbage pile of dreams and hopes I had for my life – personally and professionally – and watching the embers and the smoke rise.
I have often described my work in the Middle East as a dumpster fire. There are extreme highs to the work and extreme lows. You can make a difference in someone’s life. You can see the opportunities that people are given and run with and how it can affect the entire community. It’s not just one life…it’s a domino effect. That’s the high. That’s the peak of work when you get to see how one life changed ripples out into the community.
For that one step forward, there are about 80 steps back – set-backs, trauma, war, conflict, bad choices, disappointment, and disillusionment. All of those mix together and light the most exquisitely bright dumpster fire. Those are most days. And those low days make me question, basically, everything.
It’s hard work. Palestinian refugees have been forgotten by the world. After 15 years of being on the ground, I can say confidently that basic living conditions are worse for most of the refugees I work with. Last year, the Trump administration pulled funding for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and then announced all funding be ended to ALL Palestinians. Then they announced they were trying to revoke the refugee status of Palestinian refugees for over 4 million of them.
Next stop, a peace deal that the U.S. crafted will be announced in a few months. You know who is not at the table negotiating, yes, that’s right the Palestinians.
I cannot stress to you how bad this is. How unjust. How deeply immoral it is. How deeply personal it is since it is my country that has perpetuated pain and injustice of the current situation Palestinians find themselves in.
The overwhelming thought that keeps running through my head is, “Are they not blessed? Are they not seen? Are they not beloved?”
We have this thing as human beings when all is going well in life, when we’re winning, that we feel loved and valued. We praise God saying He is good when we feel good, when something special happens—we finally got the job, are finally pregnant, or finally got married. Something about when we receive justice or our heart’s desire, then God is good. Then we matter.
But, if we are losing -- sitting on the flaming dung pile of our lives -- perhaps, then of course we are not loved or valued or seen and God is nowhere to be praised. In fact, His very goodness is questioned.
Pain is a good motivator. I believe it was once said that nothing sears the human heart like pain or beauty. That has stuck with me.
I’ve really challenged myself as I sit quietly surveying the smoldering ash -- to sit in the pain and the confusion, to mourn. Not to run away from it or deny it or sink into the bottomless pit of despair. I’ve come to realize it as something precious and valuable. Maybe this process is expanding my soul. Maybe it’s human growth or maybe it’s me seeing the potential in all things.
Maybe, it helps us to see the beauty in all things and to be grateful for everything including dumpster fires. Maybe losing is a good thing. Maybe surrounding yourself with so-called losers is the absolute best possible place to be. Maybe, those who are suffering, or waiting for their heart’s desire, or toiling for justice are the most blessed, the most precious, the most beautiful.
Maybe, that was an accidental mini-sermon on the Beatitudes for those Christians reading this.
A Topsy-Turvey world where we toil and struggle for the image and success we so desperately want to portray, and the dumpster fires we want to conceal.
Reality is beautiful.
Image is superficial.
Maybe, the most beautiful, strong, precious thing you can do with your life is to keep going. Keep risking, failing, picking yourself up, looking over the flaming dung pile, and keep going.
By all means, keeping living.
Against all odds.
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.” ― Victor Hugo