Last night my brain would not settle and go to sleep. The question that kept rattling around in my head was where is the line between kindness and sacrifice? Is there a line? Does God recognize a line between kindness and sacrifice? Where is the line between being kind and giving so much you can't function anymore?
This thought occurs to me sometimes, anyway. I read a Holocaust survivor's story years ago that has haunted me. There's no way to share with you the full grasp of what I wonder without sharing the story. It's graphic and gory and horrid, so if you want to spare yourself the haunting, SKIP the rest of this post I'm serious. Stop now. Okay. Fair warning.
This survivor gave an account of traveling through the sewer system with everyone from their apartment building to escape the Nazis. The Nazi's were overhead. The Jews had to crawl through the sewer system in the hopes of making it through to the other side where they would find transportation to a safer place. Imagine it. Dozens of families crawling through a tunnel. As they were silently moving through the tunnel, one of the babies started to cry. The mother and father had a heartbreaking choice. If the baby continued to cry, the Nazis would hear and all of them would be killed. They made the excruciating choice to drown their child in the sewer water rather than expose their location. I honestly don't remember the end of the story. I was so stricken by the death of the child and how that one choice must have replayed in those parents' minds forever that I zoned out on the rest of the story.
My point in telling you the story is this question: Where is the line between kindness and sacrifice? The parents sacrificed their child for the safety of their other children, themselves, their friends, family, and neighbors. They didn't necessarily do it out of kindness, but out of desperation for survival. Every now and then the story comes to mind as I'm watching my children play or holding nursing baby or tucking in a sleepy child. The story has haunted me for years.
What I extrapolate from this story is that in my Southern culture or my own psyche (I don't know which), I have this desire to be kind to the point of pain. I bend and I bend and I bend in the name of kindness. I bend to the point of sacrificing my family's sanctuary, to the point of giving away what we need. Is that more than kindness and does that move into an area God does not expect?
Sometimes I wonder what I would do. Sometimes I wonder, if I were in a war situation or if I were on a deserted island, like in "Lost," there with my three children, would it be better for me to stay back and care for them or pick up my weapon and head off with the warriors? I have a fierce warrior side to my personality. I know myself well enough to know I take duty very seriously. But I'm a mother. I have three children. I can't go running off into the wilderness to fight. Who will take care of them if something happens to me? Who will care for them if I'm gone for awhile? I have a duty to them.
How is running off to fight different from protecting my family from my over-generosity and need to please? Don't I have a responsibility to be as mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy for my family as possible? Don't I have a responsibility to to protect them and care for them at all costs? (I'm not talking about having the latest and the greatest, but rather having a safe place to live and basic necessities.) Don't I have a responsibility to be... present and in the healthiest shape possible?
The likelihood of my being in a tunnel and being forced to choose to sacrifice the one for the many is slim at best. But every day I am faced with many small choices that can lead to larger issues. If I am allowing myself to be treated poorly in the name of kindness - is that really kindness? - and it's wearing me down and exhausting me, is that what God wants of me?
What I need to find out in this journey is what God calls kindness and what God expects of me.