Life is full of it. Everyone we meet has it. More realistically, they have piles of it.
What is it?
Everyone’s it is different. Some its are temporary – A season of unemployment that stretches beyond the reach of the emergency reserves. A rough patch in your marriage where you and your spouse aren’t in the same book much less on the same page. A family member graces the local brewpub more frequently than they grace the family dinner table. The diagnosis is serious but cure is worse than the ill. There’s no telling how long these its will last.
Still other times, it singes like flames devour a wooden frame and a lifetime of photographs. It chimes like a doorbell at 2 a.m. rung by the hand of a highway patrolman doing his duty. It pierces the heart swiftly and cleanly as a disgruntled employee sweeps through the work place. It is a bucketful of pills to manage the symptoms of an illness that isn’t going away. It is the undeniable form of a loved one twisted neatly under a blue drape at an accident scene.
In other words, some its are permanent. There’s no undoing it. There’s no rewinding it. There’s no replacing it.
We all have it. There’s no getting around it. We all have to figure out what are we gonna do with it?
We have essentially two choices – we can let it drown us or we can let it drive us. Today, my it is a bouquet of tissue-wrapped peonies melting in the Mississippi sun and marking a spot of backroad that I shouldn’t even know exists. My it is forever.
When I talk about choices, I’m not being trite. I’m not trying to wrap it up in a neat bow. There is nothing neat and tidy about any of it. On the contrary, it is messy and sticky. But it is here to stay.
It can consume us. It can overtake us. It desires to isolate us. It wants us bound up in our own minds; our thoughts drawn tight like drapes blocking out the morning sun. Like a current pulling us away from shore, it binds our will, strength, and fight to move forward.
I imagine that drowning feels a lot like that and that’s one option.
There’s another. This other option will seem impossible certainly at the beginning of it and even at many steps along the journey – making the best of it. The best advice that I received early in this journey – those who seek hope will find hope. Said another way, those who don’t seek hope won’t find hope (or least will have to rely on blind luck to stumble upon it).
You know what really sucks? The burden of seeking hope when it is already weighing us down. So how do we do it? How do we seek out hope? How can it become the thing that drives us?
Wrestle with it– acknowledge it; put a name to it; explore its edges; learn its game; learn how it shows up unannounced; refuse to allow it to become the 800-lb gorilla in the room. Don’t be afraid to interrogate it. Run it through the mill.
Don’t skip this step. If we ignore it, it will gain a foothold. It will become the tail that wags the dog. Once you’ve wrestled with it (which can be an ongoing process), please don’t stop there. Please resist when it tries to wrap you up. Push back when it invites you to wallow.
Even the deepest, darkest pit of despair CANNOT extinguish the flame of Hope!
Face it– Now that you know it and its game – you can start redefining the rules. If it is temporary, it might be time to let it go. It loves attention and is a big ol’ drama queen. It will hang around as long as you will let it. Ask yourself if it isn’t time to kick it to the curb.
Other its aren’t headed to the curb. No, some its are moving in. Some its are popping corn, running up your electric bill, and putting their feet on the sofa. These are the ones that we can’t let go. These are the ones that we have to learn to live with. These are the ones that present us with the toughest choices.
No matter the size of it, if it sticks with you – it can still become the thing that drives you.
Turn it on its head. Use it to make a difference.
It doesn’t take much to make a difference. In our “supersized” world, it is easy to think that we can’t make a difference unless our efforts go viral. Found an organization like M.A.D.D. Or start an awareness campaign so that others will get a mammogram or a colonoscopy or a simple annual blood test before disease destroys their lives. Or run a marathon or complete an Ironman in the loving memory of a loved one.
Supersized, viral efforts are awesome! They inspire us all. But, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t make a difference in small acts. Every one of those “supersized” efforts started when a fleeting thought caught breath. Don’t worry about making a difference in a million lives.
Start with one life.
Do something today – right here in the middle of it– that will make a difference for another no matter how great or how small. Grab coffee with a friend. Smile at the store clerk (or your spouse or both). Say “hello” as you pass your next-door neighbor (maybe even chat for a minute). Let someone merge into traffic or pass up the “good” parking spot for someone else.
As small as each one of those acts (and many more like them) are – they have one thing in common. Each one requires – if only for an instant – that we look up from our own circumstances to recognize someone else.
When we lift our eyes, we lift our faces. Lifting our chins is the first, baby step toward facing it.
Dear Father, we know that this world is not as you intended. We see “it” all around us. It’s messy. We can’t scrub it away. We can’t fix it.
Help us to remain faithful when “it” threatens to overtake us. Let your Spirit strengthen us when “it” takes over our favorite spot on the sofa, leaves rings on our coffee tables, and eats the last cookie. Bolster our faith and diminish our doubt. Be our Hope when despair threatens to drown us. Give us a driving Spirit to make the best of it. Drive away the notion that our steps must be “supersized” to matter.
When we wrestle with why, remind us that You ARE our God through all of it!
This we pray through your Son, Jesus. – Amen!