Do you know what I want from my life experience? I want to learn so much and be so skilled that the next time I face a challenge, I can do it EASILY with grace and decorum and flying colors. That’s what I thought was the point of going through trials, so you could have so much faith the trials stopped phasing you. The reward of going through a lot of stuff was to be an expert the next time trouble came. Like, the stronger your muscles, the easier a workout becomes.
I’m not sure where I got this idea, but it’s way off. A person who loses a child and years later loses another child isn’t spared any pain the second time around. The person who goes through divorce one decade and loses her job in the next and eventually gets cancer doesn’t find the late in life challenges insignificant. Past successes don’t translate as calm assurance through a new struggle. We can remember and praise God for Her faithfulness then and pledge our trust in Her continued goodness and still feel lost, scared, confused, and hurt. There’s nothing easy about any of those feelings.
Brene Brown talks about this in depth in her wonderful book, Rising Strong. She talks about face-plant moments in life and how dark they feel. She says the gift our past experience gives us is a vague familiarity of being in a similarly unnerving place and the lesson that it’s a necessary phase. She also suggests that in that murky darkness, wonderful things are changing inside us. We are being transformed.
So what if wonderful transformation is the point, not that we will gain the ability to be unaffected by life’s troubles? I knew troubles would keep coming, but I wanted that easy life of not feeling knocked down by them. I don’t like feeling scared and helpless, not knowing how things will shake out. And yet, that’s how it is. I’m not in charge of anything beyond myself, I don’t see the future, I can’t will things into or out of existence. When I admit that, my internal voice begins to panic, “Then what good am I?”
Well, I can clean my counters.
The other night, when the world was changing fast and the news was bad, I had to do something, so I cleaned every corner of my kitchen counter until there was not one crumb left. I moved the spoon rest and the fruit bowl. I scrubbed the grime around the base of the faucet. And when I rinsed the washrag and wrung it out, I felt better. I made something better. It reminded me of my rightful place. I’m not God-size powerful and I’m not powerless. I have choices that matter. How I talk to my family while we’re in close quarters matters. How much grace and downtime I allow myself and others through this matters. Donating to organizations to feed kids who usually eat at school matters. Moving my body so I release emotional tension matters. Checking in on my friends matters.
If you’re in a hard time, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it badly or doing it wrong. It means it’s a hard time and you are a human with the entire spectrum of feelings. You haven’t failed because this isn’t easy for you. Jesus didn’t find His time on earth a easy-breezy. But easy isn’t the point. It never was.
P.S. If your brain will not stop spinning, try telling it, “Brain, submit to my spirit. Spirit, take me to the Father.” Your spirit wants peace and the brain sometimes is not helping. I’ve found this to be helpful. I also love to quote at bedtime the verse my mamma would recite over me as a baby, “I will lay me down in peace and sleep. For You, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Ps. 4:8