“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34
The older I get, the more I appreciate people who live on the other side of trouble.
By that I mean, those who have encountered extreme hardship, and, having found themselves up against the unsurvivable, survive anyway – and choose love as the tool to dig themselves out. It’s a multi-step process. First of all, some folks never run into extreme hardship. Of those that do, some just fold up. They may be alive, but they’re not living. Those that do move on have a choice. They can attack the world, armed with bitterness and anger, or they can let go and choose love. Those latter folks, the survivors who choose to live a life of love, are worth their weight in gold. It’s a process. No one gets on the other side of big trouble quickly. It’s a fight to get to peace. But those that find it are rewarded with strength and patience, and – most noticeably – perspective. Once you’ve survived big trouble little worries don’t vex you anymore.
It makes me a little sad when I see people anxious and worrying over stupid crap, or caring about trivial nonsense. But at the same time, you can’t know what you don’t know. And for so many of my friends who live on the other side of big trouble, their trouble was so big I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Most – if not all – have lost a loved one. Many of my wisest friends have lived through great tragedy in their lives – the sudden death of parents while in childhood, the loss of siblings, the loss of children. It’s an incredibly high price to pay for perspective.
I personally have not gone through nearly as much hardship as many of my friends, but I’ve taken my knocks. Without a doubt, it’s been good for me. It used to be that I knew things. Oh boy, did I know things. I knew how things should be, you guys. I remember judging the crap out of Angelina Jolie for saying she couldn’t have a relationship with her father at that moment in time. I was like, oh man, family is family, Angelina Jolie, and you should never abandon your father. And then I got into a position where my father-in-law was driving me and my husband insane and I was like, CAN’T DO IT. We couldn’t have a relationship with him at that moment in time. (Y’all may be happy to know that both Angelina and my ex-husband are currently in contact with their dads. Which is great. But sometimes, the cost is too high. Even for blood.)
Another thing I thought I knew at one time – that the day of my divorce would be a sad occasion. And, you know, the end of something always has an element of sadness to it. But the day itself was one of the most profoundly life affirming experiences I’ve ever had. People came out of the woodwork to wish me well, send me messages of love and support. My girlfriends in town made me pumpkin desserts and we ate pizza and they took care of me. It was humbling and reminded me of the definition of grace – the unmerited favor of God. So many treated me with mercy and grace. I don’t believe I have ever felt so loved as I did on the day of my divorce.
Speaking of divorce – you guys want to know the thing I heard most often? It was always delivered to me in the same quote, too. “The best thing that ever happened to me was my divorce.” Isn’t that surprising? It was always delivered quietly, to the side, like a note slipped in class. And you know what? I think I’d say the exact same thing to somebody else in the future. I must confess that, as a Christian who takes such things very seriously, I continue to feel conflicted about this state of affairs. During my marriage, my mantra was, “completion is better than fracture.” Also, “all things are possible with God.” I still believe these things to be true. And yet, by my divorce, I came to another belief, “The only thing worse than divorce is to live in a broken marriage.” I don’t know what it’s like to experience a resurrected marriage, but I can only imagine that such a thing must be better than what I am living now – that it would be a more perfect expression of God’s plan. And yet – I am grateful to be exactly where I am and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t know, you guys. I don’t have the answers on this one. Hence the internal conflict.
Ultimately, trouble shapes you into somebody new, somebody you didn’t used to be. And the thing is, it can either twist you up, deforming your original shape, or you can come out looking more like yourself than you did before.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14
I think it can be hard for us to believe that piece of scripture. To trust that idea. Internal and external messaging undermines our faith at every turn. We make mistakes and fail, people tear us down, society tells us we’re not good enough as we are. But if we do a good job with this one great gift, this life we’ve been handed, by the time of our death we will be wholly ourselves, the person God made us to be. Not perfect by any means, but wonderfully made all the same.