M. Scott Peck's best seller began famously: "Life is Difficult." While I agreed with him whole heartedly 25 years ago and still do, I'm more aware today of the nuances, difficulties and my own ability to be present to life and changes especially when they present themselves as difficulties or challenges. In other words, the parameters of what constitutes difficult has changed for me. It's been a journey.
For so long I saw events, people or situations in black or white; good or bad in and of themselves. If "a" happens its good, if "b" happens it will be bad--very, very bad. What I realize now is that that kind of thinking and responding created its very own kind of hell and suffering. Because "b" happens a fair bit of the time--and if I allow myself to only see "a" as good...and allow no room for "b" "c" "d" "e, f, g" or the rest of the alphabet, I will be miserable most of the time!
Today I'm more inclined to see events as not only neutral but as an opportunity to draw my best from me for my good and the good of others. It's not that things I'd prefer not to happen, won't happen. It is the case that I can learn to stop judging them. I can learn to see things differently, to respond rather than react, to chose to allow situations and events to remain outside of me rather than allowing them in biblical lingo to "toss me to and fro."
Getting to a place of accepting and moving on constructively from whatever unfolds before us doesn't come naturally. Many people live and die without ever ascending this mountain. For them, anything different, any change, anything out of their personal plan "a" undoes them (and often those around them). Maturing chronologically is no guarantee that a person will reach the plateau of acceptance of what is before us. It doesn't happen automatically.
But reaching it is possible. Change is possible. Embracing what comes is possible. Old people do learn new tricks unlike what is said about our canine friends... In fact everybody thinks so. If you are a follower of science, we humans are on a path of change called evolution. If you follow a practice of an Eastern religion, we are on the path to Enlightenment. For me, I understand that moment by moment I'm given the opportunity to choose a way that either brings me closer to who God made me to be--my authentic self--or to act in ways that hold me at bay from that calling. Acting in this latter way is what the Scriptures call sin.
Living wholly and freely necessitates that we make these moment-by-moment decisions from a deep place within us. The place where God's Spirit resides in us; from where the One who loves us and knows us better than we know ourselves chooses to dwell. When we live from our mind or our emotions, we simply mimic the mistakes of our past, ad nauseum. It's only when we live from the still point within...that we are table to walk in newness and light. When I choose to take this way, my change and transformation into the very Image of God becomes real. So amazing is God's grace. It doesn't matter if I've "done it my way" for 20 or 70 years, the new Way opened for us in Christ and His Spirit is always an option.
I suppose what I want to encourage you to consider is that though "Life is Difficult" we don't need to be a party to it, agree to it, or help it along. Living from the gift of Spirit and in God's grace, causes us to be able to see and respond to the difficult things differently. Not only that, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz for whom it was always in her power to return to Kansas, it is within you and me-- right now--today to make this change. Our first opportunity is in the very next person, situation or conversation that comes that is outside our ideal.
For me, it's been helpful to look ahead and prepare. Let me help you do that:
- Who is the person, or what is the situation that is most likely to raise your cackles, rather than call forth a gracious response from your spirit?
- What is necessary for you, to be able to respond differently? (i.e. play the scenario out in your head / OR / rather than responding immediately telling them you need a minute...)
- There are some difficulties that come as surprises. Yet I find for the majority of them I can prepare by taking a few minutes of silence before, or not going into a situation already agitated or tired.
Wishing you success in ascending the mountain. [Psalm 15]
Kathleen Bronagh Weller the celtic monk