Just in case you didn’t know, I’m addicted to Pinterest.
I go days and weeks without pinning, and then like a moth drawn to a fire, I open the app and get lost in the beautiful illustrations and insightful quotes. I usually resurface about fifty or so pins later and discover that I don’t remember what I was doing before I started pinning. But what can I say? I love it.
Can’t stop, won’t stop.
During one of my recent pinning binges, I ran across a quote that expresses a perspective I’ve been contemplating and trying to embrace for about a year now.
It says, “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”
We like control because control tricks us into believing there’s a measure of predictability, and if there’s one thing that human beings love, it’s predictability. We like knowing what is going to happen, how it is going to happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen. We like details, we like plans, we like when things go according to those plans, and we feel a heady sense of accomplishment when nothing goes awry.
Stuff happens. And not good stuff, bad stuff, the kind of stuff you want to throw in the trash – your heart gets completely shattered, you get fired, a loved one dies suddenly, you lose your scholarship, you get sick, you get a divorce, you lose a child – the excruciating stuff, the hard stuff.
Those things don’t happen and leave you unchanged. Now, this is speculation at best, but I don’t think David walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death fearing no evil the very first time he walked through that Valley. I bet you he was terrified the first time, I bet you he wished he never started walking in that direction to begin with. But I bet you after he emerged from the Valley having feared no evil, he was a new man.
When tragedy strikes, it injures us and leaves scars. Some of our hearts bear tapestries that tell tales of unbelievable loss and hardship. Some of us can’t remember who we were before pain ravaged us. We split our lives in two: before and after the terrible evil happened. This is life, and I can’t tell you why it is relatively good to some people, and wrings others dry.
But the people I admire most, the people I consider true heroes, are the people who take what life has thrown at them, and force it to work for their good. These are people who have literally resided in Hell, been burned alive, and emerged from the fire not unscathed, but decidedly stronger, possessing an iron will that cannot be crushed. They’ve gotten a nevertheless deep down in their spirits and have already made up their minds that no adversity will overtake them if they can help it. That kind of stubborn determination is necessary when you’re trying your best not to adopt a victim’s mentality. And to be honest with you, it blows my mind that there are people like this.
The reason that quote grabbed me is because when I saw it, I suddenly remembered who I was just a few months ago. I was the type of person who abused people when I was in pain. I took out all of my fury, disappointment, and sadness on the people who loved me and desired to help me most. Not always because I intended to, but because using people as punching bags is sometimes much easier than fighting your own internal battle. I was snappy and distant, disrespectful and rude to people who “didn’t understand what I was going through.” Even though I was in pain, it was not an excuse to abuse the ones I love. No matter how much I want to excuse myself, I can’t, because how I act is always my responsibility, no matter the circumstances. I can make all the excuses I want for other people, but when it comes to me, I have to be honest with myself. I know when pain, fear, or misplaced anger is driving my actions, and I know when love is. I know.
The saying is true that hurting people hurt people. But I’ll add on that hurting people WRECK people. Hurting people destroy relationships and dismantle families. Hurting people crush hopes and douse dreams in bitterness that they call ‘reality’. Hurting people can’t see beyond their hurting place to a place beyond. Hurt has a way of blinding us, of make us oblivious to the suffering of others, no matter how obvious.
In analyzing the characters of these modern-day heroes – those among us who have danced with the Devil and lived to tell the tale – I am realizing that their story isn’t just about the fact that they overcame, it’s about who they were while they were overcoming.
Who we are when we’re in excruciating pain can show us the depth of our depravity as people. That being said, there may be instances of crippling fear or deep depression, you may face bitterness or burning anger, you may find yourself consumed with hatred or spite – emotions you have never experienced with such vehemence before. I think these things are deep down on the inside of all of us. I think we all have darkness in our souls, else Paul wouldn’t have talked about his struggle to overcome his ‘alternate ego’, the one who wants to do everything completely contrary to what his sane self knows is right. But even though this darkness exists, I think light does too.
I think the light we bear inside our souls as children of Yahweh, as creations that have the ability to love and be loved deeply means that we can overcome the darkness.
I am being very careful in speaking about this because I don’t take other people’s circumstances or pain for granted. Pain is a very real thing, and it can undoubtedly change a once sweet and loving person into an unrecognizable version of themselves that no one ever thought could possibly exist.
While I have not walked the roads that many have, I have had and seen enough pain to know that it can have these effects. But when I look to the people I admire, and when I ask them how they did it, they all confirm that deciding not to avoid your pain or try to ease it a little by taking out your inner torment on others, is what builds the character and mental toughness you will ultimately need to survive the worst that life has to offer.
We don’t become better all at once. We don’t change our nature and break all our bad habits in one fell swoop. We become one decision at a time. We face our reality, and are healed from our brokenness one step, one honest conversation, one tearful realization at a time.
So I am going to choose to be my best self when I am frustrated, when I am annoyed, when I am sad, when I am discouraged, and when I am afraid. I am going to become in the little, so when the big comes, I will already know what it means to be.
Just as I am trying to hold myself to a higher standard, to be the friend, daughter, and sister I know I am called to be especially in my most painful places, I am lovingly, tenderly, and compassionately challenging you to do the same. Draw from your light instead of your darkness. Don’t hide or ignore your hurt, embrace and face it, and hopefully you will let it make and not break you.
The only reason I can believe this is even possible is because I believe wholeheartedly that Yahshua hung on a tree. I also believe with all of my being that He was not guilty of anything, except loving this human race with all of Him. He wanted better for us. He wanted us to know Him, to experience Him, to do life with Him, to have a chance to experience the restorative power of being fully known yet fully loved.
He was tortured, yet did not complain. He didn’t lose His character, His sense of self, or abuse those that loved Him when He was in complete agony, even when they all tucked tail and ran. My Bible tells me that I am made in Yahweh’s image, and if Yahshua can hang on a tree and harness His pain enough to still be the embodiment of light and love through, not the suffering, but the attitude with which He suffered, then I believe that I at least have a shred of that ability.
We are humans, and as such we will suffer loss and hardship, some of us like we’ve never imagined, but we are also so much stronger than we think. Our bodies alone speak of the restorative capability that lies within us, from the way our wounds heal to the way our defense mechanisms kick in when something is wrong.
Imagine what our spirits can bear. Imagine who we can become if we allowed the same Creator who made our bodies to hold and heal our broken hearts.
Maybe you’ve tried everything else…how about you take a chance on true love?