When my mom was around my age, she said to me, “Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be. And the sooner we get used to that idea, the better it will be for us.”
I didn’t understand what she was talking about at the time. I guess I hadn’t been face-down in enough arenas up to that point. Either that, or I hadn’t learned what I was supposed to learn while I was there. But I think I’m learning now. Or at least I think I might be starting to figure some stuff out.
She didn’t say if we get used to the idea, life will be easier for us – she said it will be better for us.
As in (as I’m starting to figure out)
it’s better to be awake to what’s going on.
It’s better to learn about yourself.
It’s better to face things (including what you learn about yourself!)
It’s better to be realistic.
it’s better to not get everything you want; for things to not always turn out the way you want.
it’s better to know and respect your darkness.
Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be.
That’s how I’m starting to reframe my thoughts. My perspective. My worldview. My prayers.
I pray. A lot, throughout the day, conversationally. And I love the thought of people praying for me, knowing I have people in my corner. Knowing God is interested and invested in what’s going on in my life.
I don’t expect it will fix everything. I don’t believe it should.
Imagine if a parent, each time they were petitioned by their child(ren), gave them everything they wanted. What if that parent protected their child from every single thing, so they’d never feel pain or hurt or disappointment? What if that parent rescued their child from any consequences related to their actions or inactions?
That child’s life would be pretty darn easy, that’s what. But it would grow up to be spoiled. Self-centered. Entitled.
But what if, on the other hand, that parent gave good gifts to their child(ren), but refrained every now and then? What if that parent, instead of protecting their child from every single thing, stood by them through their times of pain or hurt or disappointment? What if, instead of rescuing them, that parent required their child to endure consequences related to their actions and inactions?
That child’s life wouldn’t be terribly easy, to be sure. But it would grow up to be grateful. Considerate. Confident.
Just like a good parent, God doesn’t make things easier for us. But better. Not by removing our trials. Not by erasing our problems. Not by paving a yellow brick road of blessings before us.
Rather, he chooses to grow us. To strengthen us. To teach us. By refraining from giving us what we want from time to time. By standing beside us through our pain and hurt and disappointment. By requiring us to endure consequences of our actions and inactions. He lets us feel what it’s like to struggle, to regret, to long for, to be empty, to be in the dark. So we can recognize the light when it comes. So we can appreciate the light when it comes.
So we can be grateful. Considerate. Confident.
So we’ll have something to remember the next time. Something to refer back to. To hold on to.
So we can earn the right to enter the arena with others. To show up and be seen.
To just be.
I think we’ve been conditioned/culturalized/trained into believing we must avoid our darkness. To run from it. Hide it. Deny it. Try to pray it away. But why? Why do we think life should be easy? Easier? More comfortable? Why don’t we simply accept hardship as … part of life? Why do we assume it’s bad? That it means there’s something wrong? Why don’t we embrace it as part of the big picture of who we are; that it’s an integral, unsplittable part of our existence and growth as human beings?
Why do we think our darkness sucks so much?
Because easier is more appealing than better.
The danger, there, being that when easier doesn’t come, despair most certainly will.
You know what I’ve loved most? Those who’ve messaged and spoken to me to let me know they’re in the arena, too. Or that they have been there. Having people you can question things with, get angry with, cry with, relate with, be silent with, be loud with, be confused with is worth more than all the beautifully-crafted inspirational memes in the universe. Having someone to lock arms and do the hard work of life with can help change perspectives and ward off being overwhelmed by despair. But sometimes reaching out to lock arms with someone is hard, too.
Not everyone will understand where you are – just like I didn’t understand my mom all those years ago. And that’s okay. What matters most is being awake to the difference between easier and better. And choosing which to pursue, wisely.
Respect your darkness. Without it there can be no light.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed.
~ James, from the Bible