One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them. The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.
Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant. Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair. She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles. As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground. Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall. She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.
As she was stumbling, something stood out to me. Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!” That struck me as bizarre. I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?” My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”
At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid. I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!
My, how time changes us. When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response. I almost envy it now. I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.
I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.
All I used to look at was the negative. Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER! Such drama. All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong. All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over. I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think. How could she?!
How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.
How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.
It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.
Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light. Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me. Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first. In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives. There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events. Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.
Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.
How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?
How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?
That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.
I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude. At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot. I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.
Wow! Thank God I didn’t fall! I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!
The argument I hear a lot from people who get offended by my spiritual beliefs is, “What kind of God lets . . . happen?”
Now, let me start by saying this, I don’t argue about my spiritual beliefs, though I often find that people want to argue with me. I don’t have a problem with people believing or not believing whatever they please. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind.
I do however, argue with myself. I pose these questions to myself, and to God, and give them serious thought. I’ve thought about the question a lot. Since I’ve been reading The Shack, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about the answer to that question.
This is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, but the book takes an opportunity to teach us that, due to free will, bad things often happen because people make bad choices. After a year spent in treatment, healing, and acceptance, I finally do accept that as an answer for some of the bad stuff. Certainly, life would be meaninglessly dull were it not for free will. We would all be the same, doing exactly the right things, the same things. We’d be drones. The relationship between us and God would be more of a dictatorship.
The truth is that people only come into a relationship with God through a choice, often made in a moment of desperation. When I chose to know God, I was in a place where I had nothing else to lose. Well, maybe one thing could’ve been lost; my life. I knew that I had had glimpses of life, or happiness, and I wanted those more than I wanted to die. And even though I had NO IDEA what a relationship with God would mean, I walked into the uncertainty knowing it was my only hope. For the first time in my life, I made a commitment.
We come into this relationship, because we make a choice between what was and what could be.
I don’t want to be a puppet. My relationship with God means so much more, since it was I who wanted in. It was never forced on me. We all, at some point, have that moment, that way in. We all make this decision.
That being said, free will is both a blessing and a curse. Because we are not forced into goodness, or perfection, we also have opportunities to choose darkness. Because of that choice, people can be hurt or lost, for seemingly no reason at all. Someone chose to hurt me as a child, and I was left to clean up the wreckage because of their choice. This is common.
I kn0w that in the midst of pain, it is hard to accept this answer, but after a long examination of my beliefs, I do agree.
In my head, I’m still left to make sense of the things that aren’t caused by a bad person or a bad choice: An illness. A miscarriage. A natural disaster. The list could go on; a list of all the things that cannot be explained away by free will, and the nagging question: why?
What repeatedly arises is the difference, for me, between a life without God and a life with God.
I used to blame God for everything. Why I even believed in God is still baffling to me, because I was angry at him, and blamed him for everything that went wrong. Oh the moments I spent actually cursing at God with a grimace on my face and an angry finger pointed to the sky! I do not understand why I believed in a God that was so horrible to me. Why not just NOT believe in him at all?
But I did, and I gladly took every chance that arose to hate him.
At this time in my life, I looked at every bad thing as a punishment, or simply an act of a spiteful God. Because I’ve had a chance to work through healing, I see things differently now.
I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I used to start cursing at God if I dropped my books. No big deal, but there I was having words with this hateful God of mine. Those things don’t get to me anymore. A pause. A deep breath. And there I am, picking those books back up. No. Big. Whoop. That changes a lot.
I see the value in free will, and I understand that there are people who use that to accomplish negative, and even evil acts.
Most importantly, I see the error of my own ways. Working the twelve steps certainly gives me some perspective on the destruction I have left in the wake of my bad decisions. I see now that I can’t control what others have done to me. Wounds are left behind by sick people. I was sick once too. I hurt people too. My job now isn’t to dwell on fixing what others have done to me, it is make amends for the things that I have done to others. They call it “keeping your side of the street clean.” I do my part in making the world a better place, making up for the hurts that I have caused, and doing things differently now.
Yes, I see things very differently now. And when I think about the things that cannot be explained away by free will, I know that these are life’s experiences that make us who we are. We have to struggle. We have to face hard stuff. Who would we be without these hardships? These tragedies? Just as we would be without free will: drones. We would have nothing to bring us together, or make us unique. We would be weakly little things, incapable of facing anything.
When I think about how strong I am because what I have faced, I know I wouldn’t trade a single experience. I have the ability to say that I am a survivor. I have a faced adversity, and come out on the other side of things; stronger because of it. I also know, because of my past, that you can’t put anything before me that I won’t be able to conquer.