... because the past walks with us in the present in more ways than we know. ~ Brian McLaren
I feel I've had more than enough life defining moments. The most heart-and-soul wrenching moment was to stand between the caskets of my son and my daughter being lowered ... trying to convince myself that “we do not grieve as those who have no hope.” I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that life was never ever going to be back to anything I had ever dreamed, imagined, expected, or wished for. On an icy highway, life had been irreparably altered, changing forever the road I now walked upon. For nearly a decade that followed, the ongoing barrage of life defining moments dizzied me, while my prayers could not give voice to the aching depths or questions of my heart. Looking back now, it feels like watching my life as a movie scene.
And this is the moment of big buts; in those life altering events we are held and supported by God in powerful ways. Those defining moments birth further moments in the successive days, months and even years that all play back to that big defining moment. Because as Brian McLaren says, the past walks with us in the present in more ways than we know. That past moment is ever present.
This month's question felt significant; partly, because I know I've faced life defining events, and because the successive defining moments all had a kind of glue that kept that event impacting forward. My mother once asked me ... “Jocelyn, do you think you would've gotten divorced if the accident hadn't happened?” No. Would I have moved to Australia without knowing a soul down under? Would I have written a book or two? No, No. Neither of those. Would I have adopted a drug addict as my surrogate daughter? Would I have retired from nursing early? No. No. Would I have felt emotionally safer being of no fixed address than living in my old hometown where everyone knew the story? No. Would I have felt the need to remove myself from church groups because some of those pat answers were too shallow? Would I now be traveling with (and married to) the doctor I used to work with? ... another big No. There are a thousand No's ... But, an equal number of YES's that have stemmed from that one big bang!
There are a lot of clichés and verses thrown about in regards to the value and benefit of suffering change. We are often encouraged to just trust the process and the God behind it ... to let the change change us, to make the best of it ... These are more easily said from those witnessing someone in tumultuous times, and often a very well meaning friend tosses in a reminder that “all things work together for good, to those that love the Lord,” overlooking the immense pain of past trauma. I continue to learn this. Sometimes I'm successful in identifying that what I over react to is because it links back to a deeper pain within.
But, to end off more positively, I want to share some things that I have learned: The power of hope is strong; humans have a resilience that I would not have dreamed possible for myself; God walks alongside us in the worst of times. God's question that kept coming back to me was, “Will you trust me?” Will I trust you? And God, how can you expect me to trust you after what happened? Each time I stepped in that direction, it felt as though things worsened. Will I trust you? My answer had to be Yes, because the alternative was even worse.
And now, almost seventeen years later, when I am asked if I will trust, (the question keeps coming up, because life continues) ... I hesitate less and say, yes, I will trust you. Each defining moment carries opportunity for a defining response ... and this filters down to the most ordinary of days. Each day holds an opportunity to live life as holy, to reclaim the power of my identity as a much loved child of God, and to make sense of the world. The control I once wanted has gone by the wayside ... and this brings both a loss and a freedom, when I realize how tenuous that perceived control really is. With less need for control, I allow wisdom and grace to enter.
I want to share the hope that has risen from the defining moment ... that life can be experienced as beautiful again, that the soul can grow larger even in the face of catastrophic loss. And that the comfort and presence of God can be experienced. Blessings to you as you face your defining moments. (If nothing else, you can be relieved that your day doesn't seem nearly as bad now.)