You're driving down Route 33 and are in an extreme hurry to make it to your child's orthodontist appointment in Clarksburg on time. In your rear view you see him, the great protector of our beautiful state: the state trooper. And yes, those flashing lights are for you, my dear.
Pulling over, you think: "How many times have I told the kids to obey the speed limits? And here I am being pulled over for speeding?"
The polite officer hands you your ticket after the usual protocol, and there you have it: lesson learned for you as you explain, "Mom did a wrong thing, now don't ever, ever speed." The glint in your oldest child's eyes tells you he just can't wait to tell dad. You fume, but are humbled. Although you might be a bit angry, you were wrong, and you certainly don't want other people speeding and endangering you. So you use this as a lesson learned: the hard way.
Now, though this is a fictitious story and hopefully stays that way, how many of us have learned lessons the hard way? Most of us, I'm certain.
The above scenario is minor in comparison to some hard things that happened to folks. My heart aches as people's hearts are breaking around me on a day-to-day basis. With my job, it is a rare thing to not talk to a heartbroken person every day. This is mainly a loss through death. My job is to aid in working through the grief process so that life can continue, even though it's now radically changed.
But what about mistakes made? What about cruelty inflicted upon you by another person? What about the issues during childhood that you could not help. The important thing to remember is that life is not so much "what happens to you" as it is "what you do with what happens to you."
I believe the quote is: "Life is 5 percent what happens to you and 95 percent response to it." Do a good life review, and I think you will find it is true.
Observation also teaches this truth: many children grow up in the same families. Now, we've already determined weeks ago that we're all dysfunctional to some point on another, so moving on - families go through a lot in a lifetime together. It is common to see the response of the dysfunction to be a varied thing.
To some their pain is life-altering and they determine to make a difference because of what they have learned. They go on to lead productive lives, learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, and to help people in similar situations along the way. While some in the same families turn to a risk-taking lifestyle, whether it be literal risk taking - drugs, alcohol or promiscuity.
Two different people may make different choices. It is the choices we make on a daily basis that make up our life as a whole. Change can happen in a moment, and mistakes happen on a day-by-day basis. When we determine not to be a victim but instead a victor, then we are on the right road.
The victim mind-set is a self-defeating one. When we adapt the victim, "poor me," mind-set and look around at all the other people who have not suffered such and such, we remain defeated, unproductive and damaging to ourselves and our families.
If we will remember, "We are more than conquerors through Christ," we are on our road to recovery. Whether it is an off-the-cuff mistake you made in a moment of time, the big catastrophe you have endured, the horrid memories of childhood abuse, or cruelty in a marriage, the addictions we somehow adhered to, we can be "more than conquerors through Christ" and our victimization can become victory. This is possible through the grace of God.
A good motto to adopt is: "Something good can come out of this." A little song I taught my kids when they were tiny was "All Things Work Together for Good to Them that Love the Lord."
When a person suffers, experiences and then turns around and allows these things to unlock for them a door of usefulness, then "the all things" are working for good.
It may mean going for counseling, finding a great church to feed your soul, and then simply setting your face like a flint and having the determination to have success in life. And I'm not talkin' money here. Money is a necessary thing, but money will not buy happiness, contentment, peace of mind and joy. A God-honoring and useful life will.
Sometimes, when I feel my purpose in life is lagging, I give myself a talkin' to. I say, "Kim, if you only had a short time to live, how would you live your life today?" Would I sit around moping about mistreatment I've endured, mistakes I've made, or things I wish I could change? I don't think so. Or would I invest my life in the lives of others and begin to enjoy life to the hilt? Response is paramount here and action is necessary. As long as we are turning inward for satisfaction, we come up empty. When we look up and then out, we find wholeness, peace and that "something" we've been looking for all along.
I hate it when I mess up. I am an obsessive-compulsive, hard-on-myself type of gal. I can give grace to others, but find it hard to not expect perfection out of me. An obstacle and flaw, but not an insurmountable one. My own kids help me out here from time to time. I've heard them say to me time and again, "Mom, you're human." Ha ... talk about "out of the mouths of babes."
Maybe you are like me. Your own shortcomings or mistakes tend to defeat you. From observation I have seen some with this difficulty continue on a downward spiral when this happens and they think, "What's the use?" You and I must remember, "We never mistake the moment for the man/woman." I learned that in church. We can decide because we've blown it to just keep on blowing it, or we can decide since we've blown it, to make amends where needed, tell God we're sorry and get up again. Every day is fresh with no mistakes in it.
My life's verse, Isaiah 61:3, talks about giving ugly and terrible things to God and allowing him to make beauty out of it. "Beauty for ashes," it reads. There's nothing more ugly, more messy or smelly than ashes, yet beauty is promised when you lift up those horrid ashes and give them back to God. What are the ashes in your life? Lift them up and watch them be blown away and out of sight. Then watch the exchange that is given for a life invested, a heart made pure, and a future to become brighter.
(Kimberly Short Wolfe, MA, is the grief counselor for Mountain Hospice and also a homeschool educator. You may e-mail Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.)