Saturday, January 25, 2014

When The Unexpected Happens ...

Sometimes we have the illusion that life is under control.  More specifically, we can think life is under OUR control.  And then … the unexpected happens.  Something happens and we realise that the idea of us being in control is an illusion.  In a heartbeat … in a moment … life can turn on a dime, the unexpected happens, and we realise that life happens.  Like being caught in a riptide, we are swept off our feet and carried in a direction that we never anticipated.

These unexpected moments are life defining moments.  They are different for each of us, but when they come, they rock us …  to the core.  Our illusions shattered, we have to face them and deal with a new reality.  Whilst we cannot control the event, we can control how we choose to respond.

I have had a few of these moments in my life:  my father dying of cancer at 49 was a big one.  Being told I would never have children and having a hysterectomy at 39 another one.  My pituitary tumour yet another.  Whilst each of these events rocked me to the core, I have learnt a couple of things.  Here is what I know for sure.

1.  Whilst I am surprised/shocked, God is not.
He knew me when I was knit together in my mother's womb.  He knows all of my days before one of them came to be.  He has laid his hand on me and hems me in behind and before.  He is Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end.  He has gone before me, therefore I am not in uncharted waters.  He knows the way through.  I just have to fix my eyes on him and put my feet on his feet and we will dance our way through the storm.

2.  Se La Vie.  It is what it is.
This is not being fatalistic.  I have just learnt that I need to be in the moment.  Asking why, will just take me in a non productive, often downwards, spiral.  Sometimes we try and make sense of tragedy.  Or even worse, other people try and make sense of it for us.  Sometimes, there is no sense to be made.  The only thing I know for sure is that God never meant for this world to be full of tragedy.  It is the result of a sick, fallen world.  It's not the way it was meant to be.  As I said to a dear friend recently, we don't get a free pass from tragedy and hardship because we are a Christian.  Likewise, it is not our lack of faith that causes it either.  It is what it is.  Now we deal.

3.  Lean on Others
We are not islands.  One of the beauties of life is love.  Who is in your life that cares about you?  Sometimes, we need to lean on others and allow them to help us walk along the path.  Just as we are not in control, we are not self-sufficient either.  We are made for community.  We are made to connect. Don't give in to the myth that you must be strong and independent.

In my case, in the early stages of my tumour, I was really sick, I didn't share with anyone (including my family) for months.  The main reason was that my family were dealing with the news of my 11 month old niece having been diagnosed with leukaemia and I didn't want to add worry.  I also rationalised that whilst my tumour was knocking the stuffing out of me, it wasn't going to kill me, whereas darling Ruby was in a fight for her life.  I figured sharing my struggles would be selfish.  Often we do this - compare our struggles to someone else's and think that we are better off, so keep a positive outlook.  I try to have a positive outlook on life, and part of my mind style and the way that I am wired is, "just get on with it!"  I was so busy trying to be positive and get on with it, that I struggled for months on my own.  When I eventually told my boss I was struggling at work, and told my Mum I was struggling to get through my days, it helped me acknowledge the very real challenges I was facing.  In opening up my journey to family and friends, I found grace and encouragement.  Share with those in your life who know you and care.  Whilst they are not walking your journey, they can hold you up when you are struggling and shine a light for you when you are in dark, scary places.

If you are currently in one of those unexpected times yourself, and you are feeling swept off your feet, take a moment and meditate on the words of David … Peace be with you.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you ...
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting