Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Spiritual Choices

Spiritual Choices a Henri Nouwen devotional.

Choices make the difference. Two people are in the same accident and severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chooses to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. These choices radically influenced their lives and the lives of their families and friends. We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and remember what happens. It is precisely these spiritual choices that determine whether we live our lives with dignity.

I have been on this journey for over two years—from the most traumatic and painful to a newfound contentment and even joy. Along the road I have met many different travelers. It always amazes me at the lengths folks go to avoid feeling (or dealing with) pain. One person in my life even accused me of being a “downer” because whenever she experiences pain she simply “thinks happy thoughts”---geezzz—lucky her. Apparently she still sleeps with a husband who breathes in and out---ok---I digress…. What concerns me is this superficial “choice”— this choice to evade seems to imply the avoidance of working through the pain. I wonder if this strategy will end up backfiring in the future and the pain becoming overwhelming.

The pain of loss never entirely goes away; however, it is vital to make a conscious decision to work through it. Avoiding the lure of bitterness becomes another balancing act. The very thought of “choosing” to live in gratitude seems absurd at best. How can you be grateful while enduring such heartache? The answer is that WE can’t, but by living within our faith it becomes possible. When Don died, I wanted, more than anything, to make sure I appeared strong for my kids. What I found instead was the ability to recognize the “blessing in the thorn” The fact is that it is impossible to experience real joy without knowing the heartache of real pain.

This I know for sure…


Lisa said...

The work of grief is never easy. But whether we choose to face it head on or bury it deep inside, the pain of loss always leaves a mark. Whether it's a scab that never heals or a scar of remembrance is up to us.

Good thoughts today Marsha.

Ali said...

The people who surround me in real life think I've coped amazingly well. Little do they know how much I struggle with this thorn in my side, which some days digs so incredibly deeply.

Oh to still be ignorant.


Shelly said...

I really enjoyed your thoughts in this blog, particularly the last line. I do believe that I recognize and enjoy the pure moments of joy in my life because of the depth of pain that I have experienced. I am thankful for that new understanding of life (although it came at too high a price).

Annie said...

It can be a fine line. When does acknowledging slide into wallowing for instance, but we make choices based on now and our past experiences and what we see as necessary to our survival and our future. Perhaps your "Pollyanna" friend lacks the depth of understanding that you have and she may never know it either. Some people get to live lives like that. Others don't.

You are the better example though and I am glad that you share your experiences with us.

The girl left behind said...

I honestly think that people do the best they can at any given time; if they could do better, they would. But it is a law of the universe that you will pay now or pay later, and that is true of grief as well. Perhaps they feel that later they will be better able to "afford" to pay the interest on grief deferred. Who's to say it isn't true, for them? I have, through grief, learned to feel my feelings when I have them, because early on I had no other choice, and later, it hardly seemed sensible to choose not to. I always felt a little better after a good cry. You're not a downer; you're a realist. God help her if she ever has to have such a full helping of reality as you have.