Sometimes, the events of your life shake you up and you aren’t quite sure what the best course of action is until time settles the swirling, whirling contents of your heart. I am prone to reacting quickly. Automatic reactions don’t tend to be well-thought out, and it usually requires thoughtfulness to meet our life challenges with graciousness, doesn’t it? Sometimes you need to hunker down, let the storm blast around you, and wait til it calms and you can see clearly with the eyes of your heart again, and have a sense of clarity and purpose in knowing how to deal with difficult situations. But that waiting can be so uncomfortable, can’t it? Uncertainty, unresolved issues- they try to eat away at us and rob us of peace.
Peace lies not in circumstances, but within- in the faith and certainty that when I made that fateful journey from the stairway of the angels to my earthly home, I signed up for the beauty, the passion, the wonder, and the challenges.
One day I was hanging my clothes on the clothesline, arguing in my head with God about why things in my life were the way they were and how much better off I would be if things had been different. Suddenly, on a clear day, the wind began to blow all around me and I heard an answer crystal clear in my mind. “But you chose this life.” I suddenly had this overwhelming sense of peace. It was as if I witnessed some pre-earthbound spiritual essence of myself, communing with my Creator about how perfect this life we dreamed up together would be for me. Every little circumstance and event were carefully designed to create and strengthen my identity and soul fabric and provide me with the curriculum to learn every lesson I needed to learn about humanity, about goodness, about helping others on their journeys. The whole universe witnessed and agreed- “It (the plan for my life) is good“. And as the veil of earth-consciousness slowly erased that divine agreement I so eagerly embraced when I began, thoughts of error began to fill my mind along life’s path. Thoughts such as “why did this happen to me?”; “this is not fair”; and worst of all, “poooooor me” crept in when I perceived adversity. So, that windblown moment at the clothesline was such an incredible gift. Ever since, permission to view myself with pity or as a victim has been permanently revoked. A tiny flood of excitement begins, then mounts, then fills me with purpose as I wait to see how one difficult circumstance after another will work out for good. As my face book friend often writes in her status, “Today the universe is plotting to do me good!”
If you have trouble believing those words- if life has left you hurt and closed, with a pessimistic outlook or victim mentality… suspend your logic for a minute and imagine how your life could be if you changed your viewpoint. It is very opening, very accepting. Vulnerable yes; each morning as my souls’ petals unfurl and beckon life to just happen, I don’t know if those happenings will be wind and rain or sun and dew. But it is exhilarating, in the way life should be exhilarating! The comfort and predictablity lie in our faith in Goodness; the excitement in the lessons and challenges and unknown. But when we are closed and try to avoid that vulnerability and openness, we lock ourselves into Rule of the Universe number 11: if we don’t learn the lessons we need to move forward, the same circumstance will just keep coming back in different reincarnations as an endless opportunity to finally grow and move forward. I see so many people locked into a cycle that just repeats itself over and over.
It is a daily effort to exert faith and trust. To shake lose misgivings about the nature of existence and open up to embrace the good and the perceived “bad”.
One of my big life lessons has been learning to lay down my rights. I can’t clearly define the fine line where laying down your rights shifts into being taken advantage of, or being a doormat. I know some people, meeker and milder than me, are learning the lesson of standing up for themselves, defining boundaries, and not allowing themselves to be minipulated or guilted into action. However, I am not that person! I am the person who is quick to let you know what I am and am not willing to do. I genuinely love people and usually will go out on a limb for them. But if I can’t do something in goodwill, I am pretty up front about that. For me, laying down my rights is a quantum attitude shift. It is saying “You can’t rob me of my dignity or honor, because my dignity and honor are found in how my Creator made me, views me, and molds me- not in how others treat me“.
During this time before Easter, this time when many people consider laying down rights, humility, and sacrificial love, I think of mercy. I had an incredible experience with mercy when I was in my early twenties. Let me tell you that story.
I talked to friends and family about it, hoping they could convince me to just call her insurance company and have the car repaired. Estimates I received claimed it was about $800 in damage for parts and labor. I was told “She needs to learn her lesson”, or “This is karma for deceiving her parents”, or “If you don’t call in the accident and she doesn’t pay, you’ll be screwed- don’t be naive or ignorant.” But deep down, I knew what I was supposed to do.
I decided to let it go. I decided I couldn’t live with myself if I viewed this child with a child, scared and tortured with her mistake, as less important that a piece of silver metal. My car would wear that dent as a badge of honor; mercy triumphs over justice. I wanted to put people over things, to tell the world that it’s not all about my rights and my property, it is about love and elevating others above self. And then, I got a phone call. She decided she would rather tell her parents and have my car fixed via insurance than live with the guilt of her mistake. She wanted to fix the situation and make things right.
To this day, I am so proud of her. She faced her fear and did the right thing by me, and my guess is she avoided a whole lot of challenging circumstances in her life that would have circled back to her, eternally offering her the opportunity to grow and learn the lessons she needed to learn. And on my part, that dose of offering mercy was one of the most spiritually healing events of my life. At the time, I felt like I was breaking free of things that were keeping humanity locked into negativity and soaring into new heights of loving existence. And I had forgotten about it… until a recent scenario with a sewing machine.
I had lost the presser foot of my sewing machine, and finally found it in a crack in the floor. I couldn’t wait to use it again. I took it to Mama Monica’s for a project we wanted to do, and since my trunk was full I put it on the floor under my two year old’s carseat. But my four year old crawled across the car and got out through my two year old’s side, stepping on the machine and snapping the spool holder right off. I tried to take it apart and get the bit of spool pin that was stuck in the spool pin slot out, but it wouldn’t budge and so there was no way to insert a new one. My entire machine seemed unusable. I loved that model, and since I find newer machines cost more and are often inferior, I looked on Ebay for Singer model 9410- nothing. I did a national Craigslist search and found it for $50 in Ohio. Woohoo! I emailed and asked if they would be willing to mail it to me. “That won’t be a problem,” they said. They offered to email me tracking numbers as soon as they sent it. I sent a money order, and a week later I inquired as to whether they had received the money order and when I could expect the machine. I was given a date they expected to ship it. Two weeks later, I inquired about the time frame again, and got no response. A few days later, emailed again- still no response. I got mad. And mostly, mad at myself because I had used grocery money without asking my husband about it, and he was disappointed. I had been *a little sneaky*, and a little impatient about getting a replacement, fearing it would be really hard to find my ten year old model used anywhere else. I sort of deserved the drama, I thought. But I didn’t want to admit it to myself, and after a month passed since I sent the money orders to them, I sent a final email, offering more money if they would just send it to me, as it seemed to be much more of a probelm to get it in the mail than they thought at first and the machine was worth it to me; and threatening to call the postmaster and file a mail fraud claim (which it qualified as)- a felony with serious repercussions if they did not respond. No response.
I had a busy week, and though fully intending to file mail fraud charges I didn’t have time. And then, something happened. I unwittingly upset someone and they escalated the situation to such a point that it if things weren’t resolved, there were going to be giant repercussions in my family’s life. I remembered the car story, and the beauty of mercy, which I longed for. I thought about how I was escalating this sewing machine situation to higher forms of negativity and how, in the nature of things, if the Craigslist people needed the $75 I sent for a sewing machine and shipping that bad, they could consider it a gift. My dad was able to get the stuck piece of the spool pin out of my sewing machine, so if I ordered a replacement pin ($6) and could somehow figure out how to put my machine back together (the top was off and various and sundry pieces and screws removed), I could probably use it again just fine.
So I didn’t call the postmaster. And then what do you know, the sewing machine was sitting on my porch today when I came home from grocery shopping. It was very dirty, the spool pin was broken off, and $50 cash returned. I really don’t know if they were mad I threatened them with mail fraud charges and broke the spool pin- the very piece that disabled my first machine, which they were aware of- on purpose to upset me (I googled the individual who responded to my craigslist request and he has a very mean-spirited mantra on one of his dating website accounts, a mug shot from last summer’s arrest, and lots of nude photos of himself and his conquests on an adult site, so I’m not ruling out that this is the wild way he rolls;) or if karma is playing a funny trick on me. Either way, my dad is going to help me remove the top from this one carefully so we can remember how to put both machines back together, get the spool pin remnant out of the second machine’s spool pin opening, and repace both pins. I will have a back up machine (or homeschooling home ec machine!) and now I have a machine case (included with the second one). I am sending their money back to them… and taking this to heart. Me = more patient, less sneaky with grocery money, more merciful!
I love this verse from Micah 6:8. There are a lot of things I personally struggle with in the modern Christian church and the things I was taught to believe growing up. I am still finding my way, and trying to find what a group of people who love what is good and are not entrapped in fear or guilt-based mentalities, materialism, and selfish exploitation of creation looks like, so I can exemplify those qualities with them. But this verse breaks it down so simply for me.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly…
No matter what your belief system, I think we all want to live in a world where mercy is cherished and people walk humbly. And so, may we go out and pursue mercy and humility this Easter-tide, bringing the souls of the barren new hope and new life as this season of spring promises.