I've been thinking a lot about life, love, trust, and a bunch of other 'big' topics lately. Life is just crap sometimes, you know? But it's also really wonderful a lot of the time--and sometimes it's both simultaneously. I'm not really sure how that happens, but it does.
A friend of mine lent me a copy of a book his friend wrote. It's called The Only Road North, and it's about the author (Erik), his brother, and two of his friends that travel from South Africa to Egypt on dirt bikes. Erik talks about the adventures they have, but he also talks a lot about what is essentially a spiritual awakening he has and his efforts to respond to God's mission or expectations for him.
I'm not doing the concept of the book justice, and I haven't even finished it yet, but there is a passage I read last night that I can't stop thinking about.
"At times like this in life I usually found myself asking why. Why do people do this? Why do we invite trials, frustrations, and discomfort? Why do we intentionally put ourselves in situations that we know will push us beyond where we like to be pushed, to places we know will be tough?
Maybe, I finally resolved, there isn't one simple answer, just a longing to be tested and proven. A desire to know that we can overcome whatever obstacle we may be forced to face. It is only when we are pushed past our self-perceived limits that we are able to see our truest nature, discover our deepest selves; only then can we hope to improve upon what we find. To do so is neither safe nor comfortable, it is both dangerous and scary. But we warriors at heart we meant to live dangerously.
That day I saw it in myself firsthand. Adversity tempers us."
This passage moves me in a way I can't describe. Life isn't easy for anyone. And let's be honest... if it is easy, then they're not living it right. Life is meant to be messy, up-and-down, difficult, and exhausting. But it is also meant to be exhilerating, adventurous, full of love, hopeful, and breathtaking.
It never used to bother me when people at church would say they were grateful for their trials. But after a friend pointed that out to me, it has started to grate on my nerves. I guess you can't really hold their semantics against them, because I think it's all said with a good intention. But WHO in reality is grateful for their trials? Nobody! Hell. I'm not grateful for any of the bad, stupid things I've brought on myself, or any of the difficulties my family has gone through. What I am grateful for is the strength and resilience I have seen in myself and others, the compassion I have gained, the patience I have developed (though... I'm not gonna lie--still quite a ways to go on that one), and the ability to enjoy the good moments of life.
Going through difficult things makes us so much more grateful for the things that go well, the fun adventures we have, the purity of love we can share, the times when we feel like we're accomplishing our life's mission, and yes... the strength, knowledge, etc. that comes from adversity--whether we brought it upon ourselves, it was brought upon us by someone else, or it was just simply LIFE happening.
So, okay. Maybe it makes me and my friends jerks that we roll our eyes when someone says "I'm grateful for my trials," because when it comes down to it, I think we all really mean to convey the same thing. Life's lessons are astoundingly universal, but everyone expresses their takeaway in different terms. Should I mock someone because they're using a cliche term to express something more deep? No. I just wish they would use more authentic words.
All of this being said, I think life is going to be a bit of a challenge for the next little while. So, here's to living through adversity while simultaneously being able to appreciate all that life has to offer; to seeing the lessons in the things we experience; to accepting and appreciating the knowledge, strength, compassion, joy, love, and hope that life offers us all.