Handle with Care –
I gave myself a concussion today! Well, probably not an officially medically diagnosed concussion but I whacked my head pretty bad with a rake handle. We’ve had some much-needed rain this week and as has been my ritual the last several weeks I went out today and raked. The leaves were wet which made them heavier and there was a large collection I was moving and pushing with the rake when it snapped at the end and pressure I was exerting on the leaves reversed itself and cracked me on the head and ear. It was painful enough I dropped to my knees and if saying; “OWWWWWW!” counts as a prayer I did a lot of praying. After the pain subsided I began looking for a replacement handle. Finding one I removed the broken handle and attached one from another garden tool. My head, and especially the ear, continued to hurt the rest of the afternoon but the replacement handle worked fine and I was able to finish the job.
Wisdom teaches us that life comes with pain and brokenness. There is no secret prayer, acquired knowledge, or anything one can do to have a life free of suffering. What we can do, however, is accept what comes, fix and heal when we can, and keep going.
After several weeks of building an extension onto our porch, yesterday evening it was time to demolish. There was a section which had been built many years ago and needed to be removed so we could match it with the extension. As I began to remove the old, rotten and piecemealed section I wasn’t sure what I’d find underneath. Would there be critters? Would the support beams be rotten? Would it be wet and moldy or dry? To my surprise, the not-so-good-looking porch was nice and sturdy underneath. It was also dry with no water gathered. There should be no problem attaching the new, matching wood.
I spoke with a man today who’s had a rough week. The subject of disappointment came up and we talked about setbacks, struggles, and obstacles on life’s journey. We agreed the path of life will take us through the valley of humility and stresses and pressures can weigh us down making the journey hard. When these times come our surface selves get stripped away. Life has a way of demolishing what’s not solid, sturdy, and revealing what’s underneath.
If there is a strength within, if we can withstand the ripping away of the pieces of ourselves which can’t handle the strain, then we will be able to start again, build anew. Our wisdom, our spirit, our enlightened lives do not come from never facing the chaotic struggles but allowing them to take away what’s not needed and reveal what’s greater within, underneath.
Out of nowhere they come. Like an assassin’s bullet or blade. Unexpected, unwanted and overwhelming. Moments, seasons which reveal our most painful weaknesses, deepest struggles, greatest need and darkest secrets.
The path of life is never easy nor allows us to become too comfortable. Setbacks, those sections of the journey where our way seems blocked, progress grinds to a halt, backwards the only direction, retracing our steps, navigating through places we thought we’d left permanently behind.
Setbacks. Getting stuck. Walking in circles. The journey of life can drain us of our purpose and passion. We wonder how long we’ll wander, why the journey must be this difficult, if it’s worth the struggle, why we wrestle with the same demons and obstacles so often.
A favorite wisdom quote, and comfort, when the way is hard and setbacks many;
The obstacles (setbacks) in your way are your path to freedom.
There’s a secret to hammering a nail; focus and adjusting.
I spent most of the day working on a project that required nailing boards to frames, frames to walls and hoping those walls stayed up when I was done. I’m not sure how many nails I hammered but it seemed like thousands.
Nails have ways of doing the unexpected. What should be a simple job becomes complicated when the nail hits a knot in the wood, bends for no reason or refuses to go into the wood just to be obstinate.
The key to not giving up is keeping a close eye on the nail, not getting distracted, focusing on the task at hand. The second is to adjust to the nail’s behavior. If it begins to bend, alter the way you are striking it. If it stops going in, try another spot. If it becomes useless, throw it away and start over.
Life is similar. Often what seems simple, normal, predictable turns out to be anything but. Instead of focusing on what needs to be done we look for someone or something to blame. We try and fix the problem, get everything in place and worked out but our efforts are thwarted, our words and actions seem bent and useless.
It is in these times we must remember to keep the eyes of our minds and spirits not on what has changed but on what never does. We must trust, adjust and know that starting over, embracing a new normal can be the best possible solution.