I always tell my students, “It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you respond to it”. It may be the most important lesson I need to impart. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.
We all have that time in our lives where a moment tests our mettle. It seems like every now and then we roll through life and hit major bumps. Sometimes the bumps are sink holes where the bottom drops out and you have to figure out how to get out of there.
For some people the moment they take a stand defines them for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the circumstances are imposed on them, and they have to figure it out or other times it is the tenacious spirit of adventure that awakens them from the doldrums of daily living. Either circumstance requires a revolutionary moment in the heart.
In scripture it happens time and again; Moses answers the call to lead his people to the Promised Land. David takes on Goliath. The prophet Jeremiah was reluctant in answering the call to be a prophet but his courageous stand won out. In cases like St. Paul, his vision on the road to Damascas stands out, but it seems as though his tenacious spirit was tested time and again thereafter in his commitment to bring the gospels to other nations.
In modern times, the Jewish teenager Ann Frank hiding in an attic from the Nazis inspired her to go deeper in her writing and imagine a life outside the hiding place. The day a Muslim girl, Mulala Yousafzai, took a stand against the Taliban and stood up for the rights of female students to be educated. The first twenty-eight dollar loan Muhammad Yunus gave to a poor woman in Thailand and set off a monetary revolution through microfinance by giving loans to the poor.
These activists willingness to address the deepest depths of the human condition in challenging situations, have inspired millions to consider life in a ways never considered by others.
There’s a revolution in the heart that takes place that inspires us to take on the world with a carefree, “what do I have to lose” attitude. This revolution in the mind and heart tend to inspire strong results if you stay with it. It’s not one for the faint of heart. I’ve always been inspired by those people who are willing to take a chance and own the moment.
I was talking with a friend of mine and he told me that his father’s death inspired him to look at life in a new way. “It’s made me bolder in dealing with life and identifying what’s important to me”, he said. It may be a “resolutionary” moment for him.
I think back to my Dad’s life. He had just moved his family to Ohio from New York. His company wanted to move him again, but he decided that he didn’t want to put his family through that again, so he took early retirement. My Dad went to work doing anything he could then found a job with a company. He used some of his contacts to help the company. After a few months on the job, it didn’t work out. The sad part of the story is that they gave him “the pink slip” the day after he returned from burying his father. It was a dark time in his life.
My Dad was a courageous man. He kept a stiff upper lip for his six kids, but this time of his life challenged him like no other. He rose above the challenges and was able to get a job working as an inside salesman for a steel mill. He was beloved at the mill and ended up retiring from there. I worked with him and remember meeting his co-workers. They all had a kind word to say about him and admired his easy-going demeanor and self-deprecating wit in light of difficulties.
As I look back at the people I admire, every single one of them has that story where the heart is tested. I think of the people closest to me quietly rising above adversity; those friends facing unemployment and paying the bills, those dealing with illness, death, grief and addressing the solemn stings of anguish that will inspire new awareness of deeper chords of understanding.
No one born to this world is immune to challenge, but life and death realizations bring focus that lead to legendary responses. There are plenty of stories from which to draw new life and take deep breaths of relief. Meanwhile, deeper realizations of the heart and soul greet resolutionary moments.