Thursday, August 04, 2011

why does this keep happening to me?

I try to pay attention to patterns that happen in life. I think there is something to learn from them.

There are positive patterns. When I consistently do well in my courses and hear good comments from professors, I think that perhaps I am not only a good learner, but have the potential to be a good teacher. When I get a spurt of energy and a sense of strength after a workout, I know that this is doing my body good.

There are also negative patterns. When I eat a huge bowl of cherries and my stomach starts to rumble in complaint, I remember that this happens anytime I eat large quantities of fruit and maybe I should learn to pace myself. When I speak bluntly to someone about what they have done wrong and their face falls with dejection, I realize that this is probably not the best way to help someone improve.

And then there are patterns that make me feel like the world is out to get me. Perhaps these are the hardest patterns to deal with because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. In these patterns, annoying and hurtful things seem to follow one around, seemingly without cause, and "bad luck" appears to be the only way to explain it. I have a theory about these so-called bad luck patterns. These patterns reveal areas of our lives that are unhealed or lack maturity. For those of us who have signed up for spiritual reformation (by saying yes to the work of the Spirit in our lives), these character-challenging bad luck patterns can almost undo us. But it only makes sense that when we ask God to change us, heal us, mature us, and help us be more like Jesus, we would get the opportunity to do just that. In truth, often times it feels like picking at a scab, poking a bruise, or getting kicked when we are down instead of a pathway to healing. But it IS a way to healing, real healing. And maturity.

As an example: for some reason, really bad, erratic, or slow drivers always seem to find their way right in front of Dean, especially when he is in a hurry to get somewhere. It is uncanny. It frustrates him and understandably so. But it is my belief that this pattern is not random (though we do have our fair share of under-performing drivers in this city). I see that he is being given opportunity after opportunity to develop patience and graciousness towards others who are perhaps not as competent or confident as he is. The challenge is to respond well to these repeating situations instead of getting even more annoyed.

My particular pattern of annoyance is when people opt out or drop the ball. I hate it when people say they will do something or be somewhere and then never show or change their minds at the last minute. I hate it when people say they will call you or say they really want to get together and they never do. I really dislike it when I send out an email that requires a response and hardly anyone bothers to reply. Every time this pattern happens in my life (and it happens much more than I can comfortably handle with grace), I am angered by the utter lack of regard that people seem to have for others. Internally, I rage at their lack of commitment, their self-absorption, and the absence of faithfulness and basic courtesy. I have only lately come to realise that my reaction is usually bigger than the situations merit, and that this pattern will continue to happen in my life until I let some healing come into it. To be honest, it may continue to happen after I mature and get past my neglect and perfectionist issues (living with other flawed humans most certainly guarantees that it will), but these incidents will no longer be able to steal my peace and sense of well-being.

Certainly, people need to mature in their depth of commitment, their awareness of how their actions affect others, and the ability to be faithful. In fact, Dean wonders if a lack of commitment is the sin of our age - I think he might be onto something - but that is not primarily what I am talking about here. The task before me is to graciously and lovingly deal with rejection, disregard, rudeness, unfaithfulness, and thoughtlessness. And that's pretty much impossible, if you ask me.

However, with God, nothing is impossible. The class of mercy is still in session.

This is a photo of a lifeguard tower on Miami Beach. I wish that the beach was something that kept happening to me a little more often.

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